Time we had an update, huh?
We had a great time back in Texas for Christmas and while leaving our friends and families to return to Europe was difficult, we’re glad we got to go. So much Mexican food. Too many tight pairs of pants. We had a rough trip back involving being stuck in London for 12 hours and being awake for 40. The most surprising thing for me coming back was how comforting it was to hear Dutch announcements in the airport when we landed at Schipohl.
We’ve now crossed the 7-month line of living in Rotterdam. No job in a school yet, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for a few things. Clarinet-tips is coming along slowly. January was harsher than usual in terms of homesickness and restlessness from not teaching as much, but the past few weeks have gotten a lot better. I decided to quit waiting for the weather to get better for running (because hello, you’re in the Netherlands, Andrea…) and started doing Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred videos. I’m always amazed at how much exercise improves my general outlook, beyond the endorphins you get right after a workout. I’m also trying to be more proactive socially now that I’m more comfortable with culture differences. Plus I’m always curious as to how Europeans like my cooking. So far, Tex-Mex cooking is a win.
I’m a week away from the end of my first intermediate Dutch course. One more course to go until I take the government test that, if passed, shows I’m fit to work in Dutch. I think I’m enjoying this class the most compared to the beginner ones because now we get to have more in-depth discussions. Grammar is getting harder, but a lot of things that confused me before are much clearer. We have five people in our class, so we each get to talk a lot. I leave class feeling confident and empowered, but when I try to engage a Dutch person in conversation I still feel like this kid sometimes:
…I just hope I haven’t said anything that translates to “You want him to do you so much you could do anything?”
Lately I’ve been finding myself in situations where I understand every word that comes out of someone’s mouth, but I’m convinced that I don’t. One time in choir someone asked me what country I’m from, a question I learned how to ask in my first DAY of class, but because I thought she already knew where I was from, I had decided that she must be asking me something else. It took about 4 rounds of me asking her to repeat herself until I decided I was right the first time.
Another time Will and I were walking from the train station to Codarts to practice and this really big lady wearing a neon orange muumuu, a green scarf, and a purple hat started yelling at us asking if there were photographers at the station. I thought that surely this big, orange-muumuu-wearing lady was NOT trying to find a photographer at the train station and clearly I didn’t know what was going on, so I ended up just looking at her crazy. Then she switched to English and said exactly what I thought she said. I hope she found some photographers.
In many cases it seems like expats in the Netherlands whose first language is English don’t learn Dutch, and why would they? Almost everyone we interact with here has at least decent English and if you’re able to have a satisfying work and social life in English, there isn’t very much incentive to learning Dutch. Because of this, Dutch people are often surprised and amused at expats trying to speak Dutch, and I’m no exception. If I start talking to someone, like a vendor at the market, they hear my accent and look at me like this:
Then they switch to English, which to me says, “Your second language sucks, so let’s talk in MY second language instead.” To which I try to keep speaking Dutch regardless, and if can do it without mistakes, then I get this:
And this is why people don’t learn Dutch.
That being said, this situation almost exclusively happens with people I don’t know. If someone knows me and why I’m learning Dutch, it’s usually a more positive experience. Through church, choir, and people I’ve met from Codarts, I’ve been able to find support and encouragement from Dutch people and other expats who have actually learned to speak Dutch well.
I will persevere!