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Category Archives: ENGLISH POST

Campuri olandeze cu flori / Dutch flowerfields

Cum sa nu iti placa tara asta cu florile ei dementiale?
Sambata am ajuns in Callantsoog, un sat la mare, in vestul Olandei, cred ca cel mai nordic loc in care am fost pana acum in Olanda. Am vazut la televizor cu o zi inainte ca este o zona cu multe campuri cu flori, noi le stiam doar pe cele din jurul parcului Keukenhof, mai sudic deci. 

Asa ca am combinat o plimbare cu masina printre campuri in multe culori vesele cu o plimbare pe malul marii, scurta, pentru ca era o zi cum numai olandezilor le place ca sa o petreaca la mare: cu vant, vezi aici mai multe despre placerea asta olandeza.

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How could one not like this country with its incredible flowers?
On Saturday we went to Callantsoog, a village at the seaside, in the west of the Netherlands, I think the most northern place I have visited so far in the country. I had seen the day before on tv that it is a region with many flowerfields, we only were familiar with the ones around the Keukenhof park, so more to the south.

So we combined a car trip around the colourful flowerfields with a walk on the beach, a short one, as it was a day only Dutch people can enjoy at the beach: with lots of wind.

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Only in the Netherlands: police rats

Two weeks ago, among other depressing news like the never ending economic crisis, Syria etc. there was a piece of news about the rats that will be used, for the first time worldwide, by the Dutch police for detecting certain substances like gun powder. It appears that rats have a much better developed sense of smell compared to the dogs that were used until now, they are also cheaper to keep and can be trained within weeks (dogs take years to train). A rat which smells a suspect can give a result within minutes. Incredible rats, don’t you think?

 If the idea of rats only makes you think about pest and other filthy things, maybe this picture of the rats’ trainer will make you change your mind:

Source: ad.nl

 
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Posted by on 18 September 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

Kruidnoten in August???

Va prezint o traditie olandeza care se repeta in fiecare an, ca orice traditie care se respecta.

Asadar, in fiecare an, olandezii sunt scandalizati de aparitia mult prea timpurie a produselor tipice pentru sarbatoarea Sinterklaas (5 decembrie) sau pentru alte sarbatori.

Pe twitter, alte site-uri sau in viata reala, olandezii sunt de fiecare data exasperati pentru ca produsele respective apar in magazine cu luni inainte de sarbatoarea cu pricina. Si fiecare olandez isi inchipuie ca e primul care le descopera si care, din acest motiv, are toate drepturile sa se planga cu foc.

Nu sunt olandeza, ce-i drept, dar sunt sigura ca am fost prima care am detectat inca in august, pe data de 30, kruidnoten, care mie imi plac, asa ca am si cumparat prima punga 🙂

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Introducing a Dutch tradition which repeats itsself every year, like every serious tradition.

So, every year, the Dutch are shocked by the fact that holiday related items appear in shops way too early, like the ones for Sinterklaas (December 5th) or for other holidays.

On twitter, other sites or in real life, the Dutch are expressing their dissatisfaction because these products can be bought already months ahead. And every Dutch person believes that he or she is the first one to spot them every year and therefore thinks that he/she has every right to complain publicly.

It’s true I am not Dutch, but I am convinced that I was the first to spot still in August, the 30th, kruidnoten, which are my favourite Sinterklaas product, so I bought the first bag already 🙂

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Some tasty things I eat in the Netherlands

Caution: This list is totally and completely based on my personal taste and findings.

Elstar apples – with just the right crunchy bite and sourness (I am a fan of sour stuff) – at the moment not available at our Albert Heijn supermarket, so I am waiting for the new harvest and have to do with replacements like Jazz apples, which are of the right taste but too hard for my taste. The Elstar is a Dutch apple sort, by the way.

Calvé LIGHT Pindakaas = peanut butter (pindakaas is actually translated as peanut cheese) – with the light blue cap. I have had peanut butter for the first time in my life here in the Netherlands and this one is really good, I like it on a Wasa sesame cracker. The non light (regular) variant with the brown cap is not edible, I find, much too intense and fat.

