Go Dutch by Susan Campbell We’re not talking about paying your own way on a date as in “Dutch treat”; we mean go and discover the unique influences the good folks from the Netherlands have brought this island, which have become woven into Aruba’s cultural mosaic. It’s the only way to understand the meaning of gezellig.
Aruba and the Netherlands are intrinsically linked in many more ways than meets the eye in the leftover Dutch colonial architecture of downtown Oranjestad. Every Aruban learns to speak Dutch in school, and most spend time abroad in Holland for higher education. There are many Dutch expats living on Aruba, and like the Arubans that miss their tropical weather while studying in the Netherlands, the Dutch miss their traditions and treats when living on Aruba as well. So you will find lots of items that remind the transplanted people from the Netherlands of home. Incidentally, you don’t call their country “Holland,” that is a region of the country they come from which is called the Netherlands. Sometimes expressions from both cultures combine to make unique island lingo. Like biba lekker, which you will see emblazoned on T-shirts and mugs. This is a duo language idiom – biba meaning “life” in Papiamento and lekker literally translated is “delicious.” But when said together they come out as “the good life.” It’s a little complicated, but not nearly as complicated as the Dutch concept of gezellig, which they will delight in telling you that there is no real English translation for. It’s a feeling of home, happy, cozy, good, positive, warm... and yet still covers so much more. But you’ll know it when you feel it, they say. So follow our lead to unearth some things that make the Dutch feel that very special way on this island.
first foray into digging up the past through a Dutch Roman Catholic priest turned amateur archaeologist. It’s also an awesome interactive look at island history throughout the ages. Then, stroll over to charming Queen Wilhelmina Park where you’ll “meet” Aruba’s oldest statue. Dutch monarch Wilhelmina’s statue was erected in 1955, and the seaside green space where it’s located is often a venue for live music as well. And while there, you must try some Dutch pancakes! !
Dig up Dutch roots
Walk among the delightful Dutch colonial architecture of downtown Oranjestad and head to the large, modern National Archaeological Museum. You’ll get the backstory of the island’s 42
Dutch pancakes are different
Pannenkoek is the name of the Dutch-style pancake. They are not fluffy, but rather, wide, flat, and thin like a crepe, and come with all kinds of different fillings and toppings. In fact, The Dutch Pancakehouse offers over 75 yummy varieties, and you can mix and match toppings and fillings too. They also serve the fluffy little poffertjes (silver-dollar-sized), which are more like North American-style pancakes, but made with buckwheat flour, yeast, and typically topped with powdered sugar. But Dutch pancakes are not only meant for breakfast. With their many combinations of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, the savory ones are almost like pizza, making them a perfect alternative for lunch or dinner. Dutch coffee is also quite different, and usually served with a cookie. You can ask for koffie verkeerd literally meaning “wrong coffee” (half coffee and half hot milk), almost like a café au lait. And Dutch tea is weaker than most, and typically served without milk. Discover eetcafés and Dutch delights
Eetcafé is the Dutch name for a gathering place for food and drink; it’s casual by nature and not typically fancy in décor. It’s impossible to miss Eetcafé The Paddock downtown, just look for the giant cow, car, and dinosaur on a big red roof by the harbor. It’s always chock full of Dutch expats. Café the Plaza, Café 080, and Bingo! Café & Restaurant are also establishments Share a drink and a smile at Bingo! Café & Restaurant
