20 September, 2012

The Final Frontier

I've lived here in the Netherlands for more than four years now.  It blows my mind every single time I realise how much time has passed since I arrived.

Around this time last year I wrote about culture shock and how far I had progressed.  I had finally moved into the Adjustment phase and could finally behave like a normal human being again.  It took a long time, but I think I can finally truly say that I've moved into the final stage of culture shock - Mastery.

How did this come about?  In the last twelve to eighteen months I have been living my life outside our home almost entirely in Dutch except in two small but crucial places - the dentist and the hairdresser.  I was semi-confident when visiting the doctor; I could certainly make my ailments known well enough to walk out with more than paracetamol, but the idea of not being understood at the dentist and hairdresser terrified me.

But, it was crunch time.  Four years was long enough to carry the language crutch.  First up, the dentist.  I went in and immediately received a lecture about not going for so long (more than 18 months) and even though I had a lot of excuses to hand, I just explained that they were all that - excuses.  The dentist was happy with that, so it pays to be honest sometimes!  I had to have an old filling replaced, so it meant a second appointment.  Both the dentist and the assistant were reasonably impressed with my grasp of Dutch, so even though I had to go back for punishment I left with a spring in my step.

I still had to go to the hairdresser though.  I have a massive professional crush on my hairdresser, but she is so expensive I have been putting off going since January.  I was in desperate need of a haircut; I was beginning to look a bit like a cave woman, but I just didn't have the spare cash to go to my regular hairdresser.

So, I cheated.  I went into Brain Wash, a walk-in, no appointment salon in Almere.  I knew that the English skills in there are not fantastic, so I would be forced to speak Dutch and it worked!  I could get my point across and she could understand me and I came away very happy with my 15 euro trim!

You know what this means, right?  I'm finally fully integrated language-wise.  I'm not sure that I will ever be completely integrated (I'd still rather pay 2 euros to park rather than walk half an hour), but I think I'm as close as I will ever be.


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