I’ve noticed that a few of my new followers are also new expats… so first: Welkom in Nederland en welkom op Bitterballenbruid.com!
I’ve lived in the Netherlands for nearly two years now and jeeeeeez has it flown or what!? It seriously feels like I moved here a couple of months ago. I was reading another expat blog over the weekend, someone who has actually only been in the Netherlands for 2 months. Stories of
rude direct Dutch people, language confusion, homesickness and missing certain things from home (mostly food!) It really stuck a chord with me… brought back all the feels… but it also let me know how damn far I’ve come. 2 years… woah!!
One thing before I start:
“The term “expat” derives from the Latin prefix ex (out of) and the noun patria (home country, native country, or fatherland). In today’s globalized world, as the reasons for going abroad become more diverse, it’s no longer easy to find a concrete definition for this term. That said, the word “expat” is generally used to refer to people who temporarily or permanently live in a different country than the one they were born in or whose nationality they have. Expats usually choose to leave their native country for a career boost, or to fulfill a personal dream or goal, rather than as a result of dire economic necessity.” (InterNations)
So just to set the scene: as expats we’re already lucky, privileged, whatever you want to call it. I just wanted to point out that I’m not whining about how hard, lonely or what a culture shock it is moving to the Netherlands… I’m really not. Comparatively, we expats have it so easy!
But back to being an “expat”
I’ve been in your shoes, really I have. And sometimes it’s tough, especially if you don’t speak Dutch. Before I moved here, the Dutchie and I would come to the Netherlands for family holidays, to a Center Parcs or something. We’d spend 3-4 days in a holiday home with his family – so me and seven Dutchies. (That should be the title of a Tarantino film.)
Seven Dutchies speaking Dutch 24/7 and me having no idea what was going on most of the time!
It was horrible and I cried. (In the bathroom, obviously, so no one knew – not even the Dutchie.) This happened for a good few years in a row, my Dutch got better each year of course, but still – all those people talking Dutch for days on end – not fun if you don’t understand everything!! It stopped when I moved to Holland. When I actually moved here, I kicked my learning up a gear. I took a local course (something I couldn’t do in England). I got my hands on everything Dutch I could and immersed myself as much as I could. (Despite still working in English.) Anyway, I wrote a whole post about learning Dutch for beginners so check that out if you haven’t already.
I also wrote a post about learning Dutch being fucking hard and sorry to break it to you… but it is.
However… it’s also really rewarding. Some people are assholes – and they’d be an asshole in any language. But other, nice people, will be really encouraging of you learning Dutch (especially as “everyone” speaks English – let me just call bullshit on that one by the way!! NOT EVERY DUTCH PERSON SPEAKS ENGLISH – and even if they do… maybe they don’t want to speak to you in their non-native language.)
You are living in their country after all. Try to learn Dutch. What’s the worst that can happen? You might get upset, or cry or someone might laugh at you.
I’m actually laughing at myself now for how ridiculous I can be sometimes. Getting offended because someone corrects me… yes, it’s hurtful at the time, but ultimately: they’re trying to help.
So… laugh at yourself, or have a little cry. Whatever makes you feel better… we all have bad days. But then: put your big girl panties back on and get on with it!!
I speak Dutch now, to a reasonable level (as in: I can get by in supermarkets, bars, restaurants etc and have a basic conversation with you)… but I still have the occasional blip. I was paying in a restaurant last weekend (which should’ve be a breeze for me) but the waitress had a really strange voice/accent – I couldn’t understand ANYTHING she was saying!! I kinda just smiled and nodded and felt like a complete IDIOT (two years!! two frikkin’ years!) but y’know. Shit happens.
You’ll get there. Practice is key… I swear my Dutch is going backwards as I don’t practice enough! (I work in English and the Dutchie and I speak English to each other… which is so stupid, I know!)
My sister has a very good quote for this: “If it is important enough to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse.”
So: I’ve picked up Duolingo again and the Dutchie and I are going to do “Nederlands uurtje” a few times a week. (We’ve tried speaking Dutch the whole evening before and it just gets too frustrating… so an hour is a good compromise.) I’m also trying to get enough people on the speaking course at my local college – I signed up to a Dutch speaking course in January to further improve my Dutch, but it was cancelled because they didn’t have enough people. So I’m going to rally up some friends and see if I can get this Dutch-learning-train back on track.
What are you doing to learn Dutch? Any tips?
Veel plezier in Nederland en succes met Nederlands leren!