Newsletter Number 1 - 9 June, 2002

Almost three weeks has passed since I moved into my new home. To those who sent me a postcard thanks - to those who didn't a virus has been sent to your machine that can only be removed when you visit the newsagent, buy a postcard and send it to me. During that same 3 week period I have had two visits by KPN (the local telephone company), three visits from Casema (cable TV operator) and told by the local council that my flat "doesn't exist". Definitely an interesting time.

Dutch Moment #1 - applying for an interest free purchase.

I recently bought a new TV as I didn't bring my old set from Australia. After finding the model that I wanted at a local store I thought that I would make the most of their much publicised interest free purchase options. The one thing that I have learnt is that if I want anything remotely official done make sure that I have my passport and preferably letter of employment with me. Knowing this I took "all" my paper work with me when making the application. The card company advised that as my residency permit stamp in my passport had no end date there was no indication that I would infact stay in the country (I'll let you work out the flaw in the logic here). Once this was resolved I was advised that as I didn't have a local ID card I could not make an application, although no one was able to let me know what was on the card that was not in my Passport. After making a comparison with a colleague I am still looking for the secret watermark and well hidden code. When I asked the call centre supervisor if they knew the difference and what I had to do try and resolve the situation I was told simply no. I was also told that I could not ring anyone else in the company and that if she gave me a name it would cost her her job - interesting employment policy. One thing about the Netherlands is that people are pretty straight forward. I was told flatly that she did not wish to help me.

Well after a dent on the credit card the TV arrived on Saturday morning. The shop assistant was very anxious to tell me that delivery also included unpack and installation to make sure that the set worked properly (an advantage for me as the manuals are all in Dutch). What he neglected to tell me was that Saturday is an express delivery day with no installation assistance.

Next was the turn of Casema. After three visits 'we' worked out the reason why I couldn't get any reception was that the cable was damaged in the meter box. This required simply replacing the connector at the end - "but I don't have the tools or clamp to do that in my service van! Can I come back on Monday?" Fortunately I work only 5min walk away from home and now have a TV and reception.

Dutch Moment # 2 - "Your house doesn't exist"

As in Australia, when you move you need to advise the local authorities (either electoral commission or here the local town hall). I took my papers to the local town hall office to be told that that section is open from 8am to 2pm and it is now 2.15pm. Next day, nice and early, I took a ticket and waited my turn. I handed over my passport and lease to the official who told me that flat 45B does not exist. Initially I thought this was a philosophical question along the lines of do any of us really exist and if we do how do we know that we do?? It seems that owner had not registered the house. After playing 20 questions I learnt that I have to keep going back every week until another department has visited the flat to satisfy themselves that it exists. I hope that the attached picture will satisfy your curiosity. The complication is that I can't apply for my Dutch drivers licence until I have my new residency registration paper - and the cycle continues.

Here are some pics to prove that the house does actually exist and the view from my balcony.

   

Apart from the bureaucracy life is going well. I have joined the local social summer hockey competition. The emphasis is definitely on social. Games are only 30min long with a 30min break between the two matches each night. The club is one of the largest in the country with over 20 teams and no juniors. Fortunately my team has made the concession of sending me emails with a "and now the summary for Mark" section. The club has a nice relaxed feel to it so I will join for the winter season - assuming they have a team 'low' enough in the grading for me. As with most sport in the off season I am sampling a wide array of local brews.

2002 is a bad year for the Netherlands. Not only did the local team not make the Soccer World Cup but also failed to make it into the Eurovision Song Contest. I attended a Eurovision party with local friends which I must say was a great night. The words; camp, tragic, "what is he wearing" and sometimes stylish are quite often used during the commentary. Regardless this just adds to the atmosphere. Go Belgium - well they are neighbours.

The weather has been wonderful allowing me to make the most of my bicycle (the only way to get around - apart from a Smart car which are so easy to park and drive but no use for freeways driving). There are a series of sand dunes near the beach with tracks through them which make for a nice ride. They are also some of the only hills around. I will send some pics of the beautiful sands of the famous Scheveningan beach in my next email. A friend told me that if you take your bicycle into Amsterdam and park it it becomes the property of the state and anyone can then make use of it unless securely chained to a solid object or you are prepared to pay for bicycle parking.

 

Off to London for work this week and catch up with some friends. I am also planning to head to Scotland in August for the Edinburgh festival. Give me a chance to OD on english theatre which is available but in small doses here in the Hague.

Mark

 


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