Sunday, January 30, 2011

Venlo Strangers - Day four

These are photos from day four and the final day of this stage of the project. I'll think up some new questions and change a few things around. Thanks to everyone who participated so far. I learnt a lot about the Dutch and Limburgers. If you want to get in contact with me (if you want an electronic copy of your photo) - you can me email on


Wendy had just finished her shopping and was about to cycle off. She has excellent English and was very smily. She goes most years to London, mainly to go to the shops.

Me - What are Dutch people like?
Wendy - Ignorant,
M - I havent' hear that one before. Why do you say they are ignorant?
W - Because they don't listen to other people. They believe that their opinion is the best, there's no need for them to listen.
M - Are you a Limburger?
W - Yes
M - Are there any differences between Limburgers and other Dutch people?
W - Yes, we are bourgondisch, more so in the south, which is where I'm from. We love to eat and drink. We love partying.
M - What do you enjoy doing?
W - Daytrips, going out to the park with my 16 month old daughter, mmm, travel and off course shopping.

Evelien and Joost

Evelien and Joost were fun to talk with and they seem to know someone at Milk and Cookies.

Me - Can you tell me something about the Dutch character?
Joost/Evelien - People are different from different parts of the Netherlands. The main one, is between the north and the south. There are three main rivers that divide the country, the Maas, the Rhine and the Scheldt.
M - What are people like from the North?
E - Direct
J - Blunt
M - And what about the south?
E - They are 'bourgondisch', how do you say that in English? They love good food, wine, to party.
M - Are you Limburgers?
J & E - Yes
M - Are you also different to other Dutch people?
J & E - Yes
E - Especially in the south, they're very hard to get in touch with. In the north we are more open-minded.
M - I enjoy photography. What do you enjoy doing?
E - Me too, I don't have much time now, I love painting too.
J - Running, drinking beer
E - He brews his own beer too.
M - Really, like which ones?
J - I've done 5-6 so far. The results are usually surprising.


I met Dominic in Hapas. He was chasing after his energetic daughter. He was very charming and full of jokes.

Me - What's the Dutch character? For example, some would say that the British drink too much.
Dominic - Yes, we like to drink too.
M - Are there any differences between Limburgers and other Dutch people?
Dominic - Yes, we are more 'bourgondisch'; more like the French. We enjoy ourselves more.
M - What do you enjoy doing?
D - Playing with my kids.


Wendy was the 20th and last person for this part of Venlo Strangers.

M - What are Dutch people like? For example, people think that the British are polite, quiet or now drunks.
Wendy - Yes, people are different of course, but in general, they're simple, direct, and not polite, not like the British.
Me - Are there any differences between Limburgers and other Dutch people?
W - Yes, we are different. We are not like the northers, not so direct, we are..., how do you say in English?
M - causal, laidback
W - Yes, that kind of thing
M - What do you like doing?
W - Horseriding

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Venlo Strangers - part three


Day three in Venlo and I first bumped into Femmy and her co-worker. They were on their lunch break but they still gave me some time.

Me - What are Dutch people like?
Femmy - They are cautious with strangers but more welcoming once they get to know them.
M - Are there any differences between Limburgers and other Dutch people?
F - Yes, I think Limburg has an inferiority complex. They feel looked down upon by the people from the Randstad, you know the four big cities in the Netherlands. We are more like France, Belgium and even Germany. People in the Randstad consider us to be foreign.

M - What do you like to do in your freetime?
F - I like to go out drinking with my friends?
M - Is that beer or tea?
F - These days I don't drink beer everyday, more often it's tea.


Me - Hi, I'm doing a project where I ask strangers some questions and then take their photo. Is this ok?
Martel - Well, I don't have much time.
M - Ok, there's only four questions, just give me a one word answer. My first question - What's your name?
Martel - Martel
M - Can you tell me some about the Dutch personality?
Martel - Open-minded
M - What's different about Limburgers?
Martel - Not open-minded
M - What do you like to do?
Martel - Art

Martel, I can't read your web address - (that's how I read it but it's not recognised)


Leon owns Purity Photography, a place where you can get professional studio portraits taken. He's friendly and I believe he's great at his job.

Me - Is there a difference between Limburgers and other Dutch people.
Leon 'Yes, there's a difference. People in Amsterdam are very international. There's a big difference, it's like two groups of people in this country.

M - What do you enjoy doing?
L - This, photography. I love it. And traveling, unfortunately it's expensive, so we can't do it that often. This picture (of a monkey) was taken in Bornea. We went with the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

Renee - for some reason, I forgot to take your photo - sorry

For some reason, I forgot to photograph Renee, I believe it was because I was taking notes (for once).

