What can you learn from the Dutch

Блог Listen to your broccoli Чему учиться у голландцев

This is my top list of Dutch traits that can be useful. I have learned this after living 10 years in the Netherlands.


Блог Listen to your broccoli Планирование

The Dutch are gurus of planning. At work, this is clear and expected, but in day-to-day life this is something unbelievable. If I start to think about the summer holiday only after I see the sun shining and reminding me of the coming summer, the Dutch start to plan their next summer vacation right after they came back from the current one. That felt like robots to me. Everyone has planners and agendas, notebooks, google calendars with filled-in children vacations, hobbies, family events, personal projects, courses.

Not so long ago a Dutch lady at my dance class said: yesterday I sat down to plan the year and I wanted to know if our dance class will continue on Wednesdays.


10 years ago I looked at people who took out their fat planners and notebooks and start to look for a free date when you ask them for a coffee with amusement. And yes that date could be a Thursday in two months.

Later I realized that there is rationale in this and it all makes sense. I always thought: why plan? Everything will be different tomorrow. And yet I came to an understanding that in most cases tomorrow you will have what you have planned. And if you want to be having coffee with someone in two months, you have to plan it today.

One more reason for all that planning is that the Dutch are very active people outside of working hours. They have a lot of hobbies and activities: salse, local volunteering, courses, workshops, so they are forced to plan. And yes, all these extra activities are one more point to learn from them.


Shake Hands 

Oh, all these uncomfortable moments in the beginning. I was feeling so awkward and confused. I think it took me several months to understand: It is absolutely common for women to shake hands the same way men do. Women do shake hands when introduced, both women and women and men and women. In the culture where I come from women do not ever shake hands, they just smile:).

Do not wear heels 

On the third day of my Dutch life, I needed to go to a wedding party. I glamorously entered this party on a motorbike in a short skirt on high heels. On a bike because we did not have a car, on the heels because it was a wedding and in a short skirt because I had no clue about motor-bikes. I never wore these high heals again. And after five years I threw them away.



Spend and value your time outside 

The Dutch are fond of outside terraces of cafes, their small gardens, any outside activities. Right after something looking like sun appears after the winter, they start to brag about the fact that they already managed to ‘sit outside in their garden’.

Drink wine alone, burn candles and buy flowers, not for romance 

Блог Listen to your broccoli Чему стоит поучиться у голландцев

Maybe my life in Belarus was different or time was different, but we never drank wine just at home with appetizers or just a glass of wine. The wine was always at feasts and parties and it was inappropriate to leave the bottle unfinished.

Burning candles and generally having them at home was not common. Buying flowers in the supermarket just among your normal groceries was double uncommon for me.

Burning candles not for romance but for your own pleasure? Uncommon.

Talk positively about yourself publicly

This needs a separate post! 


Listen to yourself and be aware of your wishes


I never could take this for a reason: ‘I like it, it is fun, I am going to see if it will be fun’. I all the time thought: are we allowed to consider this as a reason? a point? Are all these ‘I like it’ a reason to do something or not to do? It’s work! These are your responsibilities! I was so envious to these people and how many hours of self-reflection I still need to be able to hear what I want.

So how do you like the Dutch?:)


What to buy in Holland

Блог Listen to your broccoli | сувениры из Голландии

What to buy in Holland? A lot of travelers who feel like taking a piece of the country they are visiting home ask this question to themselves.

I am sharing my shortlist for the Dutch stuff. I am not a ‘souvenirs’ person, so things I recommend are normal things that Dutch people also buy in standard Dutch shops like bookstores, Albert Hein (Dutch supermarkets chain), De Bijenkorf (‘Dutch Harrods’).

Stuff from Bookstores

  • “The Netherlands”, book by Charlotte Dematons. This book is amazing and can be stared at endlessly. It’s a book with drawings and in each picture, you can see hundreds of details and stories about the Netherlands. A truck is not just a truck, it is either full of Dutch traditional waffles or it has an image of a famous person of the Dutch literature whose name became a symbol of fair trade for former Dutch colonies. You can also find a visual representation of many Dutch traditions: for example a tradition of swimming in the sea on 1st January.


  • Books for children: these are always nice presents to bring back as they are full of images (called ‘prentenboeken’ in Dutch), so no one has to actually know Dutch to read them. The difficulty is that you have to search good enough not to get a translated book (just because then it loses the point).


