From A Touch of Dutch
Before you knew you’d be coming to the Netherlands, for whatever reason you originally came to the Netherlands, truthfully how much did you know about the country?
- Honestly? Next to nothing, I’d transited Schiphol once and I knew there were windmills.
Did you learn about the Netherlands in school when you were growing up?
- Not that I remember, in my defense it was a long time ago.
Do you have family who is Dutch or Dutch heritage?
- I know my family tree on both sides for about 6 or 7 generations, it’s Dutch-free.
Were you aware the language the Dutch spoke was Dutch and not German or any other language
- Yes, no idea how.
Had you ever lived outside of your home country for longer than one month prior to living in the Netherlands
- Yes, I’d already lived outside my home country for 5-6 years before moving here.
Had you learned to speak any other language than your own, even if only partially so, before coming to the Netherlands?
- Yes, at school, and then while living in China.
When you learned you’d be coming to the Netherlands, did you feel it was important to learn Dutch?
- No. But my plan was to study here for a year (and my course was in English) and then work here for two years tops. It was only when I bought an apartment here that I thought “uhoh, it looks like I’m staying” and decided I’d better improve my Dutch skills above menu level.
Did anyone prepare you with information of any type before you came to live in the Netherlands, did you attempt to find information on your own, or did you come to the Netherlands without preparing?
- I had some information from the university I was going to, I contacted some Dutch friends of friends and did some reading.
How did your friends and family react when they learned you’d be moving to the Netherlands?
- My mother sang “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” and got halfway through it before realising that wasn’t where I was going. (And she’ll die of embarrassment if she reads this).
What did you think would be your biggest challenge living in a foreign country? Or did you feel you would face any big challenges?
- I’d already lived in China for a couple of years, I think I thought this would be an easier adjustment.
Upon arriving, can you remember the overall impression you had in the first 48 hours?
- Completely jetlagged, and I had to sort out a lot of stuff in the first few days so all I can remember is a lot of questions and a lot of frustration. Then school started. So it wasn’t for a couple of months that I got a break where I could spend some time enjoying the country without feeling guilty about assignments due.
Tell me about your bicycle, if you have one. Is it borrowed/rented or do you own it? And how often do you use it weekly? Have you ever had your bike stolen?
- I own it, and it’s the third after two other bikes were stolen. What can I say? I am not a tourist. When I bought this bike I also wanted to buy a lock, “What kind of lock?” asked the bikeseller. “An Amsterdam lock” I answered. I swear it weighs as much as the bike, but I’ve had it and the bike for 5 years.
Name three of your favorite things about the Dutch culture which first come to mind:
- Crowds on terraces as soon as the temperature is above freezing
- Men carrying big bunches of flowers in the street
Of the things you never knew before coming here, what have you learned about the Netherlands?
- Dutch food isn’t much, but luckily you can get any kind of food you want and it’s rare to have to eat Dutch food.
Culture shock. Does this ring a bell? [Not sure what culture shock is? Click here to learn more.]
- There are a lot of little habits to get used to, as with any new country; the three kisses, beschuit met muisjes, strippenkarten. But I think the only thing that shocked me, and still does occasionally is the Dutch attitude to privacy. Dutch classmates felt it was OK to discuss details of course grades, Dutch colleagues have felt it OK to ask me personal questions about my relationship, and Dutch friends felt it was OK to discuss shaving pubic hair at dinner.
How far have you come with learning Dutch?
- Fairly far, I can understand most of what I read/hear and I can make myself understood most of the time. Put it this way I did my Dutch driver’s licence in Dutch. Ik kan alle dagelijkse dingen doen, maar ik maak nog veel fouten.
What was/is your overall impression of the inburgering [immigration] program?
- Fortunately I didn’t have to do the inburgering (which is more correctly translated as “integration”). Which is a good thing. Given that I’d already been here for more than five years when they came up with the courses I somehow doubt I would have learnt anything at all. I already spoke Dutch reasonably well, I knew plenty about Dutch culture/politics and I had a network of friends established. I would have been very annoyed at wasting so much time.
Has your view on politics or world issues changed from how you previously viewed things before living in the Netherlands?
- I don’t think so, if it has it’s more to do with a few exceptional people that I happen to have met here than due to any great influence from the Netherlands.
Coffeeshops and smartshops. What is your opinion? Have you ever visited a coffeeshop or smartshop? You don’t need to go too far in detail, if you feel it’s too revealing on your own blog.
- I get my thrills in other ways.
Since living here, have you learned anything new about yourself? Or perhaps have you learned anything else new? A new hobby or a new way of life?
- I took up blogging!