Friday, 21 November 2014

A stranger in the Netherlands

Today's blog is coming to you from the Netherlands where I'm visiting for a few days. While it is lovely to catch up with family and old friends, I'm feeling rather out of place. Not only is it a lot colder and greyer than the Côte d'Azur, but it feels just all round a bit alien. I left my native country about 24 years ago. I've visited regularly so all the changes have been introduced in small doses, but in the last few years I've come to realise that my own country is now firmly ''abroad''
I speak the language, apart from some new words that have joined the vocabulary like ''appen'' a verb meaning using an app(lication) but I'm not part of the culture anymore. I don't know the politicians, celebrities and current affairs. So am I still Dutch?

Working with many nationalities at the airport we often discuss national traits. During a training course the other week some of my french colleagues were lamenting the fact that Russian customers are so unsmiling and dour. One of my Belorussian colleagues explained that when you work you are expected to be serious and often her countrymen are taken aback by all these inane smiling shop assistants. Customs are changing as the world population travels more and more. Now and then these days you get a friendly smile back, but maybe just out of pity; ''oh how sweet this care in the community, letting these poor souls work at the airfield''

So what have I noticed here as a foreign observer? Firstly to take great care on the motorway, some Dutch drivers are the most reckless, impatient and aggressive drivers about. Don't be surprised to be overtaken on the left and the right at great speed while the motorist flashes their lights. Luckily there are also some light moments when I enjoyed the dry humour of the train driver. First he announced we were being delayed by a red sign. he finished by saying:
''we will be on our way when the light changes''
after a short pause he added
"that moment has now arrived" resulting in some giggles.
The delay was only five minutes on an hour journey, I shrugged my shoulders and thought this was not bad at all. (excuse the stereo type, but at least they weren't on strike! we are having our fill of that in France at the moment.) but for the impatient dutch this was already worth a sigh.
Yes I'm definitely a foreigner here, but nobody would know. I'm a tall blond alien observing your customs.