We are nearing our second week here in the city of Leiden. The truth is that we have spent most of our time shopping for house basics that we didn’t ship over with us, figuring out how to fit appliances into our kitchen, and navigating the bureaucracy that the Dutch love so much. In our free time, we have been drinking coffee, koffie, coffee! In the past, if someone had said to me “Wow we visited (insert random city name), and they drink loads of coffee! Coffee is a big deal there!” Being that I am a proud Portlander, I would have said “Wow that’s cool! But Portlanders REALLY love their coffee. We have some of the best coffee in the world.“
I am beginning to discover how naive that way of thinking is. It’s true that Portland has some amazing micro roasters and a coffee shop to fit just about every coffee drinking personality. But it can’t be compared to the coffee culture in some parts of Europe. What I mean to say is, in Portland coffee is a cultural industry, a very popular and incredibly well executed one that has brought communities together, created jobs, and helped put the city on the map. But here in the Netherlands, drinking coffee is truly a part of the culture. It is ingrained in the Dutch psyche and has an incredibly important social significance. As an expat, it really reminds me of the way the British drink tea. All day long, anywhere you go, and if you have company over at your house you better be prepared with plenty of tea, sugar and milk – or here in Holland it’s koffie, suiker, en koffie melk. And everyone says “yes” to a coffee. In America, unless you are very close friends, when offered we find ourselves saying things like “well, if you’re having one – sure I will too! Or jeez, if it’s no trouble for you, I would have a cup of coffee….”. Not in the Netherlands! If you want it, you say “yes”, and it’s never a hassle. If the Dutch don’t want to make it for you, they won’t offer – plain and simple. Very refreshing, no?
In our first week here (which was only last week) we had coffee verkeerd in every waiting room at the airport while picking up our pets, a cappuccino at Rabobank while we were setting up our bank accounts (and each teller had a large organizer on their desk with all sorts of sugar and creamers), a cappuccino while we shopped for an oven, a koffie while we shopped for our Nespresso machine….yes coffee while shopping for our coffee. Coffee drinking is also very much something done at home or the workplace. Sure there are some nice cafes (“coffee shop” means pot shop – watch out!), but most people drink it at home. The size of each coffee is so much smaller that you find yourself making multiple cups of it throughout the day. This is better for people like myself who tend to be caffeine sensitive. I never have too much all at once. Like an IV drip! It should also be noted that it if you go out for a coffee, you drink it out. There is no “to-go” mentality – unless you go to Starbucks, then you can get your grande cold brew with room for cream.
It should also be said that living here is not making me a coffee snob or anything like that. I am really enjoying the culture around coffee so far. In fact, one of my favorite things about it is the importance of drinking it with friends and family, not the flavor of the beans, or the craftsmanship of the brew. One of our first purchases here was a Nespresso machine (yes we will be buying refillable pods at some point). It allowed us to have a quick and easy way to offer a cup of coffee to anyone stopping by for a visit. An excellent espresso is surly appreciated, but it’s not at the heart of the Dutch love for coffee. Or at least not from what I have experienced so far. I will report back on that after my next 500 test koffies!
I’m off to enjoy a lekker bakkie pleur! Tot ziens!