My First Year in the Netherlands

Autumn in Dedemsvaart

Despite my best efforts (which, admittedly, were quite pathetic, and generally restricted to “wishing and hoping summer would last forever”), autumn has arrived here in the Netherlands. I am of two minds about it.

On one hand, I have never been a fall person. You know fall people; they’re the ones who start posting about pumpkin spice lattes on August 15th and hold big leaves up for instagram photos. Other than my geeky affinity for school, fall has always represented one thing to me: the imminent onset of winter. Which, in Minnesota, means several months of ice and snow, and around three people per day telling you, “What, this? Nah, it’s gonna get way worse.”

On the other hand: fall always makes everything look so god damn magical.

Autumn in Dedemsvaart

Autumn in Dedemsvaart

If you’re keeping track at home, autumn also means I’ve been in the Netherlands, and Dedemsvaart, for one whole year. I noticed myself because apparently, everyone Simon knows was born in September and October; and as the invitations for birthday gatherings poured in, I caught myself thinking, “Didn’t we already do this one?” (Charming, I know.)

Autumn in Dedemsvaart

Autumn in Dedemsvaart

Anyways, I figured one year in is a good time to grade myself on my progress. I’ve picked a few categories to rate myself on below.

1. Language.
Most of the time, I still can’t understand 90% of what people say unless they’re talking really slow. However, I can read subtitles (which are probably the most basic Dutch you can find outside of books targeted at 4-year-olds) and the other day, I successfully identified an accent as “weird.” (Or, as Simon clarified, “Belgian.”)

      Grade: 50/100. I’ve made good progress, but I still speak mostly English.

2. Small talk with strangers.
Dutch people allegedly think it’s weird to engage in polite conversation with people you don’t know. I had zero problem cutting this one out (because all I knew was “alsjeblieft” and “dankjewel” to begin with, anyway) but it’s been somewhat complicated by the small-town aspect. I’m not expected to talk about the weather with strangers, but I am expected to…wave to them as they drive by and honk at me, even if I have no clue who they are?

      Grade: 75/100. I don’t wave at people who honk at me.

3. Bicycle riding.
I will still only cycle in Dedemsvaart and I reckon it’s a solid five years before I’ll even consider trying to do it in Amsterdam. (In five years, I will vehemently deny I ever said such a thing.) But given that before my arrival in the Netherlands, I hadn’t ridden a bike for 10 or 15 years, I’d say I’m doing pretty well.

      Grade: 100/100. Because, why not, these numbers don’t really mean anything.

Overall: 225/300. If this were the American school system, I’d get a C. (We can’t all be overachievers.)

Autumn in Dedemsvaart

As a sidenote: whenever I wander around Dedemsvaart with my camera, I wonder if people think I’m a bit weird. Or possibly casing the joint for my next jewel heist. The other day, I asked Simon about this, and his response was, “Probably.” #smalltownproblems

Autumn in Dedemsvaart

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