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Tasty Tom tomatoes – I have mentioned them before, they are full of sweet tomato taste, I can eat them every day. And I almost do 🙂P1180688

Albert Heijn Feta – especially if you are Romanian and missing telemea cheese, like me 🙂 I was very happy with Dodoni Feta, a real Greek feta cheese, very telemea-like, because it missed the creamy character of most feta sorts. But about a year ago it disappeared. I have at that point made use for the first time of the Q&A section of the supermarket, leaving my question behind as to what is happening with my beloved feta.

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I checked several times and I think 1,5 week later the answer appeared: it is no longer available. The picture’s poor quality is due to my not daring to use the flash while taking it:
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Well at that point I was seriously disappointed, but in the mean time, having been on holiday in Greece this summer, I have seen Dodoni feta there with my own eyes, even in the airport store. So I question the answer the supermarket gave me. Meanwhile I had tested several feta qualities and found that the supermarket’s own brand, Albert Heijn, is also a good replacement of telemea. And here, I almost dare to bet, lies the right answer to my question: “We are not selling Dodoni anymore, since we have copied it and are selling it ourselves”… I eat it along with the Tasty Tom tomatoes and maybe a slice of salted buttered bread

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Bonne Maman raspberry jam – It might be that I am getting wiser as I am getting older, but I have recently decided to stop trying jams made of anything but raspberries. Every time it only makes me realise that my favourite is still raspberry jam. I am not completely hooked on Bonne Maman, although I find nothing wrong with it, but I might give another brand a chance, as long as it is raspberry. I am also not frequently eating jam, but for the few times when I do, it’ll only be raspberry, so you know! 🙂

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Posted by on 24 August 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

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How I learned (some more) Dutch

While I was still busy with the first Dutch language course described last time, I started working. The same position in the same firm as in Romania. The most important difference (besides earning as much as in Romania but for half the time) and cause of sweating every time the phone rang in the first months, was the language. I work in the sales department of a German company and our customers are situated in the Benelux, so mainly Dutch speaking. In the beginning, I only spoke English with my colleagues, as  I still thought I couldn’t speak decent Dutch, but I was learning, so I had hopes. When customers called and started speaking Dutch, I was close to fainting every time from the effort it took me to understand them, even their names were quite a challenge.

So it was high time for another language course, a better one, a more expensive one, as now the firm would pay! 🙂 I was very happy that the firm offered me a course and I can say that it changed my life in the Netherlands since I attended it. It was at ILC in Waalwijk where I had a teacher all to myself, which was exactly what I needed. I could ask away, all my doubts and uncertainties found answers, while also practicing the Dutch language I needed at the office. The lessons were once a week, in the evening and took about 4 months (30 hours in total). After a few lessons I was confident enough to speak Dutch and use it also more in writing.

This was my second and last Dutch course so far, I am now at an acceptable level, I have had my share of compliments on the Dutch I speak and I particularly enjoy noticing the mistakes Dutch people make in their own language 🙂

I would like to know and use more Dutch expressions, this is still a pretty unfamiliar territory for me. And I would like a richer active vocabulary, I understand most of the words I hear or read, but I do not use many of them myself because they just don’t come to mind when needed. So there is still work to be done, for sure.

And to round up my Dutch language adventures, here are some reactions I have had from Dutch people while still not speaking Dutch or now, that I do speak Dutch:

– when I was at the beginning of my Dutch life, I was approached by a Dutch person who spoke Dutch in a loud voice and in a sort of slow motion, something like: “THE WEA-THER IS RE-ALLY NI-CE TO-DAY.” Somehow, this method seemed the best way to deal with someone who doesn’t speak your language but is trying to learn it.

– others, who were not comfortable to speak English (which I was communicating in at that time), which is understandable, told me they are only speaking Dutch to me so that I can learn the language, since I have to learn it anyway. Of course, it can be a method to be forced to speak a foreign language, but at times I felt isolated and left out of conversations I couldn’t follow.

– now, after about 6 years of speaking Dutch every day, I was recently amazed by a Dutch person who hadn’t spoken to me before, but knew that I was not Dutch. He spoke Dutch with me as if HE was a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language well. I spoke to him normally, I certainly don’t sound Dutch, it’s clear that I am a foreigner, but still, I speak correctly, making maybe small mistakes, but nothing major. Well, his Dutch towards me sounded like: “You looking and you seeing the tree.”

