I’d assumed that public libraries were something that would be the same here as in England, but that’s not the case. It’s not so much the practical details, as the underlying philosophy. Firstly there is a membership charge for those over 18 (~£50 a year). Then the standard loan period is for weeks, which can be extended by a further two weeks and if you want the book longer than that there is a weekly charge (~£1). So not an overdue fine, but a charge for keeping a book longer. In practice I’m sure it works the same, but mentally completely different. And a difference I want expecting!
It’s funny starting to learn a language as an adult; however much you can deride most language learning at schools in the UK, it’s difficult to replicate. And it takes a long time to get vocabulary and grammar to a level that’s good enough to be able to have a conversation. Ie most is instinctive and you’re not trying to engender how to conjugate verbs.
Dutch is an interesting language – I keep getting told how difficult it is! One hindrance is that I don’t know German, especially for sentence structure 🙂 I find it a confusing mix of words spelt same, but said differently (eg water, mayonnaise) and words spelt differently, but said (almost) the same (eg huis/house, beer/bear).
I did find this quote about learning Dutch, which made me laugh:
“We readily picked up enough Dutch to make ourselves understood… This language, which looks so hard at first, is only a sort of polarized English. Puzzle over it a little while and it jumps into your comprehension like one of those simple cryptograms made by running together all the words of a sentence and then dividing in the wrong places.” From The clock that went backward by Edward Paige Mitchell.
My one hour lesson a week means it’s going to take a while before I’m confident taking to people, but I think I’m making progress!
If you’d asked me before we moved I would have said the UK was a child-friendly place. But it’s nothing compared to what I’ve experienced here!
For example, shopping. Taking a small child shopping is often fraught with cries, whines, complaints, grumps, sulks etc. And with two that’s even more likely. In England when that happened other people would either ignore what was going on or look at you disapprovingly. Here they coochy-coo and talk to the children to try to entertain them while you get on with what you need to do. It’s a completely different attitude.
As another example, from when we first arrived we had to register with the municipality. When we did this we got given a welcome pack and my son was handed a small rubber duck – the pack contained one, and as we have two children we were given a second so they didn’t fight over it. This was without us asking for it, or even realising it was in there.
And I’ve already lost count of the number of times we’ve been in a baker’s and my son’s been offered a bread roll. Or in the butcher’s and he’s been given some cooked sausage.
And yet, none of these are seen as unusual. Why are the attitudes so different?
So, it’s three weeks since we arrived and we’re starting to fell like we’re getting sorted and finding our way about. Here’s a brief summary of what we’ve been doing:
– nearly all the boxes are unpacked
– bedrooms and bathrooms are pretty much sorted, and we have a new bed
– the middle floor (kitchen, dining & sitting areas) has most things in about the right places
– basement (playroom) is slightly chaotic, but getting there!
– books are all on shelves, but in the order they came out of the boxes so they need some organisation (& more shelves!)
– toy storage is improving, but needs more thought & boxes
– have a shiny new washing machine & tumble dryer
– taught my husband how to use a dishwasher
– put up coat hooks and some shelves
– been thoroughly confused by how the lights work & which switch does what
– finding our way round the town, including to the tip to get rid of cardboard boxes & our closest IKEA
– got new phones & tried to set up utilities (still waiting to hear back from them)
– bought some clothes from C&A like we used to as kids, when it still existed in the UK
– can say “do you speak English?” in Dutch so that people reply to me in Dutch – no really, I don’t speak Dutch!
– becoming regulars at a couple of cafes with free WiFi 😉
– registered at the town hall
– got a bank account
– created a new game of automated phone menu lucky dip, as our Dutch can’t really cope with that!
– started getting to know the neighbours, and they’re being very helpful
– found some groups and activities to do with the children during the week
– working out which are the best play areas near the house
– finding our way round the local supermarket – we’ve had sausages out of a jar, but drew the line at herring!
– have developed a liking for speculoos (thanks Sarah!!)
– bought bikes, which is terrifying cycling with two bike seats with children in…
– had two days out, away from sorting, to the zoo and the railway museum
– had our first visitors; actually two lots, at the same time! Joy that we have the space to mean that was possible 😀
Things still to do:
– once we’ve been connected to glass fibre we will get our internet access at home set up
– also need to buy a TV before that
– fridge freezer is due to be delivered soon, which will mean we can do a big shop and stock up on food
– the handyman organised by the landlord should come this week to sort out the few bits and bobs that need attention
– put up pictures and other decoration bits
– need to get shoe racks & a filling cabinet, as well as more bookcases
– find a nursery/start thinking about schools (eek!)
– learn Dutch!!!
So all in all it’s starting to feel like home and I think I’m about ready for my first week with the children on my own, so here goes…
Thinking about our move I’m realising that so many of our cultural references are related to the stories we learnt as children; whether that’s from books, films, TV or anywhere else. Which has made me think about what this move means for our children and the future implications it will have for them. They’re going to be brought up in between – neither British nor Dutch. It’s weird enough to think that they won’t remember living in Milton Keynes, but what stories will the children remember? Identify with? Also, what of our childhood favourites do we want to make sure they know? Along with Thomas the tank engine, Peter rabbit and the gruffalo, what new stories & characters will we learn?