Monday, June 23, 2008


When I committed to blogging for 43 days in a row, I didn't realize how long that would feel like. Oh well. This is post #16 for those of you keeping score at home. Keep checking back in. I'm getting very creative in my effort to come up with content. Now for a little bit more in my ongoing effort to pick apart every little bit of the Dutch culture - facts be damned.

Street signs in the Netherlands by and large pretty different from the ones in the US. There's a logic to them that one has to grow up with our learn. They are not always as obvious as some would like to think. More on that later. I have an example in mind of the most ridiculous effort to clarify a message that just makes matters worse. Stay tuned.

But for now, these are haaientanden. The word literally means "sharks teeth" - and it's pronounced high-uh-tahnd-uhn. The picture is unfortunate because it's upside down. However, I don't really like it when I turn it the other way, so here it is. These haaientanden appear all over the city. They can be large, small, brick or painted. But they always mean the same thing - and it has nothing to do with sharks.

When you approach the haaientanden, it's with the points pointing at you. What it means is that you have to yield to the traffic that you're about to cross or feed into. I see them a lot on bike paths, but streets have them as well. I didn't even pay attention to them until a few months ago when my friend, Dorothy, pointed them out to me as I flew past. It didn't occur to me that they might have a communicatory function. Maybe I thought they were put there to break up the nice brick work we have all over town. Or, like so many other things, maybe I thought they were for someone else.

I also learned a couple of years ago that at an intersection, the person on the right has the right of way. Who knew? The way I handle is to barrel on through. I look both ways, but my experience is that most people stop or slow down automatically. It seems like such a waste of their energy for me to slow down as well. So out of consideration, I keep going.

It's sort of like that whole passing on the left thing. It's the rule in the US, but I guarantee you that the vast majority of people pay no attention to it. I was weaving in and out of traffic from a very early age and I'm here to tell the tale. However, on the highways in Europe, I only pass on the left. And certainly on the bike. I didn't once and I still have a scar from where I landed when I was merged into.

Road signs and road rules. They should write this stuff down. It's quite interesting.

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