I was about a month into my internship in a Dutch company. All the staff were Dutch so if they sent a collective email, it was almost always in Dutch. One day someone sent one in English, which was nice for me because I didn’t have to translate it online to understand it. However, the subject confused me: ‘Mice in the kitchen at 15.00.’
Illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek
What a weird email subject. Why would someone put mice in the kitchen? Or, reading it another way, how could anyone predict there would be mice in the kitchen at exactly 3 o’clock that afternoon? When I read the email, I got even more confusing information: the mice were there to celebrate a newborn baby boy. What?!
Since I couldn’t find any logical explanation for this, and also since I didn’t want to meet the mice when I passed the kitchen, I asked around about the meaning of the email and then at last it became clear. It turned out that what they meant by ‘mice’ is a typical Dutch food, and nothing to do with small rodents. They told me that mice are blue or pink sprinkles traditionally eaten on rusks to celebrate a newborn. The colour depends on the baby’s gender.
It seems that Dutch appreciate birthdays even more than I had realized. That they bring a cake to the office on their birthdays is not so unusual, but other Dutch birthday traditions are not found anywhere else: putting a birthday calendar in the toilet, wearing orange clothes and accessories on Koningsdag (King’s Day) and, of course, mice for newborns.
Dea Putri Utami, MSc student of Food Technology, from Indonesia
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Op een dag tijdens haar stage bij een Nederlands bedrijf kreeg Dea Putri Utami een collectieve Engelstalige mail met als onderwerp: Muizen in de keuken om 15 uur. Dit bracht haar in de war. Waarom zou iemand muizen loslaten in de keuken? Of dacht men te kunnen voorspellen dat er om klokslag drie uur muizen zouden opduiken? En wat nog gekker was: de muizen kwamen om de geboorte van een jongetje te vieren. Navraag bij collega’s bracht duidelijkheid. Het betrof hier ‘muisjes’, traditioneel strooisel voor op een beschuitje. ‘Met kleine knaagdieren had het niets te maken.’