– probably the same accent I mentioned also makes many customers calling me at work (it is an office based in the Netherlands, the phone number is Dutch) start talking to me in English. Which I swear they didn’t do when I was just starting here! 🙂 Even some customers who I have on the phone regularly and whom I have even written e-mails in Dutch before. Some of them make it very complicated for themselves, because for some reason they don’t start in Dutch or at least ask me first if they can speak Dutch to me, they just start in English and have sometimes a hard time finding their words.

Well, that was it, good luck to everyone learning Dutch!

 
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Posted by on 21 August 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

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How I learned Dutch (in the Netherlands)

I came to the Netherlands a few days before Romania joined the EU, as I was telling you in the previous postMy only knowledge of the Dutch language was, as I wrote there, only what I had learned by myself from a book and a CD.

Ana, a Romanian friend (now living in New York – this would be the moment to share her blog, except she doesn’t have one :), but believe me, it would be very interesting!) had told me about a Dutch book: “Cirkel in het gras” and I bought this book soon after I arrived here, thinking to give it a try and otherwise, read it later, after I would have learned Dutch.

P1180667pSomehow, reading this Dutch book was doable, I had several words on each page which I didn’t recognize and I would look them up in a small Dutch-Romanian dictionary (a gift from my friend Lia, still living in Bucharest, no blog either, but very suitable for one :)). The rest of the text I understood by association, comparisons with all the languages that I speak well or vaguely and probably by understanding the context. Recognizing words in this foreign language was every time a small victory.

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Being able to read in a language I hardly knew was quite cool, but speaking the same language was something else. In my opinion, I did not speak Dutch. I was the only one who thought so. Everyone around me was trying to convince me I could speak Dutch, if only I dared. I thought that these people must be crazy :). I just couldn’t accept that I was expected to speak a language after a few lessons read in a book.

But I do think that I was a sort of a sponge at the time and I was able to learn a lot of Dutch words by listening and watching television and reading the subtitles. I also asked the meaning of words I didn’t understand.

After less than two months in the Netherlands we considered it was time for me to get some Dutch lessons. There was a school nearby where I could do this but first they had to test me in order to determine the level I should start from. This was a bit strange for me, I was convinced that I was a beginner, no doubt about it. I was scheduled for a total of 5 tests: listening comprehension, writing, reading comprehension and two kinds of speaking. I did my best. Later we had a meeting with one of the teachers who was going to give us the results. She sat down and asked me:  “What are you here for?”. I was puzzled. She went on: “Your scores are so high that there is not much we could teach you. Why don’t you just speak Dutch?” I don’t recall what I answered exactly but it must have been something like: “I cannot speak a language I haven’t learnt!” She probably thought something was very wrong with me. 

I have found the results of that test and see that I had a 4 for listening, writing and reading and a 2 for speaking (unfortunately I don’t know which scale was used, but 2 was the lowest score of the four).

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In the end I was able to attend lessons once a week for 2,5 hours each. There was a group of students I joined, most of them were Polish, the others were all from different countries. The lessons were diverse, but not what I felt I needed. I wanted to learn how to write in Dutch, grammar rules, words – the heavy stuff, from the beginning. Maybe the other students had already had all that in previous lessons. It came as a big surprise to them  when they heard that I was beginning my study of the Dutch language together with them, who had already attended several courses, starting at lower levels. I was just as surprised. We discussed lyrics of popular Dutch songs, we were commenting pictures, we had to prepare a speech on a subject of our own choice, we exercised. I didn’t quite feel this is the right way to start learning a language, but this wasn’t the aim of the course either, as it was not meant for beginners like me.

In the end, 4 months later, I finished the course. My exit level was “on the way to B2”, the levels being A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 (this last one is the highest). 

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– to be continued –

 
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Posted by on 15 August 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

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How I began to learn Dutch

I came to the Netherlands after trying for a few months to learn Dutch by myself, at home, helped by a book and a CD (for the connaisseurs: Het Groene Boek).

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I knