This blog has the potential to store all kinds of thoughts and experiences of living in Amsterdam, and yet I don’t seem to use it. I find myself using my facebook status to keep up with the major and minor happenings though there’s certainly not much elaboration there. So I’m going to make more of an effort.
I just spent a week at a language institute learning some cursory Dutch. I want to learn the language since I’m here and I’d worked it into my contract that my first month was supposed to be spent living with a Dutch family and taking lessons. That way I could get a jump on learning the culture too. Unfortunately, unlike South America where this is quite easy to do and I had such an amazing experience in Peru, the Dutch are not so keen to have strangers in their home. We were unable to find any family within 2 hours of Amsterdam. So I stayed in a corporate apartment the first month like I have for my past 2 moves and they sent me to the famous Regina Coeli language school, also known as “the nuns” as it used to be run by and is still owned by a convent.
From 8am when the bus departs the hotel until 9:15pm when it returns, you are at the school either in one on one lessons, sitting at a computer in a language lab, in a group lesson or doing your homework. I must say I think I learned the equivalent of one semester of a high school or college language class in five days, which is remarkable. But the program is extremely rigid and started to make my skin crawl by the 4th day when I learned how to say I want to kill myself in Dutch. I guess they did teach me how to teach myself as they promised.
I still have a long way to go, but I’m already finding that I can understand a bit of all agency emails and some words on items in the store that were previously a mystery to me. So now it’s on me to hire a tutor and bring children’s books to work so my colleagues can help me continue. They are all very enthusiastic about helping me so I really couldn’t ask for more. So I’m happy to report that you can learn a language after age 10.
The way the agency is set up here, about 95% are Dutch and only a handful are expats from the UK, Germany, US, Canada, Sweden, India and South Africa. I think that includes everyone. It’s fun to be novel as the only American and to learn how very American I am. So far I’ve found that making friends is easier here than any of my past moves. At least among the expats. Everyone else is uprooted too, so there’s no group of friends that they’ve had since the sandbox to go for drinks with on the weekends. The Dutch on the other hand are less likely to make friends with coworkers than other places I’ve worked. Collegas are collegas and friends are friends. I feel like my work friends are my friends, but we don’t hang out after work and that I’m told is typical. I have managed to make a few Dutch friends through introductions among my American friends via Facebook. Apparently the issue is they don’t want to spend all their time with work people but they aren’t against having American friends. Understandable I think.