With recent heat waves here in Dordrecht, I've been feeling extra nostalgic for California. Particularly, my friends and family. Rather than wallowing in nostalgia, I put on my pro-active pants and compiled a list of essentials to make visiting me really simple ;). Now that you know what to pack, what are you waiting for?
1) A re-usable water-bottle or refillable container (such as screw-top bottle of wine). Be prepared to pay for water while dining out and enjoying night life. If you ask for water, an elegantly presented glass bottle will appear at your table - and it costs about 3 euro. NO FREE WATER HERE! After working in restaurants and bars for several years, part of me understands the method behind this. Though as a consumer, I'd really just like some tap water before I begin pounding wine. Also, I've noticed the price of bottled water at the grocery store is much higher here than in California. I drink the from the tap at home and it's damn tasty, so I suggest hydrating before/after dining out.
2) Tampons. Sorry/not-sorry if you find this point uncomfortable. But really, most drug stores and grocery stores solely carry tampons without applicators/inferior absorbency. I've yet to see a box tampax-pearl. Please bring me some when you visit.
3) High Heels. The Dutch are some of the tallest people in the world with the average man standing over 6 feet tall and woman at 5'7". But they also walk and bike a lot and so will you. Maybe plan on packing flats and prepare to look up a lot.
4) A voltage converter - your hair dryer, straightener and curling iron plugs will not fit into the outlets here (this goes for your cell phone, camera battery, etc). Not that this matters because the humidity/rain/wind here will destroy any attempt you make in hair styling. Regardless, I suggest buying a converter a few weeks before your trip and testing to make sure your devices fit. I purchased one online during my first visit and it didn't fit :(. Also, be sure to check the voltage to make sure your device won't blow a fuse/up the neighborhood.
5) Change - maybe this sounds like stretch for content, but the point is important. Don't expect public restrooms in grocery, retail and convenient stores (Maybe people use the toilets less because they're not drinking free water while eating out?). Imagine you're walking around Venice beach or something like that. Except, instead of begging to use a toilet, you'll need to pay for it. Furthermore, if you're at festival or club, it's common to pay for the facilities, usually 50 cents. Having the thirst of a camel and the bladder of a mouse, this has been a very challenging aspect of living here.
What should I bring when visiting your country?