Goedemiddag! It has been a month of settling down and getting used to my new surroundings. I am going through the ‘oh-shit-this-is-actually-
Proof that I am or soon to be a true Dutch gal:
1) I can remember and spell the main street names and places of Utrecht. This is not a simple task, try memorising ‘Oudergracht Weerdzijde’ and ‘Minrebroederstraat’. I also know where to find the widest variety of beer, the famous coffee shops, the cool jams and the sweetest pancakes.
2) I have joined a gym in town where the classes are all in Dutch. Queue me copyingeverything the teacher does because I don’t always quite understand what’s going on. On one memorable occasion she started jumping up and down speaking the Dutch lingo. Naturally I copied her but looked like a complete penis as it wasn’t meant to be an exercise but just her portraying her excitement about giving a gym class.
3) I have opened a bank account with the help of a man who looks suspiciously like Geppetto from Pinocchio. There was much confusion on his part about me having a Dutch passport and not being able to speak Dutch. Sorry Geppetto, blame it on my Papa. Opening an account in the Netherlands is somewhat essential because shops, bars, supermarkets, THE WHOLE FREAKING COUNTRY, don’t take Visa but only Maestro. For this I went through a gruelling process, some might even say that the bank became my second home.
4) I have fallen off my bike. It wasn’t a casual fall either, it was scandalous. To the point where a man opened the window of his home and asked if I was alright. I was under the naive impression that pavement curbs were only a hazard when attempting to parallel park a car but they are in fact vicious all round. My ego has only remained unscathed because I’ve witnessed other über cool people fall. Conclusion: it happens to the best of us.
As previously mentioned in last month’s post, I have found the Dutch peeps to be a little hard to decipher. They are kind and helpful people but the closer you think you are getting to being their friend the further you actually are. Sometimes I picture myself as a small woodpecker pecking away at a tree (ie. the typical Dutchman) and reaching a very tough bit of the tree that can no longer be pecked through.
Being a ‘Nederlander’ myself, I am becoming increasingly determined to be accepted into the Dutch community. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some great friends here from all over the place but I can’t help feel a little envious when I cycle past bars and cafés overflowing with blond people having some terrific banter. There are a couple of obstacles I must peck my way through before being a step closer to joining these nights of laughter and beer with the locals:
Obstacle n°1: Even if you attempt to speak Dutch with them they will eventually switch to English. However, if you do speak English they will ask you “how come you do not speak Dutch?” Breaking this cycle without causing offence requires the diplomatic skills of a UN negotiator. I’ve been told you need to reply that you are learning but finding it hard which will then give them a sense of superiority.
Obstacle n°2: The Netherlands is a small country which makes traveling around it quick and easy. The Dutch know they are never far from one another and thus reconvene most weekends either in their hometown or in the city where one of them is studying. This means that they seldom experience the alarming thought that they’ll end up all by their lonesome if they don’t make the effort to kindle new friendships. This all boils down to them not really needing to form new bonds with random foreigners claiming to be half Dutch, making me the goddam woodpecker once again.
So there you have it, the two main obstacles I have encountered so far. But I am not giving up folks, by Spring I’ll be writing a blog post on how I made my way into the Dutch bosom like a slippery snake.