  • Diaries: The Dutch are gurus of planning and their bookstores are full of diaries of any possible format. You can always find a notebook with paintings of Dutch artists, interesting quotes, cartoons and you will always remember where and how you started that year.

Souvenirs from supermarkets

My universal advice is if you do not know what, give chocolate or food as a present:

  • Waffles with caramel syrop (stroopwafels) can be bought anywhere and better in a nice colorful can. It is also possible to buy the can separately from waffles. I doubt that whoever gets this colorful can will dare to throw it away after waffles are consumed. And do not forget to educate: the waffle is to be put on the cup of the hot tea so that the waffle will become softer and tastier.


  • ‘Delicate’ chocolate from Albert Hein: with fried corn, with jalapeno pepper, with cocos, with red curry, with rice pieces, with wasabi and strawberry.


  • Douwe Egberts coffee: well, coffee is coffee what is there to say more.

Souveniers from De Bijenkorf

It is very convenient that in the main luxe shop of the Netherlands, you can buy a lot of nice Dutch stuff. So let’s visit the Dutch Harrods, called ‘De Bijenkorf’:

  • A mug from Blond Amsterdam or Pipstudio: Mugs are my weakness and looking for an ideal mug is my favorite challenge. It is even better than looking for a perfect diary.
  • A water bottle  — a very healthy lifestyle, very Dutch, very eco, very bio. Your individual bottle for water that you always have with you and will always remind you of your nice trip.
  • Rituals — body cosmetics with most aromatic smells. These retail chain is growing like mad and is everywhere and come and visit them and see what are they so successful.
  • And the blooming almond by Van Gogh is beautiful no matter where they are printed on, even it is on a shopper bag.


Sketchnoting and scribing. What do you need to start?

Материалы для скрайбинга Блог Listen to your broccoli

I described my first scribing experience and the reaction that I have got in a separate post Sketchnoting. How to start? Now I would like to focus on what materials do you need. What is the minimum set you will require? Of course, you can start using just a simple pen, but there are a couple of tricks that easily bring your scribing to a new level without too much additional effort.

Markers for scribing

My own basic set:

  • Black thin liner for the main text
  • Black marker for thicker lines for titles. It is more convenient if it has a square tip. If you write with it and do not turn it around the width of the line will change and the line will have a touch of calligraphy.
  • Grey marker for shadowing. This is a magic marker. Once you use it in your sketchnote and add shadows, your page will become alive. I love to use a marker with a brush, but this is not important.
  • Color markers for emphasize: I have just two and you can choose your favorite colors. This is the case where less is more.
  • Beige marker for coloring faces. Probably, this is a luxury addition, but little humans look different after this marker is used.

Paper and where to sketch

If you are scribing for yourself, it is more likely that you are doing it in your lap and not on a large flip-chart in front of a big audience. In the beginning, you can just use a simple notebook without lines. Important is that your paper does allow marker lines to penetrate to the page underneath. In order for your scribing to look more professional, you can use A4 page of a more density than normal (160 g/m2). This way your page will look better when you make a photo. It is more white.

And the last step is taking all your materials out there and trying.

Materials for scribing
More about materials for scribing

Utrecht. What to see


Утрехт, каналы | Блог Listen to your broccoli

“The worst is when they are throwing up in our flowerpots”, “It became a second Venice, city stolen by tourists” – these are just a couple of headlines about issues with tourists in Amsterdam. I have been hearing about this problem for a couple of years. There is no way to hide from tourists in Amsterdam. Also for tourists. What should they do in order to see the Netherlands? Maybe go to Utrecht?:)

If I would be visiting Utrecht as a tourist, this would be my advice to myself:

  • Leave the station and do not get stuck in the shops. Utrecht train station extended itself into a big shopping mall. High ceilings, popular brands, and chains.


  • Visit Olivier Cafe. A secret and at the same time popular place. This is a Belgian bar in the premises which were a church previously (schuilkerk  – a church that is situated in a normal house and does not look like a church from outside. Such types of churches existed in Europe for different branches of the Christian church. It is peculiar that though it is a very well-known place, it is still not overwhelmed by tourists, office workers still come here for drinks after work.



  •  Utrecht canals are also very special and different from the Amsterdam ones. You can walk following them or take about. 


