Tot ziens, Nederland!

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Exams are over, Oegstgeest is beautifully sunny, and I write this while procrastinating my masses of packing that I still need to do… Thank goodness for a boyfriend who’s going to be looking after the majority of my stuff since there’s no way on EARTH I can get it all out of here in one go. He’s also babysitting my beloved little fiets (bike to you non-Nederlanders) since everyone and their mums are selling their bikes right now, and no-one wants mine! Since this is my THIRD bike since arriving in this country nine months ago, I didn’t want to sell it for a tiny amount of money, which is probably part of the reason. Hint to any of you who are coming to Holland next semester- do NOT buy the tiny little thin locks they sell at the bike sales for about 3E- invest in a ridiculously large one that looks like it could hold a tank down in an earthquake. It’s worth it in the long run- SO many people I know have had bikes stolen because of these terrible little locks! I think I said this before, but I can’t reiterate it enough!!

So, what have I gained from my Erasmus year? Well, aside from a smattering of Dutch which I like to throw in with my English from time to time (boyfriend and I sometimes end up speaking an incomprehensible combination of 4 languages together), here are my hints for “blending with the Dutch”, a knowledge accumulated over my time here 😉

Having lived in the Netherlands for 9 months now, I like to think I can at least slightly pretend to be Dutch, even if only until I open my mouth. And provided I don’t wear hoodies. Never wear a hoodie. Specially oversized. Since these were my staple in Scotland, I’m dying on the inside… but anyway.

01. As a girl, there seems to be a set unofficial uniform. It seems to contain a perfectly fitting blazer, a perfectly fitting leather jacket and an abundance of neutral colours. As for scarves- wear ’em with everything. The more of your face it covers the better (I swear during winter they were having some kind of big scarf contest). If your hair looks the same before and after you cycle into a rainstorm, you’re on the right track. (I’m so jealous)

02. Cycling! Quickest tool there is, as long as you can do everything on it. I mean everything. Only wimps dismount to text/make a phonecall/kiss goodbye/put on a sweatshirt/walk their Shetland pony. Yes, I’ve really seen that last one.

03. On the same note, everything can be carried on a bike, whether you have the necessary basket or bunjee straps or not. Weirdest I’ve seen being transported by fiets- a door. Y’know, the kind you’d find between your bathroom and your hallway. Wee frosted window at the top, handle, hinges…. on a bike.

04. Figure out how to say “koffie” with a Dutch accent. I’ve yet to manage- I can be speaking a while before in Dutch and get responded back to in Dutch, but as soon as a coffee is mentioned, they flip back to English. Water’s a tricky one too- that gets me responses in German. Which is worse, since I don’t speak German.

05. Speaking Dutch, it seems to be totally acceptable to use English expletives or other slang. As long as it’s in a Dutch-ish accent. “Ohmygod, mijn fiets is kapot”, for example. My personal favourite I’ve heard was “echte freaky”.

06. Those wonderfully weird phonemes. If you can’t pronounce the Dutch g (Scottish “ch” at the end of “loch”) and live in the Randstad… good luck. My Portuguese/French boyfriend has terrible difficulty with it, which is super inconvenient since I live in a place called Oegstgeest.

Now, what’s next? Two months in Lyon (nothing to do with University, but arranged while I was here) and then back to Edinburgh for one final year. Scary thoughts, but what a great penultimate year it’s been! Best of luck all of you away next year and I hope the next one of you in Leiden do some blogging too so I can catchup on the gossip 😉

Mary

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