A few things I have learned over the last few days here in Holland. I know more Dutch than I think and I can drink more coffee than I ever imagined! Bottom line is I might be able to survive here without Nordstrom's up the street (but it's doubtful for periods of time longer than two months. A girl has got to get her shop on with her own personal shoe satan, hi Steven!). It's funny I have been to Europe several times and visited so many shops without ever feeling out of place, but this is the first time I have had a feeling of I may not totally understand what I am doing. This may be because I don't want my boyfriends family to think I am a complete American idiot (now I can't get Green Day out of my head), but I think it's because for the first time I am in a smaller and less touristy portion of a country. It's a great learning experience, but a humbling one. The goal is to make sure my parents don't have to hang their head in shame on my behalf or for me personally to cause an international incident. Fingers crossed.
I thought today would be a good chance to answer some questions for my friends and family that they have been asking and to give just a little bit of a FYI for traveling in Europe. I ran across a rather alarming thing that I have not had a problem with in the past, but is becoming an issue for all American tourists shortly!
Are Holland and the Netherlands the same? No, but kind of. There are twelve provinces in the Netherlands, two of them are North Holland and South Holland. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague (the largest cities) are all located in these two provinces which is why you associate Holland and the Netherlands. So Holland is in the Netherlands and the Netherlands is not entirely Holland. Make sense? No, sorry that's the best I got. Here is a map.
Do you speak Dutch? No, but I am learning.
Can we visit you? Yes, but only if I am here. I may be in California so double check before coming. Showing up on my door step may be a bad idea for you.
So now for the PSA/FYI:
If you are going to visit the Netherlands or Europe you may want to know about this. Europe is moving all card payment sources (POS) to what is referred to as a chip and pin type of card. We in the US do not have the chip and pin in our cards...yet. The other day I went to buy allergy medicine and couldn't use my US credit card or debit card, because it did not have a chip. Since this was new to me I didn't argue, but just paid cash and went on my way. Of course I came home and searched the internet to figure out how and the heck we are supposed to buy things here. From what I can find out is that you can argue with the clerk to have them swipe the card, but they may not know what to do and you may have to force them to do so. Not a super awesome plan. The best thing to do is to have cash on you to pay for items and avoid having to push for them to swipe your card. ATM's will still accept the mag stripe on the cards so you shouldn't have a problem obtaining cash.
It seems the US is trying to get this implemented into our cards but they are taking their time. I found a few good articles on this if you want to find out more information below.
The reason behind this is apparently in Europe they have a massive skimming problem and the chip and pin make it much harder to steal from the owner. At least until the thieves find a way around that too!
This is just good information to have!