Make-up Ruled: there are 4 types of ladies in the Dutch trains (Mirror mirror on the…train, who’s the fairest of them all?)

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I come from a family where my 80 years old grandma never leaves the house without putting on lipstick and having her hair done. My Mom is wearing make up even when going for groceries to the store around the corner. As you can see, I was raised to believe that once you set foot outside your home, you need to look as good as it gets.

Hence my cultural shock when I arrived in the Netherlands. Let me tell you why. I have to travel daily by train from The Hague to Amsterdam. Every morning it’s the same scenario where I perfectly blend in with an army of zombies that are rushing to catch the 8.04 train. People are far from being fully awake and functional.

I clearly remember my day one in the train. At first, there were those moments of total chaos and hustle when everybody was looking for a seat and to get adjusted; then the crowds settled down and the train started moving. That was when I thought I would enjoy a peaceful 40 minutes of watching outside the window. But my eyes were totally caught up by something else…

One minute after the train set into motion, from an invisible signal sent to everybody but me, people started to move again and reach for something in their bags. Oh, it was only women that did it! Oh, and they were taking out… make-up kits? What the…?!

So there it was ladies and gentlemen (I’m sure we have a few male readers 🙂 ), my big shocker: a lot of Dutch women, that have to travel by public transportation to work, put on their make up in the bus/train/tram, in front of everybody. I think I saw them putting on make-up also while riding bikes, but that’s another story; let’s go back to the train for now. I was mesmerized and slightly embarrassed by the show in front of my eyes, as if I was breaking the privacy of the people around me. Because this is how I see it (or at least used to see it): an intimate moment, when I have to face all my flaws and think of ways to cover them up.

Since that morning, I’ve been a witness of the make-up show every day. And believe me, I’ve seen everything. From very complex makeovers to only mascara add on. I was there next to women applying foundation, concealer, face powder, primer, blush, eye shadows, normal eyeliner, liquid eye-liner (jeez, I’m so jealous, I can’t even do it at home!), mascara, lip-gloss, and lipstick. I even saw somebody using an eyebrows brush and two girls putting on nail polish that almost got high the entire coach because of the smell. And let’s not forget the “how to apply the fake eyelashes” episode, which fascinated me (I still don’t know how to do it, by the way). At one point, a girl next to me combed her hair for 20 freaking minutes!! Unbelievable! My sight even caught a very well dressed businesswoman putting on make-up while talking to a male colleague.

So far, I’ve spotted 4 categories of women that pun on make-up in the train:

  1. The Speedy Gonzales of make-up that only briefly applies mascara and lipstick. I’m a proud member of this category and the fastest of them all, baby!
  2. The make-up sorority: A group of 2 up to 4 girls, that travel in packs and perform syncron make-up, usually borrowing stuff from each other and talking out loud.
  3. The eyelashes OCD: The girl that obsessively puts on mascara, over and over again, until her ginormous lashes can poke your eyes out.
  4. And the award goes to: the Evil Queen (Queen from Snow White). The woman that does not take the mirror off their hands throughout the entire journey. She leaves no make-up unused and no spot untouched. She is meticulous and merciless with any imperfections. Hats off!


Gotta love mascara

Gotta love mascara

Complicated process of mixing two types of powder

Complicated process of mixing two types of powder

Eyeliner, checked. Lipstick, checked.

Eyeliner, checked. Lipstick, checked.

Nevertheless, after 2 years, I can’t help but wonder: what makes Dutch women act like this and why do I still find it strange?

In my case, I’m most vulnerable without make-up. Only the closest people in my life saw me without it. Because, unlike complete strangers that may run away scared of my natural (= worst) self, they know me and are aware that underneath the big dark circles, there’s (most of the times) an interesting person. So for me, the evaluation starts from outside my door. But where does it start for Dutch women? Only at work and they don’t really care about the people in the train? Does that mean it’s not acceptable to let your work colleagues see you looking like you’ve just got out of bed, but you can do that with your travelling-buddies? Maybe that’s it! Maybe there’s a secret community of train-buddies who are very supporting of each other, where it’s allowed and safe to look messy and to put on make-up in front of everybody.

Or they do care about the people in the train as well, but they just don’t see putting on make-up as an intimate thing. Maybe intimacy has a more narrow meaning that is restricted to… waxing. Oh, please God, let it include waxing!

I think it has also something to do with the famous practical spirit of the Dutch. Some women prefer to sleep 20 minutes more and use the time spent in the train for make-up; as compared to yours-truly, who wakes up at 6:30 every day to allow 15 minutes for make-up. And that goes for men as well (gentlemen, I did not forgot about you!). One of my colleagues told me how he and lots of other men, shave in the car to earn 5 -10 extra minutes of sleep.

Or women here feel less pressured to look at their best all the time. They will put on make-up only if they want to and wherever they chose to. For sure there are some old mentality remains in the Eastern Europe, saying a woman needs to doll-up every time, because looks were one of her main (sometimes only) prerogative.

As for me, I’ve stared very shyly to pun on lipstick in the train, in the Speedy Gonzales manner. I do it very quickly and embarrassed, without looking at anyone. But hey, I gain 30 seconds more every morning, which can be vital when you try to catch a train! 🙂

Me in the most typical Speedy Gonzales move

Me in the most typical Speedy Gonzales move

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Julie is the editor of She's a Romanian girl, stranded in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

For how long, she doesn't know yet. But what she does know is communication and psychology. already a bachelor in psychology, she is now also preparing to be a life coach. This is due to her genuine interest in people and the every day joy to be there for those who have questions about themselves. Working in communication for the last 4 years has helped her pursue the life-long dream of writing. But her secret love was and will always be painting, along with piano and shoes, because yes, every girl has her thing.

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