People Watching

What are you looking at?

If you’ve been reading this blog, you will have already heard me carrying on about all the summer sidewalk cafés in Utrecht. Well, there is one amusing aspect of the café culture which I haven’t yet mentioned and I think it deserves its own blog post. 

Each time we walked past a café or a restaurant with outdoor seating, we started to notice that all of the chairs were facing in the same direction – toward the street. Now this is really quite odd, because in France, which has plenty of terrasses, the chairs are normally positioned around the sides of the table so that the people sitting in them face each other.

But not in Holland. Here, the chairs are all lined up facing outward toward the street. So,  if there was a table for two for example, both chairs would be placed parallel to each other such that a couple sitting in them would have to turn their heads to the side to address each other. Why is this?

Well, it seems to be that the Dutch are obsessed with people watching. Evidently the primary motivation for sitting on the terrace is not to enjoy al fresco dining and drinking while having an intimate conversation with your partner, but rather to observe all the people walking past (and presumably gossip about their appearance, clothing, hair, etc.). Indeed, while taking the photo for this blog post, I think I became one of the “watched people” – after I took the photo, the two men were looking at me and laughing, probably wondering why I was taking the photo. Either that or making fun of my outfit.


About Home Strange Home

I first left the US in 1999, when I was 18 years old. Since then, I’ve spent 13 years living abroad - 3 in Canada, 7 in Europe, and 3 in Africa. Now I've finally returned to the US on a one-way plane ticket. I arrived home in late January 2014 and set foot in the US for the first time in nearly 2.5 years. In Home Strange Home, I blog about the ups and downs of my re-acculturation experience.
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