I spent the last 2 weeks in the US visiting family. It was a wonderful time spent playing with kids, hanging out with family and all around enjoying life. In the back of my mind I was always thinking how much I loved home. I have lived in The Netherlands for nearly 10 years and I love it. As I was visiting the US I was constantly contrasting the US VS The Netherlands and The Netherlands was always the victor.
No Play areas in restaurants? Where we live…….
Constantly chasing your kids with disinfectant? In The Netherlands……….
UUGGHH! all this traffic! Do you know about our……….
It goes on and on (and probably in the opinion of my family, on and on and on and on).
I love it here. It’s great. I have chosen to call this little country home forever and I felt a bit superior about it all.
Then we came home. I was standing in Schipol and everyone around me was speaking Dutch.
Honestly, the reality of my struggles hit me like a ton of bricks. My life is amazing and I love it, but I suppose I had grown accustomed to being outside. My Dutch is passable but I struggle. No matter what a Dutch person will tell you (because they are, on the whole, a very accepting and amazing people) the language is a problem. Surprise, right!?!
I had spent 2 weeks in a world where strangers would chit-chat with me. Not just realize that I didn’t speak Dutch, repeat themselves in English and then move on. While in the US I had communicating with people on a level that I was very unaccustomed to. And it was so nice. Random things like what I was drinking and where I bought my pants were possible. I guess it had been so long that I had forgotten, but as I was standing in the airport waiting on my bags, after having been gone for what felt like an eternity, I realized how different things were from the outside.
Fast forward about 36 hours.
This is the basic skills test for Fresh Meat.
Spoiler Alert: I failed.
I struggled. But in the whole I thought I did pretty well with the basic skating.
After it was all said and over I met with the RockCity Roller who was judging my performance and who would decide if I passed or failed. I failed.
The heart of what she told me was this: I am timid and looked to other people. I seemed unsure about what I was doing and needed to grow in confidence before I could proceed. There were skating issues in there as well but I felt all these were pretty minor. She said my balance was good, I was fast (26 laps in 5 minutes, baby!!) and that I was good on my skates but I looked unsure of myself all the time.
I was reminded of my sons judo instructor a few years ago. He said the same thing: he said a million positive things about my son and there was the but….. he looks to others before he does things, he is always one step behind, he is just a bit slower than the other kids, he is extra timid…. He felt like I should have him tested for all kinds of learning difficulties. My reaction was: of course he looks to the other kids, of course he is a step behind, of course he struggles, HE DOESN’T SPEAK DUTCH VERY WELL!!!
I can’t ask the people at Derby to speak English with me at practices, it’s their country and I am alone in my inability to speak the language.
I am jet lagged and haven’t slept in longer than I can remember.
So what do I take from all of this? my life would be easier in the US, but it is better here.
I struggle every day to fit in and I don’t see that ending any time soon.
I wrote this months ago but never published it. I don’t honestly know why. I think I was having such a hard time readjusting that I just couldn’t.
I am publishing it now because I feel like its important and worthwhile to share some of the struggles of being an expat.
I really love my life and I am working on my Dutch and making my voice heard. I have decided to speak up in derby and really ask when I don’t understand something. They have been very cool about this, like the totally awesome Dutchies they are.I have moved on to the next level of training (but that is a post for another day).
Since writing this I have also made a few more Dutch friends and have renewed my commitment to making a life here.
I read this now and feel the pain and the struggle that I felt in those first few days back. On one hand I’m sorry I didn’t publish it then but on the other I am very happy that I can add this at the end.
I learned a lot from this experience.