Last time I lived in Holland, I took a Dutch class in hopes of poking a hole or two in that guttural wall of noise otherwise known as the Dutch language. I signed up with the British Language Training Center for a rather expensive 12 week course and met many well to do English speaking Expats, several of which have remained friends. Although I only learned enough Dutch at the time to confidently order a cup of tea, or express a few niceties, it gave me a foundation that helped over the following seven years to understand soundbites of what my husband was saying to his Dutch family and friends on the telephone.
When our son was born in 2007, my husband spoke the mysterious Dutch babble to our son, and it became perfectly clear that I needed to decipher this babble before the two of them had a secret code language. “Let’s go outside and throw dirt clods at birds.” Just think what that might sound like in Dutch. I certainly had no idea.
I broke out the Dutch books and in fits and starts, started plodding my way through the lessons. Eventually, in 2009, I decided to take another Dutch class in California, and after trying out a beginner’s course, somehow managed my way into a conversational Dutch class with a banker and a real estate agent as classmates.
That next year, after being laid off, the idea that we might relocate to Holland started to percolate through our conversations, and I became even more motivated to learn. Yet, our class was so informal, and the sun so vibrant in our beautiful digs of Santa Barbara, California, that I rarely got around to opening my books.
Little did I imagine that I would soon experience total immersion into the Dutch culture and language, thrown to the wolves. We decided just before Thanksgiving (late November 2010) to move to Holland the following month. There’s no time to study when you’re packing up your whole life, parcing out to friends the things you like but can’t store or bare to give to strangers, making bags for the goodwill, closing accounts, not to mention saying goodbye to friends and family.
On New Year’s Eve 2010, we got off the plane in Schiphol airport and were warmly embraced by the Van der Bom clan, who helped take us and our eight suitcases to Den Haag. Hence the beginning of my true life as an Expat who must REALLY learn the Dutch language, not play around with it like a cute little hobby.
Coming up next: cultures within the culture and my shock in my new Nederlands course