The Ballad of the Keukenrolhouder


This is the story of a paper towel holder. Or, as it’s known here in the Netherlands, a keukenrolhouder (literally, a “kitchen towel holder”). We have spent the past three months searching for this simple, humble item. We hit up every home goods or cooking store we’ve stumbled across, not just in Amsterdam but in Haarlem, Maastricht, and Utrecht. We scoured every corner of IKEA: nothing. We even considered trying to make one ourselves. And all that time, our sad, untethered roll of paper towels skitted and slid across our counter-top, sometimes falling over, or messily unrolling itself.

Then, finally, we discovered, the local equivalent of Amazon. And even though the site is only in Dutch or Belgian, we managed to search, locate, order, and arrange shipment of the keukenrolhouder! It arrived today. I am disproportionately happy about the appearance of this item in my kitchen.

It hasn’t been too hard to function here without a working knowledge of Dutch. I’m sure that if we were living in France, for example, our days would be filled with frustrating miscommunications and embarrassing mistakes. And I actually DO have a working knowledge of French. In general, the level of English spoken in Amsterdam is so high that we’re able to get whatever we need. Coupled with very helpful colleagues, who I often ask to translate tax bills or internet contracts, we more than get by.

But every once in a while, maybe just to keep us grounded, we come up against a minor challenge like the keukenrolhouder, and we need to be a little more creative, a little more resourceful, in order to get what we need. It’s hardly a life-or-death matter, I know, but there’s satisfaction to be found even in the little victories. And every time I neatly tear a paper towel off of the now-stationary roll, I will think of our long – but ultimately successful – quest, and know that we’ll be ready for the next challenge…

4 thoughts on “The Ballad of the Keukenrolhouder

  1. I love how this post sums up so well the challenges of being an outsider. It really is the little things that make a life in a foreign land. Bravo!

    • Thanks for the lovely and encouraging comment (and the re-blog, too)! It always helps to know that regardless of where we live, there are parts of the expat experience that are universal!

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