Culture Shock and Croquettes: When I Ordered Wrong at a Restaurant and Realized Just How Much I Can Hate Myself

So, it all started with sleeping through my first informational meeting.

I’m usually pretty good at waking up on time (my roommates are laughing right now, but I say USUALLY for a reason) but after taking Nyquil in the early hours of the morning out of desperation, I can only say that my alarm failed to rouse me. Thus, I slept through our lecture on our upcoming trip to Amsterdam. But what was a million times worse was that I also slept through brunch.

This left me in a hunger-filled haze for the beginning of the morning and although I weathered it as best I could with paprika chips (yes…paprika) and an energy bar, I needed something a little heartier if I was to survive until dinner. So when a group of kids asked if I wanted to go to a local café for some late lunch, I said yes on the spot.

It was a cute little bistro on the edge of the village and there was the initial question of if we should seat ourselves or go ask the waitress. Another group who had already eaten said you were best off sitting first, so we grabbed a spot in the sun and chatted about our upcoming classes.

Then it happened.

The waitress, a nice looking woman in her mid-forties, approached us, and asked us something in fast and fluent Dutch.

And we froze. The seconds seemed to last for hours as we stared at each other, dumbfounded as to what to say. I bit my lip, the girl across from me ran a hand through her hair, and the two other boys only exchanged frantic glances. The server sighed and said, “You know, you can just ask if I ask English.” We let out a collective breath, asked for menus, and were abandoned with a bit of a snapped reply.

“Well, I feel like an asshole,” said one of the guys.

“No,” I said, burying my face in my hands, “I feel like an American.”

We eventually redeemed ourselves by trying to order our grilled cheeses in Dutch – with mixed success on trying to pronounce “tomaat” – and did our best to smile away any awkwardness. But, it lingered. I couldn’t help but kick myself for not looking up basic Dutch and at least attempting to say a few things. I was so used to just walking in places and knowing the language and I couldn’t imagine not having the so-called “American Privilege.”

However, there was an upside. I had ordered a grilled cheese with tomato and it was delicious – you could tell someone had picked the tomatoes that morning. The two boys had both ordered croquettes off of suggestion from someone who had gone there yesterday and no one at the table had any inkling of what they were. While I munched on my grilled cheese, they were presented with two long tubes that looked to be deep-fried. They bit into them to discover an interesting meat-mixture and both nearly finished their plates. Near the end, one offered me a bite. Now, I’m normally one of the pickiest eaters you will find. I don’t like trying new things, especially things I don’t know the exact ingredient list of. But, I figured, when in The Netherlands…so I took a bite. It was…interesting. Definitely meaty, but weirdly creamy in a way I found strange.

It wasn’t until I went home that I thought to look up what it actually was…turns out, the typical Netherland croquette contains veal (gross) and mashed potatoes (ew?). I sighed, remembered how many French fries I had eaten, and hoped I could consider  myself at least a little more Dutch.

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