The Netherlands may be a small country but it’s one full of differences. It’s also one that borders other countries and since our move last month from the West of the Netherlands to the East I have discovered personally that hopping to the other side of the country brings with it changes – some big, some small.
Here’s some of those changes:
- I awake to the dulcet tones of a German radio presenter. My alarm clock tuner struggles to pick up a Dutch radio station loud and clearly.
- I have done a supermarket shop in Germany and had to quickly polish up my rusty German reading skills.
- My kids are learning German in school – even my youngest in group 3 has had German lessons.
- There’s a huge amount of space around us. The Randstad and the Achterhoek are worlds apart when it comes to population density.
- People seem much more relaxed about life in general – and it seems that it makes people a little more friendly and open. I think not living on top of each other helps with stress levels. My children have not been shouted at by any neighbours, simply because they are outside playing, since we moved and that certainly makes for more relaxed parenting and happier children.
- Accents differ across many countries but I didn’t realise that the Achterhoek had such a ‘distinguishable’ accent. I am once again feeling very foreign and uttering ‘wat zegt u?’ a lot…… We had one workman come to the house and even my Dutchie struggled with much of the conversation. If my dad drank rather a lot of whisky and I then asked him to speak Dutch to us I imagine it would be a replay of the conversation we had here with the workman.
- It’s not just the accent that is different, there are words used here that I have never heard used back in Zoetermeer. Once of those is aju. First time someone said it to me I was a little puzzled. Do what? It’s from adieu and means ‘dag‘, as in bye. My husband said they used it as kids but it faded from common use over Voorschoten way. I’d never heard it until I moved to the east of the country. Achterhoeks is a dialect that I am sure I will never master!
- Schuttersdag: We’ve experienced our first schuttersdag. Two of my sons walked in the procession holding signs for various regional groups. (The small compensation they received convinced them to take part…… ) I have no idea how regional/national these are but I am certainly another experience richer seeing the village kings and queens in all their finery for myself (these are the people who successfully shot the ‘bird’ at the village fairs). (Confused? You should be. Again, this is a blog post in itself).
- The sense of community is much stronger in my new home than where we lived in the West. The sparser population I mentioned means that people know each other and look out for each other. All three of my sons have joined the local football club – the groups they play in comprise of children from their school and that setup works well for our family. There were people in my street in Zoetermeer I had never spoken to (or even seen) even after 15 years living there. People were certainly more reserved and less community minded. There were also people there I wish I had had the good fortune not to ever have spoken to but that is another blog post in the making.