Since I’ve moved to Maastricht, I’ve been trying my best to adjust to European life, but a month here and I’m still a little bit lost–quite literally. There is still a small section of the inner city that is filled with narrow cobblestoned streets that all end with “-straat” that makes it impossible for me to find my way around.
I find myself at least once day doing something a little bit stupid or embarrassing–and not succeeding at being Dutch. This is true for even simple things like buying groceries at the supermarket. In the dairy section, there are four types of milk; one of them is basically yogurt, another is something similar to buttermilk, and the remaining two are traditional milk. My first time buying groceries I had no idea which to get, so I ended up taking home the buttermilk one. It was a bit of a nasty shock the next morning when I tried to drink it straight from the glass.
The wonderful thing about all the Dutch people who I’ve met so far is that they find my fascination with these small cultural differences endearing instead of annoying.
The hardest thing for me to adjust to was giving up my Wrangler back home for a bike. If I hadn’t needed to ride my bike to work last year, then I would have been completely hopeless–not to say that I’m particularly good at it. I still pray that a car isn’t going to hit me every time I cross the street and curse during every ride along a bumpy cobblestoned street. I haven’t quite mastered how to remain effortlessly gorgeous after cycling for fifteen minutes to your destination like the Dutch natives, but I’m hopeful that I’ll get there.
The wonderful thing about all the Dutch people who I’ve met so far is that they find my fascination with these small cultural differences endearing instead of annoying. Locals in many of the other countries that I’ve visited have casted off my dumbfounded expressions when I find a bidet in a bathroom. In my first week, I mentioned to my roommate how funny it was that we had one. She replied with a laugh saying, “If I ever use it, it’s to wash my feet.”
When I go to the cashier to pay, I’ll attempt to use the few phrases of Dutch that I know. If someone here recognizes my accent, he/she will immediately switch to English to make the conversation easier for me. People will politely laugh with you while you’re making mistakes, and not make a huge deal of your failures. Despite the fact that I’m still stumbling my way through the Netherlands, it’s nice to know that the people around me are kind enough to pick me up and continuously point me in the right direction.