Expat Magazine

Memory Lane

By Clogsandtulips @clogsandtulips

Memory LaneAbout a month ago, I was on a bus with my parents heading from Utrecht Central Station to my apartment. I'd picked up the latest edition of De Pers, and was just settling down to catch up on the news when the clearly drunken Carnaval-goer in the seat behind me started talking to my dad. 

After telling him three times, in English, that he didn't understand what he was saying, I turned to the guy and told him that my father spreekt geen Nederlands.
The guy switched to English - surprisingly good for being half-baked - and we started talking about football. As we tried to explain to him that American football is not the same as European football, the a young couple on the opposite side of us chimed in to help.
Though he was clearly Dutch, she was American.
Soon, our drunken friend gave up on us, a bit too fuzzy to keep up with the English conversation, and a lively conversation began with the couple.
She had just recently come to the Netherlands from Tennessee to live with her Dutch boyfriend. Ever pressing her nose where it doesn't belong, my mother had exchanged my information with the girl and invited her to join the International Women's Contact of Utrecht seconds before we were to get off the bus.
Later that week, I had an email from my new acquaintance and we had planned a coffee date.
This is without a doubt, the first time I've been in a position to give advice and guidance, and as I listened to her story and her impression of the Netherlands, I began my trip down memory lane, seeing myself two years ago in this girl sitting across from me.
I remember when everything was so new, when I thought that I was the only one. In the beginning, I was so unsure on my bike, made even worse by the ever-present map in my hand, trying to stay upright as I navitated my way around my new city.
I remember hearing Dutch conversations and not having a clue what they meant, having to combine what little Dutch I knew with English and a game of charades to communicate what I wanted. When ordering a cup of coffee in Dutch filled me with an overwhelming sense of pride.
I remeber trying stroopwaffles, bitterballen, kroketten and frikadel for the first time. Getting used to foods tasting differently and the absense of things I was used to but couldn't find here.
I remember the relief I felt when I went to IWCU meetings. Being able to ask more experienced women where to shop, where to find work, how to get from A to B, how to do things, how to say things. Discovering that I was not alone in this.
After two and a half years, the Netherlands has begun to really feel like home. The language and the people are growing on me. I'm no longer able to detect a difference in the taste of Cola Light versus Diet Coke. In the time I've been here, I've found a career I love, I'm singing again, I'm making life-long friendships. Now I know my way around Utrecht better than my husband does.
I have no doubt that in two year's time, this girl will have found her place as well.
But until then, it felt great to be there for her, as so many had been there for me. And that trip down memory lane was such a wonderful one to take.

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