This post is also available in Greek
The Netherlands is undoubtedly a country that you could live forever speaking English only. If though, for some reason, which we cannot imagine (?!), you don’t want or can’t learn the language, then just stay within the triangle of Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam and you will be fine, communication wise.
Naturally here as in any foreign land, if you really want to fit in, get more work opportunities, meet more people and get things done easier, it would be good that you be able to communicate about the basics in a short amount of time.
But really, do you need more than 1 reason to learn Dutch? After 18 months I am embarrassed that I know only the basics. I have to self sarcasm a lot of times that I find myself in a room filled with Dutch people and I can’t understand a word.
I can order without a problem the basics like tobacco, blue rizla, filter tips, say the necessary alstublieft and say no when they ask me if I want a receipt. But when the conversation strays away from familiar things and a question hits me, like “did you come by car? Do you have it on the parking lot?”, well, thats were I lose it. Learning like a parrot for the rest of my life?
How many times have you found yourself in a bus stop that has a sticker on it and you were waiting for so long, just because you couldn’t read the sticker that said that the bus will not be coming by?
How many times did you miss the train because the departing platform was changed at the last moment and you couldn’t understand what the announcer at the station was telling?
When the ask how long have you been here and you reply 18 months, they wonder how come you haven’t learned Dutch yet. What is your excuse? Money, time, mood, friends?
Paperwork and envelopes storm the house daily. Ghost invoices, taxes and more taxes, bills, advertisements, a daily tree chopped for mail. How much can you google translate till your hand starts to cramp?
If you happen to have your own business then you will need an accountant. Almost all the tax issues and letters are in Dutch. You can google translate the basics, the issue is, what will happen with the rest, that you can’t translate.
You got a problem on your Internet, cellphone, TV, anywhere?! You call the call center and you are faced with the first challenge! The menu is recorded in Dutch only. You half guess which number you need to press in order to reach the right department and get some service. If you decide not to go through the call center, you go by the actual shop, like you did in Greece and then they tell you that they can’t help you there, you need to call the call center!!!
You enter a taxi in the middle of the night (the one time you decided to use one) and you cannot tell the driver for about 5 minutes what your address is because he can’t understand it with your “beautiful” accent.
You are browsing for a house, car, boat, TV on the Internet and suddenly, google translate stops working! You give up or you slowly kill your F5 key refreshing every 2 seconds!
You go to print your CV and the PC at the shop has Windows 8. Dutch Windows 8!
A charming gentleman from the city hall shows up at your door at 8am, screaming betalen (a word you know very very well) and doesn’t speak a word of English!
Someone has to give you his email or his address over the phone and he has to spell it for you! Good luck sorting through the G, H and all the other letters that sound the same, or don’t!
Some kids are coming towards you and they want to pet your dog, so they talk to you and you stare back like an idiot. You know that they don’t speak a word of English, so what can you tell them?
Even the neighbors dog is wondering that you speak at him in a foreign language!
You could always talk Dutch with your friend in front of your family back in Greece without them understanding a word of what you are saying. The same thing that you already do here with your Greek friends. Useful?
The expression “I speak your language” that means, I understand you, isn’t only valid metaphorically. By speaking Dutch you become one with the place you live in, you understand the people around you and it starts to feel a bit more homey.
Photos by Moyan_Brenn, zoetnet, Images_of_Money, Joost Adelaar, sun dazed, Håkan Dahlström, California Cthulhu (Will Hart), dfarrell07, hyper7pro.