On this date two years ago I had only lived in the Netherlands for 4 months and in honour of King’s Day – a very traditional holiday celebrating the reigning monarchy – I’ve decided to dig from the archives and resurface one of my original blog posts about my first Dutch holiday. It’s always fascinating to see how my writing has changed over the two years and of course my initial impressions of the Dutch culture. But the atmosphere of the event remains unaltered and I think my casual yet excited description of it does indeed do the holiday justice. Although if you want to actually learn something about this holiday, I suggest reading this nifty fact page made by IAMsterdam.

Also included in this re-telling of an original blog post is my first attempt at video blogging. Presumably my friends OK with the sharing of this video; a video that ultimately exceeds in length and my current level of energy. And with that…

Happy King’s Day!

It’s still weird to say, but I have a King and Queen. And boy, does everyone love Queen Maxima. If you thought the British were obsessed with royalty, you would be correct, but there are other royal lineages that deserve equal admiration and praise. Queen Maxima won the heart of the Dutch people through philanthropy and ‘fitting in’ (for lack of a better phrase). I admire her because she’s a UN advocate for inclusive finance and does a lot to promote the sector in which I work- impact investing. But the celebration of a monarch’s birthday is not called “Koninginnedag” anymore (Queen’s day). Instead, we celebrate King Willem’s birthday (Koningsdag, King’s day) by selling all of our stuff on the free market (vrijmarkt) and partying until the break of dawn. Last week was definitely the biggest party of the year.

The partying part was not my favorite because I live in the middle of the largest party, which means loud music and lots of disgusting drunk people. It took me 15 minutes to get to my door at night because everyone was peeing in front of it. It’s not a sight I want to see at any time of night, but especially before bed. Once I made it into the house, all I heard was a very steady “thump, thump, thump” for the next three or so hours or until my body could no longer stay awake and I let it loll me to sleep.

However, the vrijmarkt (free market) was phenomenal. It’s a glorified garage sale that EVERYONE partakes in; I have never had so much fun selling other people’s stuff and practicing my terrible Dutch by negotiating with people. I couldn’t believe A. how stingy the Dutch were (which I see mostly as a good thing) and B. how much random stuff they have. People were selling anything from vases to art collections from travel adventures to chips and salsa – whatever they had in their pantry! They even set up photo booths: ‘Take your picture with the King and Queen!’ They certainly were thrifty and by the end of the night, they just gave everything for free. I got a black, wool poncho, a jewelry holder, Neil Gaiman Dutch book, and new purse for a total of EUR 7 and two of those items were free!

What holidays do you enjoy that are unique to your country? Are there other countries that have a similar holiday or a similar vrijmarkt concept?