28 February, 2011

Je Komt what???!!

I know it's been discussed ad nauseum on many other expat blogs, but I'm going to rehash it again for my own pleasure:  Embarrassing language mistakes.

Now, I make a lot of mistakes.  I can barely sting a sentence together in Dutch at times.  But I give it a go, and that's the main thing, right?  People don't speak back to me in English, they don't look at me as if I'm foreign, and they don't make fun of my accent (thank goodness, but apparently I sound like Princess Maxima - not a bad comparison if I do say so myself).  My most memorable embarassing language mistake was earlier this year.  Let me set the scene for you:

New year's day.  Full inlaw brigade, including the grandies over for oliebollen and boerenkool (yummy deep fried dough balls, and cabbage with gravy and smoked sausage).  We're all sitting around the table and talking about how awesome my Dutch is (obviously I'm making the subject up here), when I try describing something I've done by saying "Ik kom klaar...." 

I realised that I had made a god-awful mistake by the look on Maarten's face and the silence around me, but had no clue.  Maarten then leaned in and asked me if I knew what I'd just said.  Erm, obviously not.  What I found out next was that ik kom klaar is Dutch for "I'm coming," and not in the 'wait up I'll be there in a sec' context, but more in the When Harry Met Sally context.


In front of the grandparents.

Who are 80 plus.

I wanted to die.

I don't know what made the family laugh harder:  that I'd given away my bedroom secrets or my own reaction to having given them away!

What's your most embarrassing mistake?  Go on, see if you can top that one.  Bet you can't.

27 February, 2011

Final Inburgering Roundup

So, it's been a couple of months now since I finished my course, and I must say that it's lovely having my life back to myself again!  I had initially planned to go on immediately to study Staatsexamen I and II, but decided to give myself a break for a while and just be myself.  I might pick it up again next year.

There are a couple of bits and pieces that I have to share about finishing the course that you may find interesting...  The first is that upon being told I was geslaagd, I was invited to a graduation ceremony which was conveniently held on Christmas Eve in Amsterdam, so I couldn't go.  In the letter describing the ceremony it was made clear that I could instead collect my diploma at the IB Groep location where I took my exams between the friendly hours of 10 and 4 on a Thursday.  As you can imagine, I still  haven't been to pick it up two months later.  I really must make some arrangements to either get it sent to me or to take the afternoon off work to pick it up (I can imagine how flexible the IB Groep will be, so I guess it's off to Amsterdam for the day).

On a good (great, fantastic actually) note, the gemeente called me out of the blue a few weeks ago to offer their congratulations and to let me know that I qualified for a bonus!  A nice tidy little 200 euro bonus to be exact!  Tax free, deposited directly into my account which was an absolutely wonderful end to the entire experience!

Now that it's all said and done and I'm finished with my obligation I can sit back and reflect upon it all.  Initially I was resentful of the process as I don't plan to live here permanently and I was quite happy staring at the walls at family gatherings, not to mention the seriously unuser-friendly process that getting integrated involves.  For instance, I still shake my head at the gemeente contact person insisting on speaking Dutch when I couldn't communicate with her and she could speak perfectly good English, but I'm glad that the process forced me to become more involved and self-reliant.  I don't avoid answering the telephone any more.  I'm not terrified when a stranger approaches me.  I can even argue over a restaurant bill (it's only in the Netherlands where arguing over a bill is expected ..!).  It gives me a good feeling to hear praise from Dutchies complimenting me on my language skills, although they are always astounded as to why an Australian would possibly want to live in the Netherlands (but hey, perhaps they haven't seen the news in the last couple of months).

So what now?  In May I will  have lived here continuously with Maarten for three years, so will qualify to become naturalised.  It's not something that I really want to do as I really strongly identify with being an Australian and couldn't possibly imagine being anything but.  However, I am concerned about the ever-shifting goal posts of the Dutch Government's integration policies and have absolutely no desire to be pulled back up because they decide down the line that what I've already done is insufficient.  Plus, having an EU passport means I can travel everywhere within the EU without visa hassles and long queues at the "All Other Passports" immigration points.  I can even live in another country, and who knows what might happen in the future...?

More than anything though, I have really loved writing about the whole experience.  So, although the main purpose of this blog is finished with, I think I'll keep it going.  I love reading all the experiences of the many other wonderful expat bloggers (over there on the right are some of my absolute faves), so I think I'm going to join the ranks and start writing about life and fun in general.  Lord knows I've had enough adventures to share, and this will be a healthy place to vent at the very least ;)  It means I'm going to have to figure out how to tidy everything up and give the place a bit of a lift, but a change is as good as a holiday, right?

Ok, let's get properly integrated.

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