Me - Can you tell me something that's typical about Dutch people?
Renee - They pay for themselves. They are self-centred (I believe Renee meant self-reliant)
M - Are you a Limburger?
R - Yes, but I study in Rotterdam at the moment.
M - Are Limburgers different to other Dutch people?
R - Yes, they're sweeter. We care more about other people. Here, everyone knows each other. In the rest of the Netherlands, it's me, me, me.
M - What do you like doing?
R - I'm at an art academy, I love drawing, building things, art stuff
M - Buildng things, do you mean sculptures.
R - Yes, I could't remember the word, thanks


Max and Lucas were shooting a mini-video with an Indian theme. They had an Indian model and were shooting in one of the main shopping streets in Venlo. They're at the university and they really like the Dutch.


Me - What are Dutch people like?
Lucas - Open-minded, friendly.
Max - Yes, tolerant is the word. You cross the border and the culture is different. We're only five minutes away from Germany here, but there's a big difference.
L - Yes, in the university in Germany if you have a deadline. That's it. No work handed in, no score. But here it's much better. You can say, it's my birthday, can I hand it a day later, the professors will agree.
Max - Yes, they are much more humane here.


Lina was working in a restaurant that I had lunch in. She has excellent English and later I saw her on the street and stop her, despite being short of time, she helped out. Lina is from the Hague.

Me - What's typical about the Dutch character?
Lina - They are open-minded, they don't take bullshit well and they are direct.
M - Are there any differences between other Dutch people and Limburgers?
L - There's a big difference. We like apple pie, they don't, we have cold food for lunch, they have hot. Other Dutch people are more direct, whilst here, they are politer. They are more laidback here. Also, I really have to listen hard as their accent is very different to what I'm used to.
M - What do you like to do?
L - creative things, meeting new people, I really like writing, the arts.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Strangers in Venlo - Day two


It was a cold day in Venlo but the streets were much busier than Tuesday, especially where the Saturday market is held.

I went to the Limburg Museum at first, since one of my questions is about the Limburg character, I thought this is a must go place.

I met Gerry there, who volunteers one day a week to work at the museum. She's originally from Overloon - Noord Brabant and she knows about blogs because her daughter runs a blog too. Gerry also introduce me to a new Dutch word 'ruimdenliend'.

Me - 'Can you tell me something that's typical of the Dutch?'
Gerry - 'Yes, they're friendly and ruimdenliend, how do you say that in English? They don't mind what other people do.'
M - 'They're are open-minded'
G - 'Yes, they're open-minded, it doesn't matter whether you are a woman, gay, black'
M - 'They let people be what they want to be?'
G - 'Yes, they let people be what they want to be.'

M - 'How are Limburgers different from other Dutch people?'
G - 'They are 'bourdondisch', they like to eat and drink, they like to enjoy themselves, but this is more so in the south.'
M - 'Do you think this is a true reflection on the people in Limburg?'
G - 'Yes, but less so here. It's more in the South.'

Unfortunately, Gerry won't be here on Sunday but she might send someone else along.

Kaber at his shop

Kaber owns a Doner Kebab store in the big market square. He's laidback and friendly.

M - 'What are Dutch people like?'
Kaber - 'They're very kind people.'
M - 'Do you think there's any difference between Limburgers and other Dutch people?'
K - 'There's a difference in the language and the accent but other things, mmm, no not really, mmm, well, they're kinder.'

Rick and Floor outside Cafe Central

I met Rick and Floor in the square outside the townhall. I was surprised at the name 'Floor' and Rick did say that it's the same spelling as the 'floor'. They both like meeting up with friends and Rick is very into his sports, especially hockey and tennis.

M - 'How would you describe Dutch people?'
Rick - 'They are open to their friends but less so to strangers. We don't go up to people and ask them questions like you.'
M - 'I think most British people don't do this either.'
Rick - 'Ok, yeah, we are not like the Spanish, Italians and Greeks, they're open to everyone. They talk with everyone.'

Rick and Gerry also did a Limburg pose, which made me laugh.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Strangers in Venlo

Thalassa from Milk and Cookies

Finally started to meet some strangers in Venlo.

This time I want to meet at least some of the strangers again, so I needed to a find a venue. I decided to go with Milk and Cookie, at Parade 22, Venlo. This is where I met my first Venlo stranger, Thalassa. Thalassa opened Milk and Cookies with her business partner last June.

