Yes friends, it’s time again for the official, rarely-imitated-so-accordingly-rarely-duplicated annual check-up. Actually, it was time a few weeks ago, but I mean: what is time, really? Think about that for a minute.
Anyway, I moved to the Netherlands back in September of 2014, which means we’ve just celebrated our second anniversary. (Gefeliciteerd, Nederland!) Let’s take a look at how things went this past year.
(If you want to compare, the first year’s report is here.)
Due in large part to the class, my language skills have improved drastically since this time last year. Everyone keeps telling me I’m doing really well, while simultaneously discouraging me from learning Dutch “around here.” Why? Because according to them, people in this part of the Netherlands talk “like farmers.”
Number one, pick a lane: do you want me to learn your language or not?
Number two, I have no problem sounding like a Dutch farmer. Of course, right now, I just sound like an American midwesterner trying to sound like a Dutch farmer — but you know, that’s okay with me, too. There’s no “proper” or “right” way to speak a language, so long as you can communicate effectively with others. That’s the part I’m going to focus on.
I’ve finished with the classes now, but I continue to study independently and practice, practice, practice. There’s no any way around it when you live in this part of the country — which segues nicely into part two.
Small-Town Living and Meet-Ups
Something that’s helped a great deal this year is joining some online communities and going to meet-ups. It’s been a huge boost to my mental and emotional well-being to connect with other foreigners on occasion; each time, I come away with the comforting reminder that I am not alone — and no matter what may be happening here, the world keeps on spinning.
My first meet-up experience was late in 2015, at a joint event for two twitter chats: #CultureTrav and #JAchat. (For more on these and what on earth a twitter chat is, check out this fantastic round-up from Global Brunch.) We met at the Hoxton Hotel in Amsterdam, who graciously provided us with a private space off the restaurant to use for the evening. The staff was absolutely lovely, and they served my champagne in the most badass glass. (Seriously; it was great to meet everyone and all, but I think this champagne was the highlight of my night.)
— Emily Melcher (@emdashedblog) December 3, 2015
— Savannah Grace (@Sihpromatum) December 3, 2015
Early this year, I attended another event for a third twitter chat, #TRLT. This one took place at the Grand Karel V Hotel in Utrecht — easily the most bizarre and unique hotel I’ve ever been in, and the first in Utrecht to receive a five-star rating. (Kind of made me wish I hadn’t gotten lost in the rain and shown up looking like I’d fallen into the canal.)
After we completed the chat, we spent several more hours hanging out and swapping stories while the staff brought out dish after dish of food and poured glass after glass of wine.
Later in the summer, I returned to Utrecht, this time to hang out with some women from the Female Travel Bloggers group on facebook. We met at Firma Pickles for burgers, then took advantage of the rare sunny day to stroll around the city and have a drink by the canal.
This was my first blogger-specific meet-up; it was also the first time someone asked me why I moved to the Netherlands, and then stopped me partway through to say, “Oh, right — I read your post about that!”
(For a bit more on this past summer and what I got up to round the Netherlands, check out my summer 2016 wrap-up.)
At Christmas, Simon and I headed to Hamburg for a few days. We mostly went to stuff our faces at the Christmas market, but we also took some time to explore the city and climb this really big tower. Before going home, we made a detour out to Lübeck for an afternoon.
And of course: we finally took our long-awaited trip to Minnesota! This was my first time back in the US in nearly four years, and Simon’s first time ever, so it was a pretty big deal. We had three weeks and were determined to use the time well; at this point, it’s safe to say Simon has seen as much of my home state as I have. (Yes, I’m being intentionally vague because I’ve got some blog posts on Minnesota coming up. You caught me.)
And finally: if you haven’t noticed yet, the blog name has changed! Things have gotten a little less European and a little more named-after-me — and, of course, the punctuation mark.
(Already forgotten the previous name? Don’t worry about it. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.)
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I still don’t like cycling.
Year three: you’re up.