Autumn, Culture, Netherlands

16 Must Have Items to Survive a Dutch Autumn

The weather this week confirms what we were all trying to deny: the arrival of autumn. We’ve been enjoying an Indian summer over the last few weeks, we were getting complacent about hauling those weatherproof jackets back out of our closets.

However, in the blink of an eye the extended summer has faded and an unpredictable weather front has crept over the Netherlands with a mischievous smirk on its face. Most of us weren’t quite ready for the onslaught of the rain, wind and sudden greyness.

It’s that time of year known as “four seasons in one day”, also known as autumn, fall or herfst. To survive it you need sixteen items.

1. Sunglasses – the sun is still bright and strong when it does actually make an appearance so you need eye protection (can also prove helpful as protection against errant leaves – see number 8).

2. A sense of humour – you have to be able to see the funny side of getting hailed on whilst wearing your sunglasses.

3. A rain coat – a waterproof version of outdoor wear is very much recommended at this time of year.

4. A rain hat – unless your rain coat has a built-in hood that actually remains on your head (unlike mine which was apparently designed with the Gruffalo’s enormous head in mind) it is worth investing in a rather fetching rain hat. Okay, it may not be attractive, but the ‘drowned rat with limp hair’ look isn’t so hot either.

5. Waterproof trousers – particularly if you don’t like to be parted from your bicycle. You have probably gathered by now that there is nothing sexy about the Dutch autumn look – however, it is a dry look.

6. Two plastic carrier bags – unless you enjoy the sensation of a wet bum you will need one plastic bag to put over your bicycle seat and another big enough to put over your child’s bike seat, should you have one.

7. A gale proof umbrella – if you have a choice between a bog-standard umbrella and a super-duper windproof monster version, opt for the latter. The Netherlands is a wasteland of decrepit, washed out broken umbrellas, torn apart by gale force winds and lashing rain. Make sure your umbrella is not the next victim.

Sure, the leaves look pretty. Wait until the wind blows and you get smacked in the face with them.

8. A scarf – the Dutch autumn wind blows cold and wild when the mood takes it. Not only will a scarf keep you warm, but wrapped properly around your face it is also a clever way to avoid getting a surprise smack in the face by wayward dry crispy leaves. Alternatively see essential item number 1.

9. Jumpers (or sweaters if you are American) – the temperature drops and it gets a bit nippy out there so an extra thick, woollen layer is sensible.

10. A summer jacket – some days the sun shines and it’s actually quite warm so don’t banish that summer jacket to the closet just yet.

11. Short sleeve T-shirts – some days it is so warm you’ll start thinking you dreamt the hail, rain and wind of two days ago.

12. A winter coat – and then reality hits, the sun decides it’s done for the year, tucks itself up behind a big blanket of clouds and sleeps until spring. Be prepared. Before you know it it really is time for the summer coat to retire for the year and you’ll be needing that big, thick, snuggly coat.

Wellington boots or soggy socks – it’s a choice you make.

13. Wellington boots – whether or not puddle jumping is your thing you will need some kind of waterproof boots before the year is out, unless walking around in soggy socks is your thing.

14. De-icer for the car – chilly mornings gradually arrive and what begins as a friendly layer of frost on your windscreen soon turns into a stubborn blanket of ice that ensures you start your mornings with some serious muscle ache.

Squirrels are not the only ones hoarding at this time of year – kids do it too.

15. A selection of plastic zip up bags – it’s not just squirrels that are collecting stuff in autumn, kids do it too. They collect conkers, acorns, fir cones, leaves and general crap from the floor. You’re going to want to put it all in a sealed off bag. Trust me.

16. A big rucksack – last but not least you will need a really big bag to put the other fifteen items in. Think the kind of bag you see crippling hikers and campers. Like I said, think of this period of the year as “four seasons in one day” and you can’t go wrong.

I wish you all good luck with the decline to colder, wetter, darker days. See you all again in spring when I crawl out from under my rock!

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