Thalassa is from Southwest Netherlands, she graduated last year and ever since has been hard at work at Milk and Cookies. She's very approachable and easy to talk with.

Me - "What's a typical Dutch characheristic?"

Thalassa - "Oh, that's 'nuchler', you know?"

M - "No"

T - "Mmm, sober, in the sense of common-sense. We do the right things and get things down"

M - "I understand that Limburger's are different, how is their character different to the rest of the Netherlands?"

T - "I'm not from here originally, but I'm from the south, you know, below the 'river', and close to Belgium, so we are more like Limburgers. We enjoy life, we like to drink and eat. We are more 'bourgondisch', in the north they are more 'nuchler'.

Thalassa enjoys playing with creative ideas and concepts. Milk and Cookies is one of those concepts and her and her partner hope to build this concept by eventually opening more 'Milk and Cookies'.

Since she's working on Sunday, she'll be giving her invite to a friend. So, there'll be at least one mystery guess on Sunday.


I met Thea and Annie where Venlo has its Saturday market. They were heading towards town, my guess towards a cafe but I didn't ask. Thea did most of the talking because I have no Dutch and she has reasonable English.

M - What are the Dutch like?

T - Friendly, helpful.


M - And what about Limburgers?

T (ask Annie in Dutch) They enjoy life a lot. They love talking, they're good to guests and the carnival is big here. Everyone loves it.

M - What do you do for enjoyment?

T - We like going to cafes.

Frans from Pieter Breughel Art Shop

Frans is the owner of the Pieter Breughel Art Shop
, which sells modern paintings and sculptures. He's enjoyable to talk to, likes to play golf because it gives him pleasure and enjoys going out restaurants and for some drinks. He also wished me much success, which I liked.

Me - "Are you from Limburg?"
Frans - "Yes, I'm from Venlo."
M - "Do people from the Netherlands have a special characteristic? You know, like the British are considered to be gentlemen, they like to drink etc."
F - "They are humorous, I like English humour. Yes, the Dutch are friendly, and they're open-minded."
M "Yes, the British consider the Dutch to be open-minded that way so many of them like coming here. You're from Limburg. Do you think they are different to other Dutch people?"
F - "Yes, Limburgers like the good things in life, we like to eat and drink, we like to talk and there's the carnival too. Also, now means now in the north but here it could mean in 15 mins"
M - "Why do you think there's a difference?"
F - "Limburg is made up of a lot of small places. Each of those places has their own orchestra and carnival group."
M - "Yes, I kinda know this. In Stejl they have something like this, in English they're called 'Circle of Friends' and they have a red flag with a devil on it. I don't understand why they use the devil?"
F - "I don't really know either, you'll have to ask people in Stejl but they are well known and they're the only one like this in the whole of Limburg.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Travel without a Guide Book - Thomas

This is Thomas, my second guide to Melaka

Perhaps I ate the toast the wrong way. The man at the next table had his feet up and dunked buttered toast into milky tea. He looked very cosy, anyway, the toast was ok but not fulling enough, so I ordered some minced pork noodles from a guy called Thomas.

I liked himself straight away as he continued to chat in Chinese while I ordered breakfast. He also agreed to answer some questions after I'd finished breakfast.

Thomas, originally from Kuala Lumpur, has been retired for 15 years and now lives most of the time in Malaka but still also has a house in KL. He runs a small noodle stall at a coffee shop with his wife.

Thomas "It's more relaxing in Melaka, free time is concentrated into coffee shops as there's not much in the way of nightlife."

Me "What's do you enjoy about Melaka?'

Thomas "There's more good than not good. The people are friendier, you spend less and the races mix much more. Here, you always see Indians in Chinese places and Malay in Indian places and so on."

Me "Why does that happen more here?"

Thomas "I think it's because the communities are smaller here. In KL they all have big communities, so there's less need to go outside their community but here, because the communities are smaller, people mix more."

Thomas next to his noodle stall - food's very cheap here

Thomas really liked his life in Melaka. He recommanded that I should go to the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple as its the oldest Chinese Temple in Southeast Asia.

Woman burning incense sticks - in the week of Guanyin's Birthday

At the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, things were really busy. I talked to the woman (and her family) in the picture. She was here because on the following Tuesday was Guanyin's Birthday (the God of Mercy). She strongly recommend that I come here early on Tuesday morning.

