"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Nov 1, 2020

It's pronounced, 'How-da'

And I don't mean Howdy! During my 30's, my Manhattan-based company transferred me to Holland for a year to work in their European headquarters in Ridderkerk, outside of Rotterdam.  Company paid for everything:  housing, car, food, expenses; plus my increased salary and bonus were deposited back home.  Nice, huh? Such memories provide warm-fuzzies during my current, penurious state of affairs.

At first I couldn't find a house or apartment outside city limits, which I preferred.  I was living in the Hotel Inntel in Rotterdam until I found a place in a little town called Krimpen aan den IJssel  (the IJ is pronounced like a long I).  It wouldn't be available for a month, so I moved in with Nancy from Accounting, transferred shortly before me and already in a 2-bedroom apartment in the city.

Unlike me, Nancy was a cheese-lover, so one of the first places she went was to a market in search of an authentic hunk of Gouda.  She didn't speak Dutch but many Dutch people speak several languages, including English.  My late (Dutch) husband, Tino, told me school children are taught German, French and English in addition to their Dutch studies, because,

"In the business world, not very many people speak Dutch."

So Nancy's looking over the extensive cheese selection but can't find what she wants.  They have to have Gouda...this is Holland, so she asks the saleswoman,

"I'd like some Gouda, please."

Quizzical expression in response, so she tries again.

"Gouda?  Kaas?"

Nothing.  A group gathers, as happens, and Nancy repeats the word over and over, slowly, backwards, until someone finally shouts,

"HOW-da!" The How is preceded with a bit of a gutteral breath.

"Ah, How-da, How-da," they all repeat, smiling and laughing.

I lived in what's called a dike house, you can imagine the ribbing I received, then and always, from friends and strangers alike.  It's just what it says:  houses built on the dikes.  Remember, most of Holland is below sea level.

If you look at the photo, you'll see that the main entrance is on the street, level with the river, with a tiny upstairs.  The third, lower level, is not a basement but built along the slope of the dike, and opens to solid ground and the backyard garden.  

So if you ever go to Holland and want some Gouda, remember to ask for HOW-da and it won't take so long.

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