ItÂ´s only when you get away from what youÂ´re used to that you realize how it could be otherwise. Sure there are the obvious hand signs such as the reversed V for victory gesture in the UK that is equivalent to giving the finger. Other differences are more subtle, such as the Italian habit of not handling money when you pay in a shop. It can be quite annoying at first, when you hold your hand out for the change and the woman steers past it and lays it on the glass dish. This morning, shopping for essential Xmas supplies (paracetamol, rennies, …) the man waited until I held out my hand until he handed it over.
A Dutch particularity reminds me of a joke:
Patient: Doctor, doctor, I get a pain in my eye every time I drink a cup of tea!
Doctor: Have you tried taking the spoon out?
ItÂ´s commonplace to serve coffee here with the teaspoon in the cup. DonÂ´t ask me why.
We left Rome in the brilliant sunshine and crisp air of a perfect winterÂ´s day. Two hours later we were beginning our descent, sliding over the candy floss cloudscape and watching the shadow of our plane ringed with a rainbow aurora, down to another world of gloom and rain. Oh dear. I told the kids to say goodbye to the sun for the next week.
We flew in to Eindhoven, a former military airport, now equipped with a single baggage carrousel made out of mechanno, powered by a Scalextric motor, which meant that the suitcases shot off the corners just like the racing cars always did. The welcomers were ruddy-cheeked and windswept, striding through the sleet, cheerfully underdressed in T-shirts and fleeces. We were wrapped like a polar expedition and still shivered. WeÂ´ve grown soft in the south.
To be fair, the sky cleared shortly after we headed north but the wind is still howling at the windows of our bedroom. I havenÂ´t mentioned it to the kids, but it IS a little scary…