Here’s a trick question, I recently wasted quality time arguing with someone who I won’t name about who made the original of stairway to heaven. So who was it, Rolf Harris or Led Zeppelin?. I thought that everyone knew this but obviously not. This point has very little to do with the rest of this post. That’s the kind of man I am.

The Shallow Man even after ten years in the land of the brown shoe and smoking addicted and texting while cycling females, still finds things about this country that stagger belief.  Many expats and Dutch alike complain about the standards of customer service here. I have tried to take a balanced view and reported that service during my ten years here has improved somewhat, however, there are some aspects of customer service that still baffle me, which brings me to the subject of today’s post.

Dutch delivery men don’t do stairs

For fifty years now in the UK, there has been a hugely popular science fiction show called Dr Who. This show is about a time and space travelling alien whose sworn enemy is a race of machines called the Daleks. For some reason, these aliens regularly travel halfway across the universe to invade the earth, but they had one fatal design flaw, they couldn’t climb stairs. I’m convinced that the writers of this show spent some time in the Netherlands.

Yeeess!, A-ll hu-mans are en-em-ies of the Daleks!, Brighton Modelworld 2007

We belong to the Dutch tradesmen union, we don’t do stairs

So in 2014 the Shallow Man in a fit of incredible optimism, assuming that we might actually have a hot summer, ordered a parasol for his roof terrace. Everything went well with the order and only a day after receiving confirmation of payment the delivery guy arrived with my parasol, which was packaged in a large box. Upon opening the door to the delivery chap, he handed over the package and with a look of total shock on his face appeared to be surprised to see that there were stairs. I asked him if he could bring the package up to my apartment (on the first floor of the building) and he looked at me as if I’d asked him to leave a tip at a restaurant. At first, I figured it was my Dutch so in English I asked him if he could help me bring the package upstairs. “No sir, there are stairs, we only deliver to the ground floor.”

Courtauld Gallery, Staircase

The nightmare of every Dutch deliveryman


Dutch delivery men suffer from Bathmophobia, irrational fear of stairs!

Amsterdam is a city full of pre-second world war houses, split into apartments over several floors. Just about everyone knows this apart from… men! These obstinate lazy schweins will do everything they can to avoid having to put their feet on any step. As if they fear that the steps will open up and deliver them into the bowels of hell. The only firm I’ve ever come across that was willing to deliver heavy goods upstairs was Miele, who with typical Deutsche Grundlichkeit even brought along a stair climbing gadget which they attached to my washing machine and then guided it to the utility room on the fourth floor of my house. Yes, the Germans can organise delivery of heavy goods to the fourth floor, without whining or making excuses or shaking their heads or almost passing out with shock that there are stairs in an Amsterdam building.

For those of you new to the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam this is something that the inburgering exam won’t tell you about. If you have heavy goods being delivered, make sure that you have people willing to help you out, as Dutch delivery men don’t do stairs.

No sufferers of bathmophobia were hurt during the writing of this post.