I forgot to post the piece I wrote on my laptop whilst sitting at Schiphol on Friday afternoon. Here it is:
Currently sat in Schiphol airport, having arrived in even more plentiful time than I normally allow for airport departures, largely at the behest of my travelling companion, Mike, who quite possibly fears missing flights even more than I do. Anyway, he’s gone off to find an internet terminal to check his mail whilst we wait, so I’m sitting here using Notepad for a quick "Dear Diary" session. Yeh, I know – I need that WiFi card. Uh-huh.
Well, Holland is easy for the non-Dutch speaker (like me) – just about everyone is fluent in English, and those that are not are able to make themselves understood.
Most annoying thing on this trip has been the death of my camera battery, so I have taken no photos at all, either useful or entertaining. Bum clouds. Oh well, we’re back here in two weeks, so I’ll have that fixed by then.
The trip itself has been very useful. My understanding of the Dutch market is vastly improved, and it seems a little less complicated than it first appeared. It is a very complicated and congested network, with some very complicated and hard-to-understand relationships going on, but there are some simpler and more transparent solutions to doing business with Dutch horticulture, which comes as a relief to me, lacking, at present, a really trustworthy Dutch partner.
The Dutch love extras, including:
- €25 extra for breakfast per person per day at the hotel (this is turning into something of an expensive jaunt – ok, it’s on PFE, and I saved a fair bit by flying EasyJet, but even so).
- Commission on sales. And on purchases. But make sure that neither party knows that the other is also paying.
- Extra strong coffee – this is a good thing, of course.
The Dutch also love their tobacco. Of all the countries that I have travelled to in the last few years, conspicuous consumption of tobacco is more prevalent here than anywhere else. I’m sitting having coffee here now, and I’m surrounded by chain-smokers of all ages, largely but not exclusively businesspeople. In contrast, at Gatwick the smokers are corralled into a small enclosed area, and are not even furnished with seats.
And it’s not called the Low Countries for nothing. Low isn’t the word. I’d hate to have to dig a trench for a cable of anything – it must fill with water as soon as you turn your back. Mind you, on a plus side, cycling here must be great, as it is so flat, if a little boring, as the roads and cycleways are so straight.
The other impression I have come away with is that the Dutch are generally physically imposing. I don’t mean that they are all Aphrodite and Adonis. Nor are they large and fat, as so many American citizens are. Instead, they just have "presence", even those that are not very tall. Whether that stems from a strong self-confidence, which sometimes verges on arrogance, I’m not sure. But it is quite pervasive and a little intimidating – I’ve had to be in full-on confident mode, which, as the very few who truly know me will be aware, is all a bit of a front.
Anyway, Mike’s back now, on his mobile telling his wife about the cat that followed us most of the way from the restaurant to the hotel last night, so it’s time for me to stop listening to Andy Votel on the headphones and pack my electronic travelling companion/lapwarmer away, and shift myself, my bags and the hundredweight or two of brochures, leaflets and business cards collected over the two days we were at Plantarium (you can stop the Patrick Moore gags right now!) towards gate D12 and a white and orange 737 bound for Gatwick, home and the pub.