Dutch Heat Wave

Those of you that have been in Holland this summer know that this has been one of the warmest summers in a while. The weather of the July 18-20 weekend was particularly hot, and could be described a miniature heat wave.

During those few days, it was too hot for me to do anything except lay on my couch and hide from the sun. I had my laptop with me so I wrote down some of my thoughts and it developed into the article below. It’s not really related to globalization or travel; it’s simply a fun piece I thought I would share.

Enjoy! 

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Normally the weather in Holland is cool and rainy. The clouds hang low and the cities are shrouded in fog or a fine misty rain. Think Victorian-era London in a Jack-the-Ripper horror film.

The past two days have been completely different.

Satan himself crawled out of the center of the Earth and sat his ass down on this quiet little country and didn’t move for two days. With temperatures peaking around 35°C (95°F) and humidity hovering at 80%, one would have thought they were in the middle of a steamy rainforest near the equator, with mosquitoes and incessant sweating included.

As I biked through the city of Delft where I live, during the heat wave I noticed several things that were unique to this type of weather.

Numerous people were taking refreshing dips in the canals that crisscrossed the streets and neighborhoods of Delft. At the Saturday outdoor market the usual crowds and long lines at the stalls were largely absent. And like a scene from an apocalyptic film, many grocery store shelves were completely empty, particularly those that had previously held the most precious items during a heat wave: ice cream and beer.  

Normally this type of weather is a blessing.

A February rain storm with 40 mile an hour winds will leave every Dutch person begging God to trade the polar typhoon weather with that of even the hottest desert on the planet. However, the current blazing hot meteorological condition had lingered for a couple of days and was becoming unbearable to heat-frail Northern European bodies.

A woman selling chicken at the market, in the typical Dutch pragmatic manner, stated, “it is too hot today for me.”

Outside my local gym, a drenched Scotsman lay on the sidewalk, T-shirt in one hand, and arms and legs flayed out in all directions. As I offered to use the gym chalk to draw an outline of his seemingly lifeless body, he sarcastically quipped back, “I’m making sweat angels.”

Like the market, the gym was quite empty compared to a normal Saturday. It seemed everyone was seeking solace at the local beaches and lakes.

Dutch people cooling off at Scheveningen Beach near The Hague. 

Dutch people cooling off at Scheveningen Beach near The Hague. 

The interiors of houses were particularly incapable of providing any sort of relief from the weather.

They are designed to compartmentalize heat during brutal winters. Their low ceilings, numerous small rooms, and few long open corridors are a complete contrast to tropical plantation-style houses that allow heat to rise and air to circulate freely through the various rooms.  

Oh, and AC in Holland? Don’t even get your hopes up.

Even though I have lived in extremely hot climates before, I could not handle the heat this time. 

For two whole days, even if I didn’t move, sweat poured profusely from my head and torso. At one point I asked myself, am I getting too old to handle this heat? At 26, will I be included in the news statistics of the number of elderly people to die during a heat wave?

Like those around me I found myself joining in on a national Dutch past time: complaining about the weather. But despite whatever complaints they may vocalize, the Dutch, and myself, do appreciate the variability of the weather in Holland. A local Dutch man mentioned to me, “ I like the way the weather changes. I could never live in a place like Singapore where the weather is the same all year long.”

As Sunday morning came thick clouds began to roll in and the sky opened up in a torrential downpour. And in an instant the heat wave was gone. True to its reputation, the Dutch weather had changed abruptly.

As time passes the Dutch people will begin to forget the discomfort, the sleepless nights, and the incessant sweat of those couple of days. And by December, when everyone is arriving at work drenched from the rain and exhibiting hypothermia symptoms, all Dutch people will begin offering the weather Gods their first first-born child in return for a heat wave.

It happens every year.