“Wait, keep the door open!”
“Sorry?” he says, holding the industrial sliding door with his skate.
“Keep the door open, please, I have to get in.”
“Ah,” he sighs “so you do belong here.”
I can tell he just received the ‘keep off’ warning from my colleagues inside the warehouse. His expression clearly shows the aftereffects of the proverbial Dutch directness.
“Well, yes, I do” I look over at him, as if coming out of a dream “I work here.”
As I say it, the ups and downs of the last 10 (!!!) months kind of make sense. I’ve been pretty stressed out lately, mostly because I must find a house by the end of the summer and I’m nowhere close to moving into one. Rents are crazy high in Amsterdam, and there is an actual shortage of available places, considering that every month thousands of new people move into the city.
However, the thing that really pisses me off with the whole house-hunting drama is that I keep running into apartment ads saying “no internationals”. They state it casually, like if they were saying “no pets” or “no smoking”. It’s an authentic example of how Dutch people can say horrible things and still save face.
“I totally agree, expats are ruining this city” confirms a colleague, with whom I dared to open up after yet another failed attempt at renting a pricey shoe-box on the opposite side of the city.
What was I thinking looking for empathy in a Dutch person?
“Everything is great” I say when I call back home. “I’m making progress at work, I’m meeting new friends, and summer has finally kicked in.”
The truth is, I feel lonely. And outside it’s 13 degrees.
It’s true that I’m making progress at work, though, mostly because all the social interaction in the office happens in Dutch, and this allows me to cut out distractions. Even my lunch breaks are shorter.
I also know it will get better: after 5 months on the waiting list, I finally enrolled into Dutch classes. Again, there are thousands of people moving to Amsterdam every month. Even though I can see how this might be a problem for the ‘original Amsterdammers’, I’ll keep swearing it is not my fault. Please don’t blame me.
And please don’t roll your eyes if you see that I’m about to cry. It might seem to you that nothing has happened, but I’ve probably went through the whole day without anyone including me in any conversation – or I am in my PMS.
I often feel overrun, and apparently the solution –at least their solution– is embrace Dutch proverbial directness and stand up for myself. I can see how it might work for people unable to read the context and the subtext. However, even though I appreciate the effort of trying to introduce me to the basics of their culture, I’m still more confident saying nothing at all, expecting other people to figure out what I need and consequentially fullfill my expectations.
Sometimes, when I’m under pressure, I even say the opposite of what I think. You are then expected to read the cues and figure out that I actually meant a different thing. I’m not claiming that this method works, but that’s how I communicate, verbally.
“Everything is great” I say, grinning into the phone “How are things over there?”
ps. I’ve meant to update you regularly on my life in Amsterdam and, even though in part I did through my 1st-of-the-month newsletter, I totally failed in doing it here on the blog. This storytelling series (The Amsterdam Diaries) already lacks a ‘plot’ at its second chapter, and I don’t even have to come up with ‘the story’, since it is based on my life. I’ll try harder, I promise.
For now, let me make it up to you by updating the playlist of the series: