When I was young, I loved buying school supplies. I loved getting pens, pencils, packets of three holed paper (wide rule only), three holed notebooks, and three ringed binders. Maybe it was the nerd in me, but I loved getting all of these things as I got ready for another school year.

The other day I was staring at something in the house that I just could not make sense of. I had seen this object for months but I never really thought about what it was, but when I finally saw it being used, I knew I had to ask. It looked like a hole punch, where you line the paper inside and then push down to make three holes. But this looked really weird because it was small and so I asked “what is the purpose of this thing? What do you do with two holes in a piece of paper?” I was given the famous Dutch look: this  American has truly lost her mind look. “We put the paper in our binders, like this.” I then got a demonstration of paper being put into a binder, very slowly and carefully, like I was an alien that had never seen the miraculous world of binders.

I asked why they needed two holed papers when they had three holed paper. And that is when I found out that there are no three holed papers in the Netherlands, and maybe not in all of Europe. There are no three ringed binders. How was this possible? How could countries have different rules for papers, binders and hole punchers? I continue to be amazed at how naïve I am. I found out that Canada, United States, Philippines and parts of Mexico use the three holed papers and in Europe it is either two or four holed paper and binders.

Everything that I believed in had been shattered. My world of school and work supplies had been altered by one little dorky looking two hole punch. Two holes?!! Who knew that countries had different standard sizes for paper and envelopes? I have been learning the metric system (very badly, I might add) and have tried to grasp the difference in cooking temperatures. I have been working on not saying dollars anymore and thinking only of euros. But now I have to accept two holed paper? I think that the European Union is asking an awful lot from me, and I think I will be taking my own sweet time in accepting this aberration.

Before I left America I had packed some new notebooks and so I can now gaze lovingly at the last of the three holed papers in all of the Netherlands. There may be stores (winkels) who sell these papers in this country, but it will likely be in the “weird American section” of the store. I imagine aisles and aisles of two holed papers and notebooks with little Dutch children gathering their school supplies. And I will be wandering the store looking for a dusty little corner where you whisper your request and you get a three holed punch and a notebook. The items will be placed in a discreet bag and I will leave the store by a side entrance that is exclusively used by Americans. As I walk out the door, a man walks by me and gives me a questioning look. And with a nod, I reassure him that I have not wiped out the three holed inventory of the Netherlands. I may be a dork, I may be a little greedy with my supplies, but I am at least fair. I know the heartbreak of two holed paper, and I can feel his pain. I am considering starting a support group.

Recommended school reading:

Fiction Class by Susan Breen

Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

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  • aledysver  On July 4, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Now that I read this, I realise that in Argentina we have three holed paper as well! I’d never noticed that… I was happily living in two-hole ignorance and now my life is ruined, too! 😀

  • Loree Griffin Burns  On July 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Who knew?

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