I recently passed the one-year mark on my journey of being an expat in the Netherlands and it got me thinking crazy things like: what have I discovered in the past year? I’m certainly hoping that it’s more than just a handful of Dutch curse words.
So here goes: a round-up of ‘some moderately interesting things about my experience living abroad’.
I learnt that there’s much more to this tiny country than Amsterdam.
I’m here for Friesland, I really am. I’m gonna rep this bad boy up until it gets the credit it deserves, because it’s mega up here.
Everyone has been to Amsterdam. It’s one of the most popular weekend destinations in Europe. Whether that’s down to its openness about drugs and sex remains to be seen, and it could most definitely be the grotesquely beautiful buildings lining the canals that are drawing droves of people day in day out. However, that’s not exactly the real Netherlands, in my very meaningless opinion.
For starters, the use of Dutch in Amsterdam is incredibly low, whereas up here, I’ll have you know I’m fighting a battle that includes two languages. Furthermore, I don’t know about you but the crowds really get to me. I need a bit of space, and a few old timey windmills thrown into the mix to really feel it. There are hundreds of towns and cities that are as beautiful (if not more so) than Amsterdam, that barely get a look in (but that’s something for a completely different blogpost).
A lot of foreigners think that Dutch people only eat fried food
I mean, you’re kind of right; Dutch borrelhapjes (delicious little snacks alongside a beer) can be described mostly with the words ‘beige’ and ‘deep-fried’, but be that as it may, bitterballen are one of the most delicious snacks I’ve ever wrapped my lips around.
They don’t only eat fried foods though, and this is where I feel supremely lucky, because I get to eat Dutch delicacies such as stamppot (mashed vegetables with smoked sausage or a giant meatball), which is one of my favourite dishes ever, because my boyfriend’s mother is classed as a ‘feeder’.
One thing that I won’t be trying any time soon is Haring. That’s just a raw herring that you dangle in front of your own face and, in the words of Baldrick in Blackadder Goes Forth, “scoff it right down”. I’m not a fan of sushi in the first place, so clamping my fingers around an almost whole fish covered in a few onions makes me feel slightly nauseous, even if it does have a charming little Dutch flag attached to a cocktail stick sticking out of its back.
Things that were simple back in England have become much less so…
Simple tasks have induced brain farts multiple times for me since moving abroad. Have you ever been to the hairdressers without knowing the word for layers or texture or a fringe and had to wait in agony to see whether the hairdresser has, in fact, ruined your life?
Have you ever been to the doctors and revised what you have to say so much that you forgot to revise what possible answers might come shooting back your way? Yes, it’s all well and good to be able to tell your doctor that your tonsils feel like golf balls and you can’t swallow for shit, but what’s she saying back to you right now? What’s the remedy? You don’t know because you forgot that part of the practice!
Have you ever heard the doorbell go at 7pm when you’re home alone and the only thing you’re worried about is will I be able to understand this human being the other side of the glass? I mean, sure it beats the thought that you might be murdered by the dark figure the other side of the glass, but I’m pretty sure that my heart would beat just as fast for either eventuality.
The only stroopwafels you should be buying are fresh, hot and from the street.
To be honest, this applies to both stroopwafels or your choice of… delicacy… when wandering around De Wallen.
Yeah alright, the tinned ones are fine if you’re taking them home for aunt Mildred, but for the best results, head to a street vendor at a market. They’ll be the size of your head, and you’ll think you want to share, but don’t do that. Just bask in that gooey warm hug until you feel sick, and then, and only then, will you know the true beauty of the stroopwafel.
The words ‘cut’ and ‘whore’ have completely new meanings in Dutch
I was shocked when I first heard someone yell “Ja hoor” at another person. I was stood on a Dutch street, and I thought: that’s kinda rude, but maybe she deserves it, who am I to judge? It was only later when someone directed the word at me, in casual conversation, no less, that I really thought something was wrong with Dutch culture. I mean it’s bad enough that people from Stoke call each other “Duck”, but this was taking it too far. Actually, “hoor”, pronounced exactly like the English “whore” is kind of just a filler. You just throw it into a sentence to make it seem a bit friendlier (ionically to me). If you want to go ahead and insult someone with the English version of the word, in Dutch that one’s said “hoo-er”. Ja hoor.
One word that I wasn’t prepared for though, was cut. Or “kut”. The K really makes it harsh, and to be honest I should’ve known it was bad news. Pronounced k-uh-t (really spit that ‘k’ out and then follow it with a short ‘uh’ and throw a ‘t’ on the end), this beauty is the equivalent of the Brits ‘see you next Tuesday’, which usually I wouldn’t be afraid to type, but audiences differ so. However, the Dutch will use it willy-nilly – especially between the ages of 13 and 18. They use this word to really get across their feelings for, well, basically anything actually, whether that be the weather, their homework, or that girl you’re sat next to.
I hope you weren’t interested in learning the intricacies of expat life, because if you were, I’m sure you’re sorely disappointed right now. These were mere tit-bits of what I’ve found to be a funny part of life abroad. It’s a fantastic ride, thanks for reading along.