This week our Prime Minister announced that tighter control was being put on those who fail to learn English after coming to Britain. Mr. Cameron spoke specifically on Muslim women and spouse visas but I think the scheme should run out to every single person on any form of visa or at any stage in the immigration process. I can’t even comprehend the counter argument to this. I’ve talked about immigration before and the acceptance of the values and expectations of having a different home country in my post about Angela Merkel, so in many ways it’s the same argument. If you come to live in the UK you should have a basic understanding of our language and our customs. The national news showed a group of women who had been living in the UK as a British citizen for anything from 45-58 years. None of them spoke any English.
There is a thin line between getting something right and getting something completely wrong and Dutch, being the lovely guttural language that it is has its fair share! I had a comment recently on my blog asking if I was a hedgehog. Alas my prickles and love for rolling in leaves make me an over grown child not a garden loving creature who roams about in the dead of night. Just for the record I don’t actually have prickles!
I’ve spoken a lot before about mistakes Dutch people make in English so i thought it was only fair to repay the insult and discuss the subtle but embarrassing mistakes we make when trying to drag our selves around The Netherlands.
Spot the difference:
ben jij egels? – Are you a hedgehog?
ben jij engels? – Are you english?
Ik ben hete Maria – I am hot Maria – This was my first attempt at introducing myself. It was subtly laughed off at the time as apparently its a common mistake!
What I meant to say (obvs): Ik ben heet Maria – I am called Maria
Now to the uneducated Dutch learning British gal these sentences sound exactly the same.
Ik hou van vis – I like fish
Ik hou van vies – I like it dirty
I’m not one to just judge, maybe there is a use for both sentences in some peoples vocabulary 😉
So there we have it. The difference can be a vowel, or simply the pronunciation of it. There are hundreds of mistakes easily made in Dutch many more than I can’t remember right now, maybe helped with the fact that autocorrect changes what we mean if the dictionary is or isn’t activated or if we get the pronunciations of our vowels a little off. Its these are the mistakes that are worth making rather than getting tenses mixed up which is simply frustrating. Inspiration came from a hilarious little video The Dutch Review had on the bottom of one of their posts last week! Check it out!
I’ve been frequenting The Orange Lands for a good many years now and when I first went over I had very little idea of what to expect. In this post I am going to share with you the things that I wish I’d known from day 1!
Casual is ALWAYS ok.
Generally my wardrobe varies from a combination of jeans and a blazer, the occasional statement scarf or work-ware and the need for ‘office dress’ which is some variation of a suit and shirt etc. The summer will see me in the odd flowery dress too. So there is a lot of variation in my wardrobe, I can dress for any occasion. If I’m going out for dinner or to the pub I try and ‘make an effort’ and glam up a little, its just what we do here in England. In Holland however casual is always ok. You can wear jeans to everything. This is something I wish someone had explained to me at the start, it would have made packing so much easier and lighter to carry for a start off!! I have been caught out maybe 3 times to my knowledge. I love my jeans and comfy shoes, this is not a problem for me if someone would have said. Another thing worth noting too is that brown shoes will go with EVERYTHING in Holland. They are a fan of the humble leather brogue as am I. This love for worn out denim and soft leather handmade shoes is the backbone of what makes me and The Netherlands so compatible.
Literally EVERYONE speaks English.
They’ll tell you ‘my English isn’t very good’ but it is. They lie – it is better than you can imagine. What they think ‘isn’t very good’ is like Higher Level language to us. Even the people who make believe they don’t speak English know what you are saying to some extent. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that TV shows and films are in English, the business world negotiates in English too and school teach English to Dutch children at a very young age. So their excuse of ‘me speak no english’ just do nest wash with me. They have to know some English. Unlike the Dutch, us Brits can’t get away with saying whatever we want because they will hear it! One of my Dutch friends told me how much they enjoyed listening to the English peoples conversations on holiday and how they could openly talk about people on the adjoining table because very few people that aren’t Dutch speak Dutch. Cheeky right?!
They are TOO honest.
Do you think you look a bit fat in the that top? They’ll tell you. Are you questioning your actions? They’ll ask you to your face. The Dutch are honest. I admire them for that but take heed of my warning. There is no sugar coating done on their behalf. I think travellers venturing there for the first time need to be told this. They will be honest with you and upfront about it. Have you over done the perfume? Yep they’ll point that out too. It’s great.
If in doubt…fry it.
I thought us British fried random things like mars bars and bananas but it appears that the Dutch have take it one step further from the humble Fish and Chip Supper and made fried foods one of their main delicacies. Fried meat. I’m quite free with my taste buds I’ll try anything. My goodness do you need that approach over there. I think food and bonding over food seems to be an important part of their culture at least that’s how it has always felt to me. The Dutch eat a lot and considering they are all tall and beautiful it goes against nature for all the fried food they eat.
Kroketten – Not my thing. I’ve tired them out and didn’t like them. I tried some that where homemade and they where in a different league! Super lekker!
