Something Fishy

By Chad Bilyeu & Mieke Bleeker


In The Four Fish Specialists in the third issue of Chad in Amsterdam we’re talking herring. Although it is considered a delicacy in the Netherlands, dipped in onions, the silvery and slightly slimy snack is not for everyone. Especially for the non-Dutch, it can be quite the experience.

Chad’s first encounter with the infamous fish was not a good one. There was something ‘fishy’ about it. So when a market vendor at the Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam tries to sell him herring instead of the requested ‘kibbeling’ (fried fish), he hesitates.

But, curious as he is about the peculiarities of the Dutch, he decides to give it another try. While the vendor is preparing his order, Chad turns out to be quite knowledgeable about the history behind the Dutch love for herring.

“You know, I just so happened to be reading about herring in this one dude’s book just recently”, he explains. This ‘dude’ turns out to be former John Adams director Russell Shorto, who in his book Amsterdam wrote about the lucrative business of the herring trade that brought about the Dutch Golden Age. A term Chad is critical of, as it downplays the atrocities inflicted upon other nations during this time period.

Still, his renewed attempt at munching away herring at the Nieuwmarkt? Nothing fishy about it this time.

Where are you from? – part 2

In the first part of this blog series, we learned that Chad is not too keen on being asked where he is from. “In terms of getting to know someone, it’s such an empty question. It would be nice to be considered an individual instead of always being branded ‘an American’.

So mostly, questions like these do not lead anywhere. But sometimes they do. In the third episode of The Dutch Inquisition, Chad is out clubbing* when a girl comes up to him and asks him the dreaded question: where are you from? An animated conversation follows and even some romance.Chad points out one particular image in the story: the one where the girl offers him a drink. Not particularly mind-boggling you’d think, but according to Chad, it always has his American friends stunned. “It really shows the difference in dating culture between the Netherlands and the U.S. In the States you would never let a girl pay for anything on a date. In fact, women expect you to pay. So a girl offering a guy a round, is pretty alien to me and my friends.” Chad admits the Dutch directness between the sexes has its advantages. This time, it got him the girl and the drink.


* fun fact: most locations featured in the comic are based on pictures taken by Chad which the artists use as a source for their drawings.

Gary Dumm created the images for ‘The Four Fish Specialists’. Those of ‘The Dutch Inquisition’ were made by Bernie Mireault. All content copyright © Chad Bilyeu. Visit Chad’s website to get your copies of ‘Chad in Amsterdam’. They are also available in several bookstores in Amsterdam, like Athenaeum Boekhandel and The American Book Center. Click here for the other blogs in this series.