Monday, March 23, 2009


This may be something that is normal everywhere else in the world -- in New Zealand and the UK bank statements consist of 'transactions' -- but here in the Netherlands they consist of 'mutations'!

It seemed very odd when I read it the first time -- I'm not sure if it's a direct translation from English or if that's standard financial terminology that I've just never come across before, perhaps someone out there knows?

Either way, it's still funny to look up my mutations for the last week as in English it has somewhat different and negative primary connotations :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Garlic Queen

Recently I had dinner at a restuarant called the 'Garlic Queen' which is between Rembrandtplein and Leidsestraat. As the name suggests, almost everything on the menu contains garlic. The selections were good, the meal itself was very tasty and I enjoyed the atomosphere of the place also.

Their website doesn't really do them justice, it's a shame they don't have any photos up as the interior is interestingly decorated. I recommend you go along -- if one of your friends really hates garlic you can always ask to have a meal prepared without it, but it really is worth trying -- the garlic ice cream was delicious!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Online Shopping

I've received my first online groceries order and AH have made a very bad first impression. I had booked for delivery between 1900 and 2100 and at 2100 with no sign of the driver and no notification of delay I rang AH to find out what was happening. They contacted the driver and discovered he was running 30 minutes late... and hadn't told them. I was told that I would get a whole 3 euros credit for my next order, which is half of the cost of delivery. Not exactly happy with that -- I expect if they can't deliver within the agreed time then delivery will be free, especially if they don't even bother to call me to let me know they're running late.

So I waited until 2200, still no delivery, tried to ring customer service again but they closed at 2130. So I continued waiting... until 2210 when it finally arrived.

I hope AH aren't the only supermarket to provide online delivery so that I can try to find one that can deliver on time. At least the food was all reasonable quality.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's a small world after all

Good (and bad) to see that some things are universal -- we had our first sales cold-call last night. There was the usual spiel rattled off in 5 seconds and the only thing I caught was the name of our landlord. I asked if they spoke English but already knew that they were trying to sell me something. A different operator came on the line, a trainer I guessed, and asked if I was the owner. I replied no and asked what they were selling. He said they wanted to offer me a better energy deal so I answered no thanks and hung up. Now I need to find out if there’s somewhere you can sign up to not receive these kinds of calls like there is in the UK.

UPDATE: A kind reader has added the url:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bank Account

Signing up for a bank account was very easy. I needed to take my SoFi/BSN, proof of employment, proof of residence and my passport but it was yet again a simple matter of making an appointment and signing a few forms.

I decided to go with ABN AMRO as they have an English Internet portal. They offered me the 'expatriate package' which includes a current and savings account, a debit and credit card, and phone and Internet banking, all for €8.25 a quarter!

How the credit card works was a bit of a surprise. You get a monthly limit which you can spend up to within that month and then at the end of the month the entire balance is automatically debited from your current account! You can arrange to pay offf the balance over a fixed term, but you must set that up manually and that is when you will start paying interest like a normal credit card.

My debit card arrives in 3-5 working days and my credit card a few days after that. I'll need to activate the debit card at the bank and assign a pin but will be able to activate the credit card over the phone as normal.

So, all in all, a very straight-forward and efficient process -- as expected!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Look both ways... in four directions... twice

Going for a stroll around Amsterdam has its pros and cons. Almost everywhere you look there’s a brilliant view, everything is within walking distance in the central area and it’s generally easy to know where you are without a map in a fairly short time. However, the downside is that you have to be much more aware of your surroundings and everyone else around you. Most of the time you’re OK on the footpath, but there are some odd pedestrian-cycle-traffic areas where anything goes – it can be easy to wander into one of these without noticing it.

Road rules in Amsterdam appear to be extremely flexible. So flexible, in fact, that they can be bent 180 degrees. They appear to be built on one common rule which is ‘I’ve got right of way, you don’t’. This rule seems to apply to all methods of transport, apart from pedestrians who seem to always be in the wrong. Bikes, motorcycles, cars and other vehicles can come from almost anywhere despite all the one-way signs... the trams are a little easier to avoid since they’re on tracks, but they do hide each other quite well so if there’s one close by then cross the road cautiously as another one can zoom past from the opposite direction without much warning.

So in general, the old rule of looking both ways before you cross is very important to follow whenever crossing a road in Amsterdam, but please take my advice and at least look both ways twice!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Unfortunately BA were the cheapest when I booked my flights to London for the weekend to meet S on her return from New Zealand. So I was forced to endure Terminal 5 yet again.

It started the way it always does -- with the self check-in machine throwing up an error and informing me to seek assistance. There was the usual gaggle of ground staff engrossed in a private conversation so I left them to it and headed straight for the assistance check-in counter since there was surprisingly no queue. The woman who assisted me had the patented arrogance and irritation common to most BA staff and with what appeared to be a great effort on her part I soon had my boarding pass and was heading towards the ever-popular customs.

Being a Sunday afternoon the queues were quite light however as is now required I removed my laptop from my backpack, my coat, my scarf, my belt and my shoes and placed them all in trays to be x-rayed. Somehow I still managed to set off the metal detector so I was subjected to the standard pat-down without event. I went to collect my stuff and noted the sign stating 'Do not remove trays', so I grabbed all my stuff and managed to make it to the nearby tables, which had a sign on the top which read 'Please return trays to conveyor'... sigh.

After I had re-assembled myself I headed downstairs to the 4th floor (!) for the departure gates. Fortunately the BA assistant had written down my gate number so I could go straight there to chill-out with my book. Unfortunately she had only written down the number 7, and not specified whether it was 'A', 'B', or 'C', so I wandered around until I found a comfortable couch in front of one the departure screens and passed the time reading. Once it came up I went to the gate and boarded half an hour later without any further problems. The flight was only a third full so I think that played a large part in that.

Arriving back in Amsterdam was painless as always, I was home within 40 minutes.