Invader Stu: A Dutch guide to camping
During the summer months, or at least the brief part of summer with good weather, the highways of Holland become filled with caravans as Dutch people make their way to camp sites all over the country (and nearby countries if they have enough patience and petrol).
The Dutch love to go camping but it is not camping as most of us might know it.
For the Dutch, camping does not mean roughing it in the woods, fighting against nature, scavenging for bugs and trying to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together. No, when the Dutch go camping they go camping on their own terms.
Being away from home does not mean that you have to miss any of the luxuries of home. Gas cookers, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and DVD players are just a few of the things considered essential camping equipment by the Dutch.
The not-so-simple life
Likewise, having a caravan, which by its very nature is mobile, does not mean that you actually have to be able to travel anywhere with it. Dutch campsite spots can be rented for as long as you like.
Once they have found a camping site they like, the Dutch will settle down and start the process of turning their caravan into a permanent, non-moving summer home or bungalow, complete with a conservatory (front tent), heating, indoor plumbing, outdoor kitchen station and a garden (which in itself will include a garden shed, garden furniture and several garden ornaments).
The joys of camping
However, there are a few things that are out of the Dutch campers’ control.
Most camp sites only have one spot where the mobile network or wi-fi is any good. This spot will often be out in the middle of a random field somewhere next to a cow. That’s why most phone calls usually first involve a five minute hike.
The Dutch weather rarely acts as expected (or desired) either. Beautiful sunny weather will often be interrupted by a sudden hurricane or rain storm. When this happens everyone seems to enter a strange state of denial.
During the most extreme weather there will still be someone swimming in the outdoor swimming pool, another person will still be attempting to have a barbeque and someone else will be chasing a runaway sun umbrella across the campsite because they didn’t think it was that windy.
Quality family time
If you have children things will be extra busy as you either try to keep them entertained or keep them out of trouble (or both). People often underestimate how much work this is.
That is why you will often find a group of exhausted and stressed parents who mistakenly thought it was a good idea to hold a children’s birthday party on the campsite.
Time to relax
Despite the few things that are out of their control, the Dutch still love camping. Once everything is set up, the weather is good and the children have settled down (or gone off exploring) it is time to relax.
That is... after you’ve mown the lawn, washed the caravan or tent windows and done all the other little maintenance and upgrade tasks that you suddenly realised need doing.
I know all of this because I have a caravan. A caravan with heating, indoor plumbing, an outdoor kitchen station, a garden and many other things...
Do you enjoy camping like the Dutch or do you prefer roughing it in the wilderness?
Invader Stu is an accident prone Englishman who has been suffering from Dutch culture shock for the last ten years. Enjoy his stories, more of which can be found on Invading Holland.