Spring is in the air-and it stinks

For those who have followed our journey from Life in Australia to Life in The Netherlands, you’ll know that we’ve now lived for around 9 months in the Netherlands.  About 7 of that has been really cold.  As a Queensland girl, I’ve desperately missed the sunshine and even all the hardened Dutchies have been complaining how long winter has lasted this season – we’ve even had a snowy Easter!

Each week, I take my eldest to swimming lessons while my youngest and I sit in the cafe and wait the 45 minutes.  It’s not so bad, nice view and I do some work on my laptop, she plays on the iPad and we enjoy some yummy patat.



Last week, I was excited to see that the outdoor doors are now open.  I didn’t even notice before they had an outdoor section.  It’s a really inviting balcony, complete with pretty flower boxes.  Lovely, spring is in the air, I can sit and enjoy the sunshine!  Only I can’t.  It stinks.  The smokers have taken over.  Even just two smokers out there means the whole area is pretty unwelcoming for non-smokers.

smokers on balcony

I’m actually allergic to cigarette smoke, it gives me an almost instant headache.  I had extra issues with it when I was pregnant in The Netherlands with my first daughter, being a protective  new mother-to-be.  I found it really difficult to avoid smokers throughout the pregnancy, and rarely ate out because of it.  You’d like a non smoking section?  Sure, right over here, directly next to the smoking one.  You’d like a smoke-free section outside in the sunshine?  Are you crazy?  Outside is where the smokers always are.  Note the ashtrays on every table in Delft.

cafe delft

That was in 2007 and not long afterwards we moved (back) to Australia.  Bliss.  Not only could I eat out, I can sit anywhere and rarely even inhale a puff of smoke.  More importantly to me, neither did my children.

Here are the Australian smoking bans on Wikipedia.

Now I must say, I am someone who believes strongly in everyone having a right to live their life how they like.  If people want to smoke, I have no issue with that whatsoever.  Until that decision infringes on my health and my children’s, in public areas.  Yes, I understand there are other pollutants and dangers out there.  For me though, none so blatantly anti-social as smoking.  I actually saw a funny video relating to this recently:

In the few years we lived in Australia, anti-smoking laws were brought in here in The Netherlands and you can read about that here:

Waar mag ik wel en niet roken?

If you don’t read Dutch, basically the ban only covers the inside area of restaurants and many other public buildings.

Perhaps as someone who doesn’t understand the addiction, I misjudge the problem, but I really don’t get why such a known health risk is still part of any culture.  My dad smoked for more than 50 years but I was so proud of him giving up around the time my daughters arrived.  Yet it’s perfectly legal – and it seems acceptable – for smokers to be able to smoke in any outdoor area, including on a crowded terrace cafe, right next to my children and I.

It really is a conflict issue for me.  I rarely write about anything controversial or that may offend others, but this is one topic I am taking a stand on.  While I type, a mother smokes next to her baby twins outside on the terrace, and another was literally blowing smoke in her baby’s face on our way back to the car which she tried to calm him from crying (um, not blowing smoke in his face might be a good start!).  Do I have a right to even care?  I’d genuinely like to hear your honest thoughts on this.

I did talk to one ex-smoker on the topic recently.  She told me that when she was a smoker, she became so used to the smell, she didn’t even notice it if people lit up around her and didn’t think others would care.  As a non-smoker, if someone lights up metres away, let alone right next to me, it affects me – and most of my non-smoking friends – to the point where we are no longer enjoying the meal/drinks we are paying for.

I’ve waited so long for the spring and was so much looking forward to sitting on terraces in the sunshine.  Some restaurant owners seem to argue that if they banned smoking on the terraces, they’d lose business.  My perspective is if you don’t, you’ll lose business.   I think I will be spending much more time entertaining friends at home this spring and summer than risking meeting at a cafe inhaling second hand smoke.

I’ve just found this site and become a member: Clean Air Nederland

Your thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Spring is in the air-and it stinks

  1. Smokers make me so angry. I can’t even think straight when I see someone smoking in their kids faces (or in anybody’s faces for that matter). My mum’s a smoker and I remember growing up surrounded by smoke. In the car, in the house, she didn’t care and didn’t care if I complained.

    I can’t understand why NL is a country so opposed to anti-smoking laws. I would have thought they would be embracing it with open arms. I detest going out to places to eat and having to share space with a smoker who does.not.care. And why is it that the wind is always blowing it in my direction?

  2. Hi,
    I can remember back when the same problem existed in Australia. When I was a child all the men but hardly any women smoked where ever we went. I was so used to it and different realise that it was the reason that I coughed at night. Gradually Australia changed and therefore improvements in everyone’s health. I hope the Netherlands sees this soon.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Great to see your name on the comments! Do you still have a dutch neighbour? I think they were moving back here soon? Yes I also remember a lot more smoke in Australia but am so pleased they took such a tough stance.
      Hope you and the family are well.

  3. When I was a smoker I did not notice any smell and it was so normal in Holland. Visitors smoked everywhere, including the homes of non smokers. Never gave it a thought it could be irritating for the non smokers. As a non smoker I can relate to what you are saying here. I cannot say I am totally anti smoking but I don’t want people smoking close to me as it affects my breathing almost instantly. The reason I gave up in the first place. Maybe there is a different solution. A smokers area away from the non smoking area like in Australia. Can’t say it bothers me too much here. Hopefully Holland will follow suit and join Australia and other countries that have already adopted these new anti smoking rules.

  4. We held a naming ceremony for our first-born, here in Sydney. I connect with your topic in a couple of ways. One of my parents’ Dutch friends insisted on smoking a very cheap cigar in our (pristine) lounge room.
    In much more recent years a visitor from the Netherlands came with me while I visited and assessed beaches in the Nelson Bay area. Before I knew it, she lit up and was quickly made aware of the sign above this, what the Dutch call terrasje.
    I so often quote my aunt, who ran a very small “cigar store” in Gouda, who while she sold those cigars and cigarettes would, with a smile, tell these mainly elderly men, regular customers that they must not smoke. So bad for their health.
    But I should not give the impression that this is only a “Dutch thing”. For so many years, the room behind me here, was absolutely FILLED with incense and thick smoke, every second Friday, as friends and I played 500 into the very early hours of the morning, drinking “Blue Rhapsody”, or alcoholic cider, or casks of other cheap wines.
    Happy days!! (I tried to learn to smoke. So remember sitting in my car, in Daceyville, trying to like smoking cigars. I HOPED that that would keep me awake on the 9 hour drives, first to Maude via Hay and later to Bourke, where I’d been sent to do my country service. It is amazing how Australians were so effectively forced to basically stop smoking. For a while you saw them sitting “in the cold” out side. My colleagues used an old staffroom to puff in. Now, while I don’t get about much, I cannot remember seeing anyone smoke for many years.

    1. Hi Joop, always nice to get your comments. I remember my first “Dutch circle parties” where the smoke was thick in the air and I used to have to go outside (often in the cold!) and think it was crazy that I was the one outside (and also felt quite “unsociable” but just couldn’t bear it). It’s better now thankfully.

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