Sunday, May 30, 2010

Guest Post Series: My City of Light by Nicole

I've experienced many highlights and lowlights living in Eindhoven as an expat for the last three years. For starters, there are a lot of lights in Eindhoven, being the city of light and all. Some are low — the urban landscapers are keen on ground lighting — and some of them are high, especially during GLOW and the Lichtjesroute, two annual festivals in Eindhoven celebrating light.

Bad jokes aside, it's difficult to pick out the highlight and lowlight from my expat life when it's not over for another year. Passing the Staatsexamen was a highlight, especially given I am far from fluent, have an appalling accent, and speak more English than Dutch during the day. I appreciate living and working in a multilingual, multicultural environment: when I tire of Dutch and Guus Meeuwis and stamppot, I have native Portuguese speakers, German music experts, and Chinese home chefs within easy reach to help with providing some variety.

A lowlight has been the feelings of not so much isolation, but disconnectedness. Not speaking Dutch when I arrived meant that I could only watch English-language films at the cinema and couldn't follow the local news. Trying to follow Australian news from afar didn't work too well at the daily customary lunches with colleagues. My colleagues practise their English by watching American sitcoms, which leaves me standing alone in the corner of British comedy. When I do read a Dutch book or watch a Dutch TV show or film and then try to discuss it with my Dutch colleagues, the response usually is, "I wouldn't know about it, I don't read/watch Dutch books/TV/films".

The real highlights though have been the little things: discovering sausage rolls exist, drinking/eating Belgian hot chocolate sticks, accessing speedy and reliable Internet. There's an amazing sense of achievement in buying a light bulb at the supermarket and going home to find it's the right one. Maybe I will, just a little bit, miss this city of light.

Nicole writes about her adventures as a researcher in Eindhoven at the expat numbat and ever so occasionally at Eindhoven News, a new English-language news portal for expats in Eindhoven. Her interests include languages, all sorts of culture, travelling and running.

Photo: the Lichttoren in Eindhoven during winter.

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