Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meetups and Whatnots

Now that we're in the last stages of baby preparations, and my work has slowed down a bit, I've been trying to find an expat group in Nijmegen--to meet new people, and to have a social life of some kind post-It.  Although I'm not a naturally sociable person, the amount of isolation I'd been experiencing as of late has been alarming, even for me.  At first, I still had my Dutch classes, and there were trips to Leiden and Maastricht, and then the NT2, and of course I'm still seeing the midwife and meeting up with sellers from Marktplaats.  But now that the diapers have been made and everything we need to buy has been bought, there's been a definite drop-off in the amount of person-to-person contact I've been having.  It's not quite as terribly isolating as it was before I started working, but it's been a bit distressing.

I found the Arnhem expats group on MeetUp, and the first, ah, meetup was quite fun.  It's a nice break to be social without struggling to put things into Dutch, or being expected to put things into Dutch and then making your listener impatient and then you both start speaking in English anyway.  But I will say that placing orders with the wait staff is always a bit confusing, because I'm in the habit of placing requests in Dutch, but when everybody else is placing orders in English, it leaves me in the lurch--do as others do, or as Romans?  And, besides, the "hot chocolate" drink isn't really hot chocolate as it is warme chocomel, which is strictly a Dutch thing.

Along those lines, I received a curious phone call from a government survey center, which rated the effectiveness of the inburgeringscursus that I didn't take--when I explained that I took a language course as opposed to a how-to-be-Dutch course, the woman on the other end said something along the lines of, "Oh that's fine, I'll just use the other survey."  The B1-B2 course at the Radboud was, in my opinion, great--hell, I passed the NT2 with my first shot, so it couldn't have been too bad.  But one of the questions was, "How often do you use Dutch in your everyday life?"  Snarky me wanted to say "never", but I would never have been able to negotiate stuff on Marktplaats or get my taxes* cleared up if that were really the case, since the Belastingdienst isn't allowed to provide answers in English.

And lastly but not leastly, we've finally found a piece of Dutch TV that we both...I'm not sure if "like" is the right word.  But it's definitely one of those don't-wanna-stare-but-can't-look-away type of shows.  Achter Gesloten Deuren takes people who have been living with a secret, sometimes for a very long time, and shows what happens when they finally tell the truth.  As far as voyeuristic kicks, it ticks all the boxes.  But something I've never understood about Dutch homes in general was confirmed in the show:  how do they keep their kitchens so pristine?  I mean, a lot of them don't even have a coffee machine on the counter (and you can't tell me that none of the featured families drink coffee).  There's no saltshaker by the stove, no herbs growing in a pot on the counter.  If you've ever caught an episode of Jeroen Meus's Dagelijks Kost (15-minute cooking show showcasing a quick, easy, everyday meal you can make--it's Belgian, so the accent is a bit funny), his tidy kitchen looks like a positive train wreck next to some of the Dutch kitchens I've seen.  I can only surmise that the Dutch don't cook, which is a bit sad, but also quite puzzling:  Why buy something so expensive if you never get a chance to play with it?  

*A small snafu in paying sales taxes in July led to a €4000 fine, which I was, after 5 phone calls and a total payment of €100, able to get removed.


  1. Have you seen this expat parent blog, they live in the Netherlands:


  2. Hm, thanks for the link! I'll check it out.

  3. I wandered down to the Maastricht Meet 'n Greet last Thursday. 'My first time there; it was good. I talked to a half dozen expats, mostly in business of one sort or another. The art restorer was interesting, the capacitor salesman less so, the member of the organizing committee least of all, but their stories were interesting and it was nice to know a few names and faces.

    It sounds like we're in parallel on taxes (I just cleared a notice) and television - the health club has put in exercise bikes with televisions and 'Achter' was one of the first things on. I wonder how that would play outside Europe?