Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Burendag" in the Netherlands

Today is burendag in the Netherlands. Translated this is neighbour's day. No, not a celebration of the immortal Australian soap but an annual event led by a big coffee brand to promote relationships with those living next to or near us. The idea is to hold a street party or BBQ, go round for coffee with neighbours you do not usually socialise with or organise some kind of event that unites the street you live on, if only for an hour or so.

In a time when most of us would not recognise someone living two doors down if we fell over them at the local supermarket, let alone someone living at the other end of the street, the idea is a sound one.

However, I do know most of my immediate neighbours at least by sight, and more importantly by sound. An average residential street in the Randstad (an area encompassing the major cities in the west of the Netherlands and almost half the population of the country) is crammed full with houses, apartment blocks, cars and therefore people. In fact, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, currently 16,448,579 people (CBS counter) living in a space of 41,528km². It is no wonder then that it is hard to find some space, and above all enjoy a little peace.

So how is my neighbourhood celebrating burendag today? Well, it began at 8.15 this morning with the sound of a hammer against the side of our house followed by the music of metal scraped across the floor. Loud discussions ensued in the street, followed by the endless barking of a dog. By lunchtime, the DIY orchestra had widened to include a tile cutter and another rhythmic hammer drummer, accompanied by more barking dogs, banging doors and neighbours screaming down the lengths of their gardens to each other. The latter is a mystery to me, as I have already explained nobody has acres of land here so surely the five steps to the end of the garden to talk in a normal level of voice should be achievable.

In short, burendag in my street is just like any other Saturday here in suburban Nederland. Thinking about it, just like any ordinary Sunday too. Nice idea though.

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