Sunday, September 12, 2010

Not Bad

When I first moved here, I didn't speak a word of Dutch. My Great Integration really only began once I got a job, as there I was exposed to many Dutch people, and had to buy my monthly train ticket from the machine and was stuck on a train for four hours a day, sometimes next to people who FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WOULD NOT SHUT THE F*CK UP.

At first, I would only ask for things in English, as I literally did not know what many of the things were called. Then I would try speaking in Dutch--and then people would still reply in English, because apparently my attempts at the local language were that pathetic. But eventually I got better at making the funny noises involved in speaking Dutch, and people began replying to me in Dutch as well.

Yesterday I went to the Saturday market to get some chantarelle mushrooms and goats-milk cheese to try out a new (and expensive!) recipe. The nice mushroom lady gave me the cantarellen en roze oosterzwammen that I asked for, and then I went to the herb stand for some salie en vers knoflook. So far so good. Then to the cheese stand.

The problem with such stands is that their selection is limited, but I did see one cheese that I might have liked. So I asked to try a slice, to be sure of its taste, and the cheese man obligingly cut me a slice. It was vaguely reminiscent of the cheese I'd had at the Chateux Neercanne, not quite as sharp, but as close as I was likely to get for a price I could afford. By far the most exciting part of the whole thing is, when you've decided which cheese you want, the cheese man takes this huge curved blade with a handle on either end and cuts you off a hunk (what can I say, I like sharp objects).

I was on the verge of asking the cheese man, "Mag ik een stukje hebben?" when he told me, in English, "It's sheep milk cheese. It comes from a sheep."

Now, I fully realize that I will probably never speak Dutch like a native--I will probably always have some kind of weird accent; Amsterdammers will probably think I come from Limburg, Limburgians will probably think I come from Friesland, etc. I don't care about that. But I'd like to think that, after 3 years, my Dutch isn't all that bad.


  1. It sounds to me like your Dutch is quite good if you can do that after three years.

    Dutch people just think they are being helpful by switching to English even though that is not really the case.

    It is possible to make Dutch people think you are Dutch but they might not able to place your accent (always thinking you are from another part of Holland). I have a British friend who has been here for 10 years and that happens to him.

  2. @ Stu: Dutch people just think they are being helpful by switching to English

    I have one coworker who insists on speaking to me in English, even though her English is really bad (and my parents were ESLers, and I used to work in labs where nobody spoke English, so when I say someone's English is bad, it's BAD). I'm not quite sure how to dissuade her.