Naomi Todd – Groningen

Hi, I’m Naomi, and just over a month ago I was in rural Scotland, working in a small café in that terrible tourist-trap that is Callander and splitting my free time between family and friends.

 And then I was in Amsterdam.

 I was on a Dutch language course, not the most obvious thing to do, as (in the words of Eddie Izzard) “the Dutch speak four languages and smoke marijuana”, but a desire to at least have some flimsy grasp of the language, plus the obvious appeal of three weeks in Amsterdam and the fact that the course wouldn’t have to be paid for out of my own pocket (oh Erasmus, how I love thee) was enough to win me over.

 So there I was, in Amsterdam, evidently somewhat bewildered, as on my first day I got lost for an hour trying to find the language school and attended the wrong class for an entire day without noticing (the prevalence of middle-aged businessmen and lack of students should perhaps have clued me in to my mistake). During my three weeks there, I like to think that I wised up slightly and learned a number of things, including;

 1)      A small amount of Dutch. The phrase that I’ve been getting the most use out of is “een biertje, graag”(one beer, please) modified slightly after being informed on my first night in Groningen that saying graag (please) is really far too polite. Oh, and “gezellig” which is an awesome word mainly due to the apparent confusion as to what it means. The usual response from anyone Dutch when asked seems to be a shrug and “ its kind of like cosy…but not really…its very dutch.” Of course, “its very Dutch” is an adequate response for just about anything. Natuurlijk.

2)       Don’t put electronics in a bag also containing cans of beer. The beer has a knack for escaping, and beer kills phones and iPods dead, as I was less than pleased to discover.

3)      Not to ride around Amsterdam at night on a friends borrowed bike, bought for €10 and accurately nicknamed “The Automatic Green Bicycle of Death”. The combination of no brakes, gears that changed by themselves and obeyed no logic in doing so and no lights made for a terrifying journey.

4)      Being Scottish can come in handy sometimes. Like when you end up having to distract drunk and rowdy Glaswegians with your shared heritage. Randomly coming across people who’d been to Doune in the middle of the night in Amsterdam was not something I’d expected.

5)      Three weeks isn’t really long enough to spend in a fascinating city with a group of really quite wonderful fellow students.

 It felt like a bit of a shame to leave Amsterdam, just when I was getting into the swing of things, but I already have the feeling that Groningen shall capture my heart with the same fervour. Given that there’s so many new, interesting people to meet, a wonderfully charming city and so much to do, I hardly think that there’s any alternative.

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