Frikandellen – These are good. I am more of a ketchup girl than a mayonnaise fan but still they are good.
Chips / Vlaamse Frites – Who does like chips? And they come in a paper cone, not Styrofoam like here. Their chips are leagues better than ours. Apparently the trick is frying them twice. Oh the calories! Please note that if you agree to or ask for sauce ‘fritesause’ as lekker as it is they will pump a gallon of it over your food. I am a minimal sauce kind of gal!
One of my English friend had never had mayonnaise with chips before…Amsterdam changed her!
Whilst we are on the subject of food too lets talk about Garlic Bread. Their version of garlic bread is not my version of garlic bread. Again carbs, bread, fried stuff its all they eat, but their version of Garlic Bread consists of a slice or chunk of baguette with an inch think slice of butter mixed with garlic on top. Not being a huge fan of overpowering sauces I always prefer to do my own being of the opinion that if I want more I can add to it. Because the Dutch are all so nice and loving someone always spreads it for you and gives it to you as an offering. Yay! The only good side to this is that everyone eats the garlic so the three kisses don’t get awkward and too smelly!
One of the major things that put me off living in Holland would be the amount of weight I would gain! I cant look at too much fried stuff without bloating up to the size of a house. I just couldn’t do it! Maybe it’s the cycling that counter acts it?! Yep. Definitely the bicycles!
p.s. I think this post has just shown that I love a good meme!
I could quite comfortably write reams and reams on this topic therefore I thought limiting myself wasn’t a bad idea. In this post I am going to talk about 5 English responses and 5 Dutch responses. These are genuine responses I have had from people when you tell them that you are learning Dutch.
- “Why?” – Standard English response to anything that is out of the ordinary. “Why do you want to do that? / What’s the point?” Well the point is that personal development is a choice and my choice is to do it via languages.
- “That’s interesting.” – This is the response from any multilingual person. I’ve noticed myself start to do it when someone says they are learning Spanish or Hindi or some other exotic sounding language. I think there is a mutual understanding of the struggles of learning a language that make for a ‘That’s really interesting’ response. Maybe you can share tips or experiences of your language learning journey.
- “What for?” – Similar to the standard response of ‘Why?’ the ‘What for?’ people always assume there is some grand end goal. They are never happy with a response along the lines of ‘just because’. The standard expected answers are work or love. Most people think you are either learning to for work or to impress a loved one. I have still not developed a good enough come back to this kind of question.
- “Is that the same as German?” <Insert here a dodgy Audi advert impression> – This frustrates me. Dutch is a Germanic language BUT it isn’t German. I was a little naive at first about Dutch as there is some cross over but almost instantly when you hear the two together Dutch is much more soft and bouncy whereas I always feel that German is a harsh sounding language.
- “Say something in Dutch then.” – The response of people that don’t believe you. Its almost as if these people want to catch you out. What do you say when you get asked that? I end up going a long the super predictable lines of “Hallo Goedenmorgen, ik ben Maria, Hoe gaat het met jou?” (yes that is my standard, on the spot, Dutch sentence.)
- “Why? Everyone here speaks English”. – This is a cop-out. Most time I get this response is because some Dutchies like the fact that not many people speak their language so they can talk about you almost to your face and you’d be completely oblivious to what was going on. This is sneaky but I must admit I like it. I cant wait to go on a package holiday and overhear a Dutch family. It will feel like they are talking in a code only we know and I can give them the node! (Or not, am I getting to carried away here?).
- “Really? It is a super hard language to learn.” – That’s no reason not to bother though surely. Similar to response no.1 just because I don’t need it doesn’t mean its acceptable not to know the basic polite gestures.
- “That is really good.” – This is from the supportive Dutchies. They acknowledge the difficulty of the language like response no.2 but they appreciate the commitment to learning something that sometimes feels most unnatural.
- Say something in Dutch then. – Similarly to the reasons I gave for the English response the Dutch do the same only this time they really do what to catch you out and correct your poor pronunciation. I had the Dutch test of ‘say Scheveningen’ which apparently is a most scientific test to check whether or not your Dutch is actually German, or something like that. This has happened to me, around the dinner table, on more that one occasion. Or the best is when they say “Say this then…” and then judge you on your delivery of an insult to someone, the best thing in those occasions for me is that 80% of the time I know I’m saying something rude so the joke is just as much on them as it is on me!
- They carry on in Dutch, at lightening pace just expecting you to therefore fully understand everything that is being said by everyone like a native. There is either that response or indeed a pop quiz on all of the hard words. Similar to – response no.4. The quiz is partly malicious in the fact that they expect you to get it wrong and embarrass you (that’s normally my response. I feel the colour rising in my cheeks and all of a sudden EVERYBODY is looking at me).
I read and article on Dutch News that claim that the Dutch language has many ‘laborious’ elements which make it more difficult to learn and to use.
According to this research, comparing 22 languages looking for unnecessary grammatical elements and rules the research concluded that Dutch ‘is complicated and long-winded’.