WTF Fun Fact 13220 – Chat Checkouts

Have you ever been in line at the store and rolled your eyes at the person chatting away with the clerk instead of getting their things together and leaving in a timely manner? That’s most of us. But for some people, that trip to the store may be one of the primary sources of socialization. That’s why the Dutch have invented “chat checkouts” (or Kletskassas). They’re primarily geared towards elderly people who want to take their time and chat people up at the store.

What are chat checkouts?

Chat checkouts are a type of Kletskassa, or social gathering, for older people. Community centers, cafes, or other public spaces often play host to these events. They provide seniors with an opportunity to socialize, make new friends, and engage in various activities such as playing games, singing, and chatting.

The goal of Kletskassa is to help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation among older people and provide them with a supportive community. So it makes sense to open up this opportunity in a place where everyone needs to go – the grocery store.

Jumbo’s nod to elderly shoppers

Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo announced the program in 2021. It said it plans to introduce 200 “chat registers” in its stores. These are for customers who aren’t in a hurry and want to have a chat during checkout, according to VICE (cited below).

“The initiative, announced by the popular supermarket chain Jumbo on Monday, is meant to combat loneliness—especially in the country’s elderly population. According to Statistics Netherlands, a government organization, 26 percent of Dutch people older than 15 feel at least moderately lonely. That proportion rises to 33 percent among those over 75.”

Customers were delighted by a pilot program Jumbo did of the chat checkout in 2019. The Dutch government will help sponsor it as part of their “One Against Loneliness” program.

“The Kletskassa is a checkout especially for people who are not in a hurry and feel like having a chat,” a Jumbo representative wrote in an email to Motherboard. “Many people, especially the elderly, sometimes feel lonely. It’s a small gesture, but a very valuable one, especially in a world that is digitizing and getting faster and faster.”   WTF fun facts

Source: “Grocery Store Opens ‘Chat Registers’ for Lonely Customers” — VICE

WTF Fun Fact 13170 – The Baarle Border

On the borders of the Netherlands and Belgium is the town of Baarle. But the Baarle border is anything but straightforward. In fact, the official borderline cuts through houses and cafes in some areas, allowing residents to jump back and forth between countries or even stand with one foot in each.

The Baarle Border

Culture Trip (cited below) describes the border as “erratically shaped” and zigzagging through the town, “creating an erratically-shaped Belgian enclave that somehow contains even smaller parcels of Dutch land.”

While you can see it from above, when you’re on the ground near this Dutch-Belgian border, you’ll see crosses on the ground and the letters “B” and NL” on each side, designating the country it belongs to.

In some cases, the lines divide private property. We don’t even want to know what that tax situation looks like!

How do you live in two countries?

Culture Trip explains that this isn’t quite as complex as one might imagine.

“Thankfully, the Netherlands and Belgium are both located in the Schengen Area, which means that their borders are completely seamless, making it possible for travelers (and residents) to walk through Baarle without stopping for passport checks.”

Both countries administer the town. The Netherlands administers Baarle-Nassau, and Belgium is in charge of Baarle-Hertog.

Another interesting fact is that the Belgian sections are not all connected to the Belgian border. These sections are enclaves. And Culture Trip notes that: “To make matters even more confusing, several stretches of Belgian land in Baarle encircle plots that are claimed by the Netherlands, creating enclaves within enclaves.”

Who divided Baarle?

The confusion with the Baarle border dates back to the Middle Ages when a wealthy duke traded pieces of territory. Local wealthy aristocrats created these bizarre borders in the Middle Ages.

“Essentially, one duke from what would become Belgium handed over territory to another noble who controlled the lands around the Dutch city of Breda. However, the aforementioned duke retained some smaller plots in Baarle, leading to border disputes in the 19th century, when Belgium and the Netherlands split into two different nation states. It took another century for the two countries to resolve the borders that pass through Baarle, leading to the town’s current patchwork-like cartography.”

The controlling country’s legal system applies to each part of the town. This makes for some clever workarounds and loopholes. For example, “bars in Baarle (at some point in recent history) would continue serving alcohol after licensing hours were over in the Netherlands by simply moving their tables and chairs across the border to Belgium.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “This Is the Most Complicated Border Town in the World” — Culture Trip

WTF Fun Fact 13134 – Brussels sprouts bitter no longer

Have you ever wondered why today’s Brussels sprouts don’t taste as gross as they might have while you were growing up? It’s not just your palate that’s changed, but the sprouts themselves. Thanks to some genetic tinkering, Dutch scientists have made Brussels sprouts bitter no longer.

Brussels sprouts get a makeover

Brussels sprouts simply don’t taste the same way they did a few decades ago. If you hated them as a kid, there’s at least some chance you might like them now.

According to NPR (cited below): “This all started to change in the 1990s, and it began in the Netherlands, where Brussels sprouts have a simpler name: spruitjes. A Dutch scientist named Hans van Doorn, who worked at the seed and chemical company Novartis (the seed part is now called Syngenta), figured out exactly which chemical compounds in spruitjes made them bitter.”

The next step was to consult the seed archives (libraries of seeds for different types of Brussels sprouts). Companies then planted them all and began selecting for the ones with the least bitterness.

Making a better Brussels sprout

Once scientists chose the best candidates for less bitter sprouts, “They cross-pollinated these old varieties with modern, high-yielding ones, trying to combine the best traits of old and new spruitjes. It took many years. But it worked.” Then word spread in the professional culinary scene. It took off mainly in the United States, not in Europe.

Once word got out about everyone’s least favorite vegetable from childhood tasting a bit different, big-name chefs (like David Chang at Momofuku in New York) got on board and started selling them again. People were delighted to have a new vegetable to enjoy and the “new” Brussels sprouts took off without people knowing the bitterness chemical had actually been bred out of them.

Most of us who like Brussels sprouts now assume we just have more mature palates. But we actually have the Dutch to thank for getting our greens with less suffering.  WTF fun facts

Source: “From Culinary Dud To Stud: How Dutch Plant Breeders Built Our Brussels Sprouts Boom” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 12778 – Krokettenmotie

The Krokettenmotie is an obscure motion passed by a council in northern Holland, the Netherlands that entitles council members to a bit of a snack if their meetings run late.

Frankly, it sounds pretty civilized.

How did the Krokettenmotie come to be?

When the future Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende, served on the municipal council of Amstelveen in 1993, he proposed the motion. And he fully admits to having had a juvenile sense of humor back in his younger days.

While the “croquettes motion” was meant as a joke, the other council members apparently agreed that any meeting that ran past 11 pm made them deserving of a little snack. The motion passed. Even better, it’s still in force (because why repeal a law that says you get a free deep-fried snack?!).

Updates to the Krokettenmotie

While it has never been repealed, the Krokettenmotie has been modified over the years, specifically to accommodate vegans and vegetarians.

In 2019, a vegetarian option was added. But that was likely a page taken out of a copycat motion passed in 2002 in Zwolle, which set the time limit to 10 pm and mentioned the option of a vegetarian snack as well.

Croquette controversy

As the Netherlands has focused more on healthy lifestyles and eating, all of the Krokettenmoties have come into question. After all, it’s not exactly the healthiest snack option. So many municipalities that have debated the croquette controversy have had members demands snacks such as fruit, nuts, and even hummus wraps as alternatives.

It may all sound ridiculous, but the justification behind the genuine debates is that the council is bound to do better work in the late evenings if they’re not hungry. Council members have pointed out that a bit of a nosh will help them make better decisions with clear minds.

Frankly, we’re just glad someone takes their snacks as seriously as we do.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Krokettenmotie” — Wikipedia