News - October 22, 2009

Washing the dishes

One of the first cultural shocks that literally all foreigners experience in the Netherlands starts right after dinner. Having eaten their stamppot and vla, Dutch people prepare to wash the dishes. An observant foreigner will notice a few things.

Washing te dishes in boiling hot water
Firstly, the bowl in which the dishes are washed up is always filled with boiling hot water. Knowing from your biochemistry courses that proteins denaturate in very high temperatures, you might wonder how is it possible that the hands of your Dutch housemates still look normal.
Secondly, the perplexing reasoning as to when to change the water in a bowl. If there are lots of dirty dishes and the water becomes dirty but is still boiling hot, it doesn't have to be changed - just produce some more foam to cover it. However, new water is taken every time the temperature goes down. But the worst thing is still to come. After treating the dishes with soap, Dutch people just dry them (or even leave them on the draining board and wait until they dry)! Without rinsing! Sometimes completely covered with foam! And if they do rinse sometimes, they do it before applying the soap! Now, this is typical Dutch, isn't it?
To be fair it should be noted that it saves water and lots of time. Therefore, you get used to it in no time. Disgusting, as I found it in the beginning, the bitter truth is that by now I also do my dishes this way.
I come from Poland and when my friends come over and see me at the sink their eyes grow bigger and their facial expression says: 'what?!' I always try to calm them down saying: 'But you know, there was this research in Wageningen, and they found out that it's not really bad for your health...' /Agnieszka Malinowska,  researcher Centrum Landschap, Alterra

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