Vertically challenged in the tallest country in the World

In college, one of my friend’s boyfriends nicknamed me “squirt”.  At my last job in NYC, two of my colleagues I worked with daily were over 6 feet tall.  When I take group photos with friends, I am again reminded I am still the shortest one…despite the height of the heels I may be wearing.  On the other hand, it does come in handy as airplane seats seem to get smaller and smaller.

But when you are only 5’2” (1.57 m) and move to the country which has the tallest people on average, it’s time to digest some extra patience.   However, I’m not taking my own advice very well.

The Dutch, on average—yes AVERAGE, are 6 feet tall (1.83 m).  Recently the Dutch government adjusted building codes to increase the height of doorways. I’ve read that doors must now be 7′ 6.5″ inches (2.30 m) high.

Last summer we went to Museumplein to watch the Dutch play in the semi-finals of the World Cup.  A jumbo screen TV was set up and we arrived early to stake out a “good spot”.  We were there early enough to plop down right in front of the screen, but it didn’t seem necessary as I noticed everyone was camped out on their blankets sitting on the ground.

As soon as the game was underway, it was like a whistle blew and everyone suddenly stood up.  I thought it was just to get things going, cheer on the Dutch team, and then everyone would sit back down.  Nope.  I was dumbfounded when I realized that everyone was going to stand for the entire game.  Foolish me to think the protocol and manners would be anything similar to the Philharmonic Concerts in Central Park or Film Festivals in Bryant Park.  My unsuccessful attempt at standing on a crate only brought more frustration which led to anger which prompted pouting which called for more beer.  Luckily by half time, my (normal and tall sized) friends were annoyed as well so we walked to one of their apartments to watch the rest of the game.

My view...while standing on a crate

On a daily basis, I am cursing the top shelf in our kitchen or the top shelf at the grocery.  Our kitchen is typical European with open shelves.  No cabinets or pantry.  Just open shelves for the dishes, cups, food, etc.  Sometimes my cereal (and a multitude of other things) gets shoved to the back and I can’t reach it while standing on my tip toes.  I’m left with the option to forego the cereal or climb up on the counter like a 5 year old trying to steal from the cookie jar.  Either way, the words coming out of my mouth at this hour of the morning are not pleasant.  The grocery renders the same fuss.  I usually step up on the bottom grate so I can reach what I need…all the while some 2m tall Dutch person is giggling away.

But after nearly 2 years here, I’ve come to terms with it all and have adjusted.  Until tonight…when it crossed roads with ballet.

The Grachtenfestival  has been going on this week and I had been looking forward to tonight’s performance.  While the festival is mainly a classical music event, a few of the performances this year include dance and tonight’s performance had excerpts from Swan Lake performed by The Dutch National Ballet. It began with an ensemble playing Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.  The live music was lovely and I had a decent view.

Then they prepared the floating stage for the ballerinas and I was eagerly waiting.  The dancers placed themselves on stage, the music began…

…and suddenly everyone stood up.  Why?!?  You are sitting on the edge of the canal with an completely unobstructed view of the stage…why must you now stand up?  After bobbing around in an attempt to reposition myself, I felt like I was participating in a sparring session rather than enjoying a classical performance.

Foiled and frustrated, I left.  Fortunately, the same friends who offered their apartment to watch the World Cup semi’s last summer were the same friends waiting to meet me for dinner…and a beer.

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8 thoughts on “Vertically challenged in the tallest country in the World

  1. I am moving to the Netherlands in the spring, and I am very happy and excited… except for the height thing! I am English, a woman, and 5ft 1. I have been living in the south of France (Catalonia) for five years and it has been nice not to be looking up everyone’s nose, or at the back of other people’s shoulders! The plus side of being tall is that you can reach high shelves… but I wouldn’t want the spinal problems. And as a woman, I wouldn’t want to tower over everyone. Being a very little woman is usually thought of as “cute”; bigger people are often very kind and protective, and the only difficulty is that there are some men who are very domineering, who think that a little woman is a doll, not a person. But the people I really dread meeting, are the very tall people who think that short people are funny, and that tall people are superior. (Having excess growth hormone really isn’t an achievement, you know – just an accident.) Before you congratulate yourself, just because you kept growing, consider the wise words of my sister, another very little woman, who was patted on the head and laughed at by a very tall man. She asked him “How tall are you?” and when he replied “6ft 7” she smiled sweetly and said “Really? I didn’t know they could stack shit that high!”

  2. Hi! I’m vertically challenged too. Even though I grew up here, I’m 1.58m. And I don’t care. Yes sometimes you can’t see or can’t reach or get lost in a crowd (happened on numerous occasions, as my friends can’t see me between all the tall people), but as I’ve always been smaller than average, I don’t know any better. And I love climbing on things like the kitchen counter. And I always laugh at my friends who have to duck for everything, like low hanging branches. Really wouldn’t want to trade!

  3. Zeer leuk om te lezen. Ik wist niet dat het er zo erg aan toe was in ons land!

    A enjoyable read for sure! I didn’t espect our country to be this bad.

  4. Well, apparently Jack and I would fit right in over there!! It’s funny when you’re tall, you don’t even think about the problems you listed… but my lazy butt would definitely not want to stand for any length of time like they do at events!!
    – BOO

    • So true Lindi! I could not believe how tall A is when I saw her in May! I can only imagine that S will follow as well. I have obviously started eating/drinking the Dutch milk and bread too late in life to gain a few more inches…that coupled with the fact my mom does not even reach 5′ tall 🙂

  5. Hi Rachel,

    loved to read this blog! I’m equilly puzzled why people would like to stand for a couple of hours to watch a game or ballet or what have you. And I’m Dutch …….

    Cheers,
    Mariëlle

    • Dank u wel, Mariëlle! Ik ook niet begrijpen!!! Maybe I should invest in a folding stool I can tote around on my bike?!? I saw a few people standing on the railings on the canal bridges last night, but I don’t think GP would approve…especially if I fell in the canal! groetjes!

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