God, do people in the Netherlands smoke! And Netherlands apparently is just average it seems in Europe. Smoking is such an integral part of life for several people here, that every building in my University has separate rooms for people to smoke! There are separate eating areas as well for smokers! At any point of time, I catch at least a couple of people smoking outside the building entrances. At cafes and bars, you take it for granted that you have to be inside a cloud of smoke for the time that you are in there. Young and Old, men and women, smoke smoke smoke! puffff!!! A shocking view that will remain in my mind for some time at least is when I was at a bus stop waiting along with a young couple and their very young child, both the husband and the wife were smoking right there in front of the baby! Even I could not bare the smoke after few minutes and had to walk several feet away. Pretty amazing uh! And cigaretts are damn expensive here!They cost around Euro 5 per pack, but to no awail!
Drinking again is an extremely social thing! I was so psyched that my University in Canada which was like a small town in itself had two bars in its huuuuge campus, haha! silly point! Here, there is one in every department! The city center has streets lined up with so many bars, cafes and pubs and Eindhoven is just a small city. The students here start partying from Wednesday or Thursday itself. It is so unbelievable to me. Thursday evenings are the most popular evenings to visit the pubs and people drink alcohol like water. Every celebration here has people drinking humongous amounts of beer right on the streets. And if you don't drink, you are a complete weirdo! (Not having much of trouble convincing people about that though..:D)
I know to most people this must be like "Duh! Whats the big deal?" but its just that I come from a different world, and I may be wrong but even in Canada the weekend begins only from Friday evening. People here are all merry most of the time! :) Overtime working? Unheard of! Hey no complaints!!:D
But the best part of having all these bars is that most of them have live band performances. I am so exposed to western music here and my friends are trying hard to educate me to the different genres. Yesterday we went to this place called "De Gouden Bal" where a band was playing Jazz music mostly from the "Dixieland". New things generally grow on me with time. So I din't really have a "aahha, what music!" moment yesterday. Probably my friends were disappointed, but I did find this exercise one of them asked me to do quite interesting - hearing separate instruments from the music and recognizing their beats! I kept staring at each instrument for a while, but found it hard to feel the piano and guitar over the range of trumpets and drums. I gave up when one of the players got weirded out by my looks!! :D..But with all the smoke and drinks, it was still wonderful.
The aged people in the Netherlands are lucky!The place we visited yesterday is mostly frequented by the old Dutch people and even the band members were pretty old. They were dancing, clapping and having a ball of a time. Way to live your life, especially when you get old!!
Picture Courtesy - http://goudenbal.dse.nl/