The first time I ordered a cup of coffee in the Netherlands, a nice cup and saucer was put in front of me. A little cookie was sitting on the edge of the saucer.

I thought that was a nice touch. Oh, how innocent I was!

When I finished drinking my coffee in three good sips, I looked around for the waiter.

“What are you looking for?”
‘’I want a refill, can you get his attention when he comes around?”
“Jane, there are no refills in the Netherlands.”

My world came to a screeching halt. The world I knew where wonderful men and women came to your table with a pot of coffee. A world where you finally have to put out your hand over your mug and say “Thanks, I’ve had enough.”

The Dutch don’t know that phrase when it comes to coffee or tea and they certainly don’t know about mugs. You can buy big mugs in stores, but you will rarely be served a mug of coffee or tea.

Back to my first traumatic coffee scene: I was simply stunned by the idea that this dinkie cup of coffee was all I was going to get. But a comforting voice said “but you do get a free cookie.” Wow. I would have given back the cookie for a few more drops of coffee.

Don’t think tea drinkers are immune to this rule—if you want a second cup of tea, and you still have your original tea bag, you will still be charged full price for another cup of hot water, plus a new tea bag, which is about 2-3 euros.

This is what I don’t get: this is a country with lots of water. This is a country that is obsessed with water. So here I am, a thirsty American, just wanting a refill. You would think they would be happy to pour me some liquid, albeit coffee.

By the way, if you want a plain glass of water you must ask for tap water. A glass will come with two teeny tiny ice cubes floating at the top. The good news—there is no charge for this. The bad news—no free cookie.

Recommended reading: Owl and Moon Café by JoAnn Mapson
Love and Biology at the center of the universe by Jennie Shortridge

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  • Susan  On March 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    All is right with the world….Jane is still providing us with reading recommendations. I thought I would go into withdrawal when she moved to The Netherlands.

  • Cecile  On March 24, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    What a treat to be including in this blog mailing! Since I only attended Book Circle once, I surely haven’t earned the right to miss you like others do, yet I do feel your absence. When I received the link to your blog and discovered that I’d still receive your book recommendations, Jane, my fist shot upwards and I shouted YES! Thanks so much.

  • Holly Anne Evans  On March 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Hi Jane, Love your blogs – so fun to read. Enjoy the book titles too. Keep it up.

  • Michael Howard  On March 26, 2011 at 2:08 am

    Hi Jane:
    Glad to see your sense of humor is getting you through your caffine withdrawal – I guess a care package of Dunkin Donuts gift won’t do you any good. It nice to see your writing – it feels like I can still have a conversation with my old friend. Enjoy life and eat the damn cookie – it’s free!

  • Aledys Ver  On April 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

    haha I can imagine your astonishment! But nope, no second cup of coffee unless you pay for it. On the other hand, it is normally good coffee, the real kind, not a dark looking liquid of mysterious origin, like they serve in certain chains where you stop just to pick a plastic cup and you’re off in a wink 😉
    What surprised me when I had just arrived in the NL was that they would serve just the one sugar bag – hey, I’m a sweet girl I need more sugar! I was told by my father-in-law that us, people from the south, seem to have a tendency to need or consume more sugar than up here in the north… I’m pretty sure he was just pulling my leg, though.

  • April  On November 22, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Hello, I will be reading your blog probably daily. I am an American who moved to Holland/Belgium almost 3 months ago. As I was shocked about no ice or hardly any ice in the cups and definitely “NO Free Refill” especially at McDonalds! I was totally shocked by this! I am so used to getting free refills and lots of ice in my drinks. I never feel revived from drinking a glass of soda without a lot of ice! lol.. I am glad that you have this post! I can now see this world from another Americans point of view! Maybe this will help me adjust better in this culture!

  • Mary  On February 14, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Hi Jane – just catching up on your blog (after a year!) – the coffee/refill incident caught my eye! Hope you are well – as so many others have observered, it’s so nice to hear your sense of humour and serious comments about life in another country. We’ve been in the UK almost 16 year! Yikes! I shall pass on your blog details to Jillian. She’ll love it! xxx Still entertain fond thoughts of coming over to see you!

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