The other day I told a friend that I didn’t really have an opinion on Dutch culture, since it’s not hugely different from what I’m used to. That’s absolutely true.

Since I assume most of you don’t know this, I have had the weekend from hell. The combination of lots of hard work, three dead hard drives in one day, and a harsh wanker course co-ordinator has resulted in my spending roughly 24 hours straight panicking. I’m now on a train, having reconstructed the most urgent lost work, and I’m attempting to get to Amsterdam to meet with some friends. It’s Sinterklaas day in Amsterdam, it’s a Sunday so every other route is down, and the NS route planning website is shit. I’ve been vaguely floating around the Dutch rail system since about 9am, getting, I think, wanderingly closer to Amsterdam (having saved an hour on the first leg by ignoring the NS website I figure I needn’t rush), and it’s actually quite nice.

If you’ve ever travelled on the Tube – or any part of the UK rail system really, but the Tube sticks out – then you will be intimately familiar with turnpikes. On a few occasions, you’ve probably been more intimate with them than you’ve ever desired to be. I have a problem with turnpikes – but not the turnpikes themselves, rather the big hungry ticket machines attached to them.

I like the Tube, and I don’t mind the turnpikes there at all – I Get the Tube, it’s simple and sensible. Seriously, it’s got to be the simplest rail system in the world – each colour on the map is a line, you can go in either direction on any line, and trains come every five or ten minutes in the centre. I don’t understand people who find it so confusing.

I don’t like overground National Rail. There are all these complicated rules about how you’re allowed to get where you’re going and what time you’re allowed to do so, and it worries me. What if a turnpike eats my ticket? National Rail staff aren’t known for being sympathetic; I’d probably have to buy another ticket. Must not miss my stop. Must not get on the wrong train. Must not get off too early either.

Now, maybe it’s just the general confusion and haphazardness of this particular day in Dutch rail history, but I’m not getting that vibe at all. There are no turnpikes, anywhere. People choose their routes by saying “Is that the train? I dunno, it might be. Well it’s about to leave, let’s get on.”. I’ve so far been on four trains which list Amsterdam Centraal as a destination, and not one of them has got there (yet) – but I’m not really worried. I can always just catch another train if I get lost. Hell, why not try it and see, etc. Maybe I’m just coming down from the endless hours of “Oh god fuck what the hell do I do now shit ass fucking cunt”, but I’m finding the Dutch rail system remarkably freeing.

This isn’t a treatise on how all Dutch are laid-back and relaxed, though. They’re not. Just ask my tightarse course co-ordinator.

P.S. Yes, smartarse, I know it’s a Tuesday. There be no internet on trains.

P.P.S. Did you guys notice that I don’t get emails when comments need approving any more? Yeah… neither did I. Sorry ’bout that…

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