Amsterdam, Red Light District, three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. Walking on one of the main streets of the neighbourhood, along the canal, I cannot but notice how quiet, not to say “dead”, the area is. Where are the people? Where are the tourists?
Have you ever noticed how wildlife in and around Amsterdam is surprisingly abundant? I am not talking about British tourists partying in the streets of the capital like only the Brits do (although that can be pretty wild too). I am talking about real wildlife: birds, seals, herons, snakes, that kind of life.
Alice has wondered herself the same question when lost in Wonderland: who in the World am I?
Well, thanks to a kind Facebook user who felt the urge to point out how I was wrongly calling myself an expat while I was in fact an immigrant, I am now to wonder the same.
Am I an expat, or an immigrant?
If you are an expat living and working in The Netherlands, chances are that you found a job quickly, but not in a Dutch company. You might have even moved here because you found a job before leaving your own country. But if you are like me and you just packed your stuff and left, without a job and/or a place to live, you would have had to go through the troubles of finding a job while already living in Holland.
Some of you might even still wonder, what is it like to work in a Dutch company ?
Let me tell you a story. A story about rats in Holland. A few days ago, I was sitting on the tram on my way to work and I noticed, while looking by the window, something moving behind the bushes in the street. Moving really fast, actually. Was it a cat? Was it a bird? Nope. That was a rat. A big fat rat, bouncing around in day light like it was 1805 again.
It’s funny how, sometimes, you think you are so good at something, while the rest of the World believes you are absolutely rubbish at it. For example, I always saw myself as a very observant person… Except for, you know, all those times I walked right past what I was looking for without seeing it. A bus station for example. I guess that’s what one would call being deluded.
However, I am also very good at noticing things that other normal people don’t see. Like a big deer head sculpture on top of a building (Utrecht has many), or a mic suddenly appearing on the right corner of the screen while I’m watching a movie (and that clearly shouldn’t be there). That’s why, when I went to visit the DOMunder in Utrecht and that girl suddenly said « let’s see how well you paid attention on your way here », I thought to myself, « I’m going to nail the answer to the next question ! ».
Let’s get down to the real talk. Let’s talk food. Food in The Netherlands, I mean.
Living in The Netherlands without speaking Dutch, it’s a bit like… like willingly trying to swim without using your legs : it’s not ideal, but you can do it.
Most people will understand that you are trying your best, not only to avoid drowning, but to go as fast as you can. But from time to time, you will encounter someone who will simply ask you to move out of the way ; you just don’t fit in this line, so take your weirdo swim elsewhere. This has just happened to me … again. This post is for all the « fit or leave » people out there.
I’ve got a message for you : DUTCH IS BLOODY HARD TO LEARN !
“This is your very first post” it says. It might as well say “Well, no pressure, but you’d better not mess this one up!”. I mean, seriously, it took me way too much time to decide what I wanted to write about. And I’m kinda hoping I am not the only one out there on the blogosphere who had the same problem (right?).
But then this morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee and reading on my sunny balcony, I got the answer straight out of my favourite book (coincidence? I think not). “Begin at the beginning, the King said, very gravely, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” This is probably the best advice Lewis Carroll could have indirectly given me through Alice in Wonderland.