29 September, 2011

Learning the Lingo

If you've read this blog before, you'll already know that most of it is centered around my trials and tribulations with the language (and culture) of my adopted homeland.  So this one won't really be out of the ordinary.

This week's Xpat Blog Hop is all about language and learning the native tongue of the land you live in.  When I first moved to the Netherlands, I had absolutely no intention of learning Dutch.  Aside from being able to order a beer and catch the bus, I didn't care.  This was only going to be a short term solution and I would be out of here, back in the land of the Cashed Up Bogan (or Australia, as you may better know it as) within a couple of years.  Why waste the energy right?  Plus, Maarten was perfectly happy that I didn't speak Dutch.  Let's face it, his English is almost as good as mine.  It's probably best left unmentioned that he speaks German, Spanish and a bit of French as well.

However, there was always a pesky little voice in the back of my head shaming me and my lack of Dutch.  I was always embarrassed to answer "18 months" when asked how long I've been living here.  It was made worse by the constant "How's your Dutch?" questions.  Perhaps it was because my sensitivity to the topic was so enhanced, but it felt like every single time I would meet a new person, it would be the second question they asked me (after "Why move to Holland?!).

Then The Summons arrived and I was expected to front up for inburgering at the local city council office, and was dragged pretty much kicking and screaming to classes.  It took me eight months to pass the integration course, and almost that long again to find the time to collect my diploma!  But the big question is, how has it affected my life?

I'm not going to sugar coat it, learning Dutch was (who am I kidding, IS!) hard.  Especially as a native English speaker with limited second language exposure.  I did study French and Indonesian at school, but never to levels high enough to exist in those countries in my opinion.  The grammar is about face, the sentences are back to front, and just ask any immigrant to the Netherlands how many times a Dutchie has insisted they pronounce "Scheveningen" for kicks!

However, the rewards have been endless.  I can actually have a conversation with Maarten's non-English grandparents without breaking into a cold sweat (this was one thing that kept me going in the days I was really struggling).  Same goes for talking to little Dutch kids.  I'm going through as much of my midwife appointments speaking only Dutch as I can.  Now I receive compliments about my Dutch.  But, by far the biggest compliment for me is having a Dutch continue conversation with me as normal when I speak in Dutch.  There are no hesitations, no switching to English, no smart remarks about my accent (I have been told I sound like Princess Maxima, brag brag), just conversation.  

Learning to speak Dutch has enriched my life no end, I don't regret it for a second.  I just wish I was better at it.  I'll get there.

02 September, 2011

How many of these have you read?

I was over having a sticky beak at  A Drop in the Bucket just now and I noticed a link called 100 books.  As an enormous book lover, this list really intrigued me.  I wanted to see how many I have actually read.  There was an original list posted on The Guardian website a few years ago, and it seems to have started a load of Facebook groups dedicated to the list and a series of bloggers really ran with it a while back.  Clearly I'm not up with the times, but it interests me all the same.

Now, if it had been a lis of Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth, Matthew Reilly and the like, I would have scored full marks.  But alas, I'm quite embarrassed that I haven't read some of these classics, such as 1984 or Animal Farm, for example.

BOLD = read.  
ITALICS - unfinished

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (May 2011)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (half way through)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (high school)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (junior high/high school)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I made it to 46, plus a few that I just couldn't finish, like Atonement.  Snore!  And, have I really not read Oliver Twist or Moby Dick?  I must have, but have no recollection...

How many of the list have you read?  And which is your favourite?  If I were my friend Annie, I would say Jane Eyre.  She reads it at least once a year.  Me, I loved A Catcher in the Rye, and Catch 22.  And the Narnia books.  Honestly, I think I loved all of the books that I have read on the list.

01 September, 2011

It's that time of week

Expat Blog Hop time, that is.

This week's topic is:

What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to when you moved to your new country? What tips would you give for new people arriving?

The obvious answer is of course, having to make new friends.  But, I bang on about that old chestnut all the time, so instead I'll think of something else.


The weather?  No.  Again, too tiresome to read about, especially after we've just gone through the wettest summer on record here in the Netherlands.

Although it was not necessarily the hardest thing to adjust to, driving on the opposite side of the road has been a big challenge.  Not that I drive.  I'm too tight to fork out the thousand plus euros to start again when it comes to getting my driver's license.

Working as a tour guide it would  crack me up every single time a European tried getting on the wrong side of the bus, until my very first trip to the Netherlands where I stepped off the plane and tried to get into the driver's seat of Maarten's car.  He *might* have fallen over laughing at me.  It took me a while to get used to, and then the first day on the road back in Australia I managed to pull up at a round a bout on the wrong side of the road!  And, what actually made me think of this topic as a major challenge:  yesterday evening I tried to get into the driver's seat again!  I haven't done that for about three years!  I'm putting it down to being a tired, pregnant woman.  That'll work as an excuse, won't it?

Then came the next weird concept - giving way to the right.  Hang on, in Australia we drive on left and give way to the right, but in the Netherlands we drive on the right and also give way to the right?  Absolutely doesn't make sense.  Surely the rules should be opposite, right?  Right?!

Instead drivers are always (supposed to be) on the look out for cars and bicycles who will nip around a corner in front of them at any given moment because they have right of way (except in controlled conditions, of course).  Being a nervous passenger (it's the cause of many, many arguments, poor Maarten) I'm always stomping on my imaginary brakes and grabbing whatever I can to brace! brace!  Maybe the fear would go away if I drove, but I think it has more to do with us owning such a small car.  There's no way that it would come out of any crash unscathed.

And then there's the freeway antics!  The tailgating, swerving in and out of lanes, cutting people off, the excessive speed, the horrendous traffic jams.  It astounds me that the road death toll is so low.  Having said that, I think Dutch drivers are all in all more competent than their Australian counterparts.  More vigilant, don't hog the middle/fast lane unnecessarily, can handle more varied situations better.  Until, of course they find themselves on an open road in The Outback....

So, whilst not the hardest thing to adjust to, being on the wrong side of the road has been a big adjustment.

My big tip for newbies (from countries unused to driving on the right side of the road, or from outside Europe), don't panic when a car suddenly pulls out in front of you, chances are they actually have right of way!

What we are talking about

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...