Sunday, 17 October 2010

Best of both worlds

We've recently been to Australia - 2 years and 8 months after our previous trip. This is the longest duration between visits, and this time, the differences between the two countries seemed to be more apparent. During our holiday, I noted a few things that I think the Dutch could adopt from Australia, and vice versa. Here is just a couple that seemed to really stand out:

What the Dutch could adopt from Australia

1. Gold Class Cinemas
After having been to a Gold Class Cinema, I must admit it is hard to go back to the regular cinemas. It is like the business class of film viewing. The cinemas are small, seating only about 30 patrons, but everyone gets a reclining, lounge-type chair, with a small side table and the option of pillows and blankets so that you can enjoy the film in the utmost of comfort. These cinemas also offer a more comprehensive food and beverage menu (not just popcorn and sweets), and your order is brought to your seat. Of course these privileges do come at a price, but are worth it!

2. Up-front payment at cafés
We were of course eating out a lot while we were away, and many cafés make use of an up-front payment process. Sometimes, we were given a number to place on our table, while in other places the tables are already number and you just let them know where you are sitting when you place your order. The food is still brought to your table, but you don't have to flag someone one down to place the order or pay the bill. As it is not unheard of for people to walk out of Dutch cafés without paying the bill, such a system could be quite beneficial in the Netherlands.

3. Wine selection in pubs
It seems to be almost standard now for pubs in Australia to offer quite an extensive wine list. OK, there is the advantage of having such a large selection of local wines to choose from, but having said that, they are not skimping on their choices. The wine that is offered is typically of very good quality, although it is probably more expensive than the beer selection. However, I would be willing to pay more for a glass of wine in a Dutch pub, if I knew that I was getting a decent drop.

What Australians could adopt from the Dutch

1. Free Wi-fi in city centres
Admittedly, it is only recently that Rotterdam has established a free wi-fi network within the city centre. But they have taken that initiative, and it is fantastic. While we as locals often make use of this service, it also allows tourists to search for local attractions/restaurants etc within the city. Here's hoping that the construction of the National Broadband Network will facilitate more free wi-fi access across Australia.

2. Cookies with coffee
Go to any café in Australia and you will be inundated with cake choices, it is almost overwhelming. However, the cake servings are often pretty big, and there are the odd occasions where one does not want (or need) a large piece of cake. The Dutch have the perfect alternative - they typically serve a small cookie, piece of cake or brownie upon ordering a coffee/tea and in many cases it is just enough to satisfy the sugar craving while not overdoing it. It is a little treat, without the guilt :)

3. City-airport train links
The Dutch train network brings you directly to the Amsterdam airport terminal - and in less than 1 hour from leaving home, I can be checked-in and ready for the flight. We visited 3 cities (and 4 airports!) in Australia, only one of which has a direct train link to the airport. Sadly with this service, the last train leaves at 20:00, so those on later flights have to find alternative transportation to the city centre. Although a train link to Melbourne airport has been considered, it does not seem to be a high priority. Pity, as there is ample space and would be very convenient for accessing the city.

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