Sunday, June 6, 2010

Guest Post Series: An Accidental Expat by Stuart

My arrival in the Netherlands was quite accidental. It all started when I replied to a cryptic job advertisement for a computer game designer that I found in a local magazine, in a local newsagents in my local town. It was cryptic because it had no address, no phone number and not really much in the way of any information other than a dot com email address. But I was willing to try anything at the time even if it sounded slightly like it was a job advertisement placed by a gang of black market human organ dealers using a games company as a front for their diabolical scheme.

A few days later I received an email which included three surprises.
Surprise number one was that in no part of the email did they enquire about the condition of my internal organs. Surprise number two was that they were offering me an interview and surprise number three (which was the biggest) was that they were offering to pay for my flights to the interview location... in the city of Amsterdam... in the Netherlands!

Things went rather well at the interview and I’ve now been living in the Netherlands for nine years. During that time I have learned a lot about the Netherlands and the Dutch and I believe that as an Englishman I have a unique point of view on the Netherlands. This point of view is usually a foot or two low that of the average Dutchman given their extreme height.

The Netherlands is a very flat country and as such its people are very envious of any other countries with even the smallest of hills or speed bumps. Young skateboarders and go-cart racers are more bitter then most. The Dutch try to compensate for this feeling of hill impotence by giving their country two names; Holland and The Netherlands (not to be confused with Never Land. You won’t find Tinkerbell here… unless maybe you spend too long in a coffee shop).

The Dutch as a whole are a very friendly people (unless they work in customer services or you mention hills). However not everyone on the street who asks, ‘Charlie?’ is inquiring about your name. This could lead to some confusion if your name actually is Charlie. You may end up being given a small bag of what seems to be a very expensive and ineffective washing powder.

It is also a popular belief that every Dutch person wears clogs, eats cheese, is constantly stoned and knows the price and proper etiquette when dealing with prostitutes in the red light district. However this is not true… sometimes they wear trainers.

Attempting to cross the street in the Netherlands can be like taking part in a live game of ‘Frogger’ because not only do the Dutch drive on the other side of the road (to the English) but you also have to look out for trams, bikes, stoned English tourists and then try not to fall in a canal (and then look out for canal boats if you do).

There are a few important phrases that come in handy when in Holland. If you can successfully order ‘een uitsmijter met ham en kaas’ you can eat like a god. As my Dutch friends will tell you it’s the only thing I’ll ever eat when we go out for lunch. If they tell you it is the only thing on the menu that I can order in Dutch it’s all lies… lies I tell you... I can order ‘een uitsmijter met bacon en kaas’ too.

“Spreekt u Engels?” is another very useful phrase but you’ll find that asking the average Dutch person if they can speak English is like asking if they can count to three since most of them can do both. I’ve been told that most Dutch people learn English from TV and repeats of The A-Team. However I have yet to hear any of them, "Pity the fool."

If all else fails you can always use the phrase I use the most, “Ik heb geen idee wat u zegt,” which translates to, “I have no idea what you said.”

By Stuart B from Invading Holland:

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