Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? I know I didn’t really have a clear vision. First I wanted to be a ballet dancer or an opera singer (neither very likely). Later, books inspired me to become a nurse or a missionary or even a nun in Africa, combining the two. When I had to decide what to study at university, I chose library studies with medieval history because I loved libraries and reading and could imagine myself as a children’s librarian. What I really, secretly dreamed of however, was of studying French and becoming a translator and living abroad because translation was the one piece of homework I looked forward to doing and I seemed to have a flair for it. Sadly, my teenage self lacked the self-confidence to try and the careers advisor assured me that there were enough French-English bilinguals to make my dream a long shot. So I aimed lower, and I’ve regretted it ever since. Especially as several of my schoolfriends did go on to study French then either did a Master’s in something more practical (including one who did a Master’s in Librarianship – why didn’t I think of that?) or found a job in administration, banking, IT or the tourist industry. In fact, of the girls who went to school with me, there’s probably not one who is working in the field they graduated in! But I digress.
Fast forward 25 years and one of my hats is that of freelance translator and proofreader. Not of French but of Dutch, and I’m living in a foreign country. Again, not France but the Netherlands. Why I never expected to live in a country whose language I hadn’t learned at school, I don’t know, but there you have it. The strange thing is, looking back over my life, I could have guessed the Netherlands would be the country for me; the signs were clear from my early childhood, if only I’d read them correctly.
11 reasons my destiny was Dutch
- My piggy bank was in the shape of a windmill. Wish I still had it.
- As a child, the only foreigner I had ever met was Dutch (except for exchange students).
- That strange gutteral language I could hear on my tranny was Dutch, possibly even the pirate radio station Veronica. If only I’d known how cool I was being as I turned the dial, trying to find Radio 1!
- I was fascinated by the tale of the Dutch and their polders which our primary school class listened to on the school radio series ‘Man’. Even better, we listened to ‘The Wheel on the School‘ by Meindert de Jong, with the wonderful tale of a village which collaborates to entice storks to nesting on the roof of the village school.
- Foreign cheese was only for dinner parties way back then. For us children of the 1960s, it was Cheddar or the exotic Edam, with its waxy red covering, perfect for lunchtime modelling sessions. At primary school, my mother gave me a chunk of Edam wrapped in greaseproof paper and a thermos flask of hot chocolate for morning break. My first childish love letter was written on greaseproof paper!
- I used to pass a giant Heineken sign on the way to and from senior school, back when the slogan was “Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach“.
- Our family didn’t own a car, but we did all have bicycles, a great Dutch tradition.
- My favourite song on Family Choice was ‘Windmill in Old Amsterdam (I Saw a Mouse)’. Listen to it below.
- I used to eat my chips (french fries) with salad cream, inspired by a Blue Peter visit to Amsterdam (or possibly Brussels) where they ate friet met mayo. Being British, we didn’t have mayonnaise so Heinz salad cream to the rescue!
- Dreamland, a permanent funfair in Margate, the coastal resort where I grew up, was bought by the Dutch Bembom Brothers – and one of my childhood friends married one of the brothers, to boot.
- The most compelling sign of all? Before I was old enough to object, my mother dressed me in a pinafore dress with a design of a little Dutch girl and boy in clogs, carrying tulips. How Dutch can you get?
Did you have any signs that you were going to live in the Netherlands (or the country where you’re living as an expat)? Or were all the signs pointing in another direction entirely?
I’ve added this post to the June 2015 Expat Life link party. Click on the picture above for more great expat blogs.