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Last Tuesday night in Hilversum, Evan and I decided to go out to our favorite little pub, near the main shopping street in town. It also happens to be the single non-smoking bar in all of Hilversum. I’ve been told that all bars in Amsterdam are smoke-free, but apparently Hilversum hasn’t gotten the message. Or maybe the stars who live here have enough pull to keep the smoke police out.

In any case, our little smoke-free haven was a welcome sight on Tuesday night. We nabbed our favorite corner spot with three low stools and tucked in for a few tasty Wieckse Witte Biers – brewed in the Netherlands by Heineken, but oh so much tastier.

Within minutes, a crowd descended on The Guardian and our extra stool was drawing attention to our little table. Soon enough, a group of eight Dutch people were sitting next to us, also on these low stools…but they only had seven. So, we were neighborly and handed over our coathanger/stool. When two girls approached us with tickets in their hands speaking Dutch, we realized what we had happened upon: Pub Quiz! We politely asked if the quiz would be in English (seeing as this was an English pub), and got the impression that it probably would not. So we passed and decided to stick around and see what it was all about.

The 8-top to our left kept peering over at us, trying to discern if we were competition or not. Finally I caught one of the guys staring and assured him that we weren’t playing, nor did we speak Dutch, but we planned to just hang out and watch. That put him right at ease and he decided that he would co-opt our intelligence in case it might come in handy for his team – a group of IBM employees. We struck up friendly conversation, but once the first question was announced over the loudspeaker, he was fully focused on Pub Quiz!

Amazingly enough, Evan and I realized that we could understand some of the questions! Not to say that our Dutch is that great, but a lot of questions had English words in them, or actors/songs/lyrics/titles/geographies that we recognized! We were so excited. And so were our neighbors! How lucky for them to be sitting next to non-players who wanted to help them out! When they couldn’t get an answer, they leaned over to us, translated the question fully for our understanding, and hoped that they had been so lucky as to sit next to American TV watching, movie-remembering, star-gazing people. Well, we’re not really any of those things, so our help was limited to the number of stars on the New Zealand flag (4), the name of the longest river in Australia (the Darling), and identifying lyrics of the Cheers theme song.

Four quiz rounds later, we had made great friends with our fellow Pub Quizzers, though they admitted that we never would have posed any serious competition to them, regardless of the language. They even invited us back next week. We didn’t have the heart to tell our new Dutch friends that we’d be gone by then, living in Amsterdam starting this weekend. Somehow it just didn’t seem right after singing the following lyrics together with them:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Tot ziens, Hilversum. We’ll miss you.

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