  • Visit a district with the most expensive houses (Wittevrouwen) and check out how inconvenient the entrances and stairs can look like in the houses for such prices.


  • Eat Mario sandwich (the most famous street sandwich in Utrecht) or Ben sandwich (street lunch place that has a selection of about 40 types of sandwiches).
Утрехт, бутерброд Марио | Блог Listen to your broccoli
Утрехт, бутерброд Бен | Блог Listen to your broccoli

And if you want to become part of the city life, you can join one of Utrecht festivals and events as there are plenty of those: theatre festival, student festival (students rooms become podiums for a day),  medival music festival and many others.

Utrecht what to see

Sketchnoting. How to start?


Скрайбинг Блог Listen to your broccoli

I was afraid to take out my markers. I was imagining that people will be starting at me, or maybe they will not staring, but I will be thinking that they are staring and would not be able to take my etui with markers. Nevertheless, I took them out and in twenty minutes I made a photo of the ready-made sketchnote of a speech and sent it to the speaker. It was my first real attempt to do real-time scribing at a conference.

Very recently a former colleague of mine introduced me to the main elements of visual scribing or sketchnoting and I tried to do make a visual summary (this is what meant by scribing or sketchnoting) of a couple of TED speeches. And less than in a week I was already trying to do real-time sketchnoting at a conference.


There are several basic elements and principles of visual scribing that we need in order to start.

Structure of visual summaries

  • The title is to be written by a black marker more thick than the main text marker. It makes your page very presentable and makes the title pop-up. Immediately it shows that your page is something more than just notes on the speech. Then add a frame around the title.
  • One speech – one page. If you limit yourself it makes you more creative and inventive, it makes you think about the structure of the page each second. If you know how long the speech will last approximately (10 minutes, half an hour or an hour), you can already break your page in section in your head and fill it in proportionally to the time.
  • The balance of the page. You can have a grid in your head like in noughts and crosses game and follow that virtual grid as you go. The easiest speeches to map on your page is the ones where the speaker announces the number of main points: 12 lessons from my life, 3 main rules of the Dutch culture).
Scribing Blog Listen to your broccoli

The visual summary of the TED speech by Anne Lamott, the author of the book Bird by Bird.

Main Elements

  • Block letters. The text should be written in block letters.
  • Little human figures. From one side these little figures are just decorations, but they attract attention and they fit any topic. The speaker is a human always, so you can always place him on your page and add a dialogue cloud. The page will look more diverse if the figures are of different shapes: oval, square, triangle or of diamond shape.

Pay attention to the hands. Different positions of the hands also ensure you have some variety on the page. The most amusing fact for me is how the little figures are brought to life by filling in their heads with beige color. I would never think that this would make any difference, but now I am so enjoying by bringing in this finishing touch.

  • Frames, clouds and dialogue boxes. These elements help to highlight and structure the content. I am at the moment using them without any particular strategy. Short quotes look good in dialogue boxes, bullet points look nice if places in a frame. That’s about it.
  • Visual library. Your visual library! The main visual symbols that you start to use is your library. For example a symbol of a computer, book, phone, light bulb. Sketchnoting is done on the fly and it is hard to invent symbols on the fly. It is more likely that I will gradually extend my visual library by looking at examples of others.
  • Birds. If you started a line on the page that you do not like or need anymore, make a scribble out of it and then make a bird by adding beak, tail, and legs. The birds do not spoil the page at all and do not draw attention, so you can always fix everything by making a bird out of it.

Decoration of the page

After the summary is ready, you need just a couple of steps to finalize your page:

  • Make the faces of little human figures beige and make their clothes of different colors.
  • Add shadows using grey color. Everything should have a shadow: frames, figures, clouds.
  • The following steps I try to do at the very beginning, but if there is no time, then in the end: frame around the title, date and name of the speaker, my signature (sketchnote by Hanna Mironchyk).
  • Add emphasize by using color.

…That speaker liked my very simple and not that pretty sketchnote and she even offered to meet and thank personally. Could it happen if I would not take out my markers? I doubt it.

A visual summary of the speech “Three stories about the Netherlands that fascinate me”. April 2019. Toastmasters District Conference.


Scribing. How to start? Blog Listen to your broccoli
Scribing. How to start? Blog Listen to your broccoli