Photos and memorial plaques for the dead

I meet another man called Thomas, and his family in the room with the memorial plaques for the dead. He had come to pay respect to his dead relatives. This place in the temple is replacing traditional Chinese graves as they're cheaper and they don't take up so much land. Thomas brought his young children with him so that they can learn more about their culture.

Birds being released at the Temple

Friday, January 21, 2011

Taipei 101 - more portraits

Most of these portraits are from the 'underground city' under Taipei Main Railway Station. It's a fascinating place, lit in half light, it's easy to forgot the time of day and the heat outside. The place is always packed with students, shoppers, travellers and the homeless. They constantly flows and ebbs down the corridors and in and out of shops. I always wanted to do an around the clock here - you know 24 hours of life in the underground city but I was never brave enough.

The Fortune Teller

As part of the Taipei 101 project, we labeled the people we wanted to meet. We did this, because we felt that after five years in Taipei we still only knew people from a very limited social background - the main ones being English teachers and Taiwanese who could speak good English.

One of the things me and Lewis learned from the labeling was that it wasn't a very good measure of a person. When you label someone with a job or a status, your mind usually comes up with a picture, often a very inaccurate one. The main thing we learned was that we shouldn't take too much notice of the label, it's the person that matters - and people are very good at surprising. Still, if we hadn't labeled people for this project, we wouldn't had met the variety of people we did.

The Pregnant Woman

The pregnant woman was fun to talk to. She was happy and she joked a lot. She found what we were doing interesting and seemed to enjoy the interview, the present swapping and recieving a thank you card.

The Person who practices on the street

The guy was part of a yoyo team. He had been part of it for five years. They loved the underground city as it's dry and they can continue to yoyo even when the weather was wet outside. The guy worked in a factory, though we didn't understand exactly what he did.

The underground city has it's gaming areas and it's students but it's also home to a lot of traditional Chinese practices too. There's fortune tellers, people selling traditional things but the place I liked the most was the one where the masseuses used meat cleavers to massage. This was my opportunity. I had 10 minutes of meat cleavers chopping up my body. It felt great! The woman in the picture below was the one who chopped me up.

The Masseuse who uses a meat cleaver

The student is holding up some Indian money and a invitation to India. It's a joke or a start, depending on how you see it. Lewis had the idea to do a present swap for all the people we met. His idea was that the present will help link the people together. This present was one I put together but some people were very generous in their present giving. One lad gave a shirt, another a T-shirt she had designed, a pawn broker gave us a crazy Japanese ornament and so on. I really didn't think this part of project would work but it did and it was a great feeling giving out the presents and we were always excited to see what people would give in return.

The Student

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Helper in Malacca

Ray, outside Red Handicraft

It was eight thirty and left to my own devices I found myself in a trendy cafe bar called Limau Limau.

My habits ruled and my nose took me to coffee. I decided not to eat breakfast here but to ask the owner instead for suggestions.

Jasmine, the owner, suggested I talk with Ray, her most loyal customer. Jasmine has only lived in Malacca for five years and felt that I needed to speak to a real Malaccan.

Ray was tucking into a healthy fruit salad breakfast. He's probably in his 30's and runs a shop called 'Red Handicraft' (Blog with photos of Ray and his shop)which specializes in papercuts.

"My favourite place, a place where I take friends is Jalan Bunga Raya, in the old cinema area. I always take my friends from China there. They do great 'doygan' (soyabean cakes). It's a simple setup, just on the side of a street."

Shellfish at the roadside place Ray recommended

The crowd at the roadside cafe

Later in the week, Ray took me here and also to the Portuguese area of town, where we had a Portuguese style meal. The people still speak Portuguese but in a 17th dialect.

The subject of food took Ray on to traditional food.

"This place used to be full of traditional food and cheap it was too. Not like now. The traditional ways are going, sadly and in more ways then one. It used to be very safe here. There was no need to lock your doors but now, break-ins are common. People get into house through the airwells looking for antiques."

Antique dealers and migrants got much of the blame for this change in Malacca's fortunes.
Jasmine and Ray also talked about streets names. I remember Jasmine said about Goolie Street and that it was the place for very cheap labour. Oh, so Koolie is a Malay word.

We talked a lot but my stomach got the better of me. I asked for a breakfast suggestion.

Ray "Here's great. The food's healthy and delicious."
Me "Yes, this does look great! But I want to eat what locals eat. Do you have any suggestions for a more traditional breakfast"
Ray "Ok, toast and jam."

Ray gave me the directions. It was only a couple of minutes away. Unfortuately, I didn't record the name of the place but it's on the corner of Jalan Kampung Kuli and Lorong Hang Jebat.