where you will find some typical Dutch dishes, snacks, and lots of Dutch people. Seek out the deep-fried items on the menu like bitterballen (meat filled breaded rounds), and kroket, their larger oblong cousin. Even the hot-dog-like frikandel sausage is deep-fried, first. The Dutch really adore their friet or patat (depending on where you come from in the Netherlands), basically known everywhere else simply as “fries.” But they prefer to dip them in mayonnaise or spicy peanut sauce – the latter stemming from their Indonesian colonization. De Suikertuin also serves nasi goreng and other Indonesian dishes. In fact, some Arubans might say that the Dutch make better Indonesian food than the Indonesians! But if you’re seeking real comfort food from the Netherlands in a fine dining atmosphere, then a visit to the new Quinta Del Carmen is in order. It’s housed in a gorgeously restored 100year-old mansion with a courtyard. And beyond interesting fusion takes on international fare, they also offer many of Dutch owner’s “Grandma’s Favorites” like sucade lappen, which is a slow roasted traditional dish somewhat like a beef stew. Dutch stuff to go
Due to a large Dutch influence, you will find many edibles from the Netherlands in the island’s large modern grocery stores. Perfect for a beach day or a picnic if you are out to try something different. Of course, Dutch cheese is a given – Gouda and Edam being the favorites. Dutch pea soup and Dutch apple pie are right up there too. But Dutch cocoa (and chocolate) is also unique; it has a milder flavor and silkier texture due to a different alkalizing process. Cold meats, wursts, herring, cookies, crackers, and biscuits are also prepared differently Dutch style. Strawberry pancake à la mode from The Dutch Pancakehouse
Left photo courtesy of Bingo! Café & Restaurant. Bottom photo courtesy of The Dutch Pancakehouse
Stroopwafels are another distinctly Dutch treat. These big, thin wafer-waffle cookies have syrup in the middle and Arubaville serves them for dessert. Another must try are speculaas – spiced shortbread-like cookies often shaped as windmills. The Dutch love their cookies so much they even make sandwiches with them! And they cherish their bread too. Breakfast and lunch always has bread, so they’ve invented over 250 kinds of sweet bread spreads! One of the most popular spreads is Duo Penotti. It’s like Nutella and white chocolate all swirled up in the same jar! Then there’s hagelslag – candy sprinkles you’d put on a cake but they sprinkle on sandwiches instead! Try a “drop” if you dare!
Though the Dutch really like their sweets, they really crave their licorice and consume more of it than any other culture. But forget what you think you know about what licorice should taste like. The Dutch “drop” as they call it, can be deadly strong and killer salty. It’s a great joke in the Netherlands to give one to a visitor for the first time and then watch the victim’s face. The drop also comes in sweet versions, sometimes flavored with honey, and both sweet and savory types come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes as well.
You’ll also see orange everywhere when the Netherlands are playing fùtbol, football, or soccer as North Americans call it. Especially when they make the finals, which is often. In fact, their team has made it into more finals than any other in history, but has never won the World Cup! Hope springs eternal however, and you’ll see and hear the fanaticism of the fans all over the island, not only in bars but also seaside where they often set up large screens in the sand for viewing like they do at MooMba Beach. Of course, the bars are always the best spots to try Dutch gin, advocaat – a Dutch invention, and the rainbow colored liqueurs made by Bols and DeKuyper. You’ll also hear a lot of Dutch influence in the nightlife music – the Netherlands have some of Europe’s hottest DJs who often visit, especially during the annual Electric Festival, which is a huge celebration of techno each year. You’ll also catch them spinning tunes at the BLUE bar, Gusto, and Reflexions nightclubs. Dutch-style souvenirs
Go insane over orange
The Dutch go absolutely gaga over the color orange since their royal house, Huis van OranjeNassau, dates back to William I of Orange who organized the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule. So anything patriotic to the Netherlands involves the wearing of orange. On the annual King’s Day, the Dutch Caribbean islands celebrate it big time in a sea of orange, as they also do in Amsterdam.
You won’t find many Dutch wooden shoes or tulip bulbs to take home in Aruba’s shops, but you’ll find a tremendous selection of their famous blue delftware, as well as fine quality linens from the Netherlands. They also make lovely souvenirs beyond the typical Dutch cheese and chocolate. And don’t forget to buy a cute T-shirt that says biba lekker to wear back home. Because now, you’ll also really know what gezellig feels like once you’ve gone Dutch for a day on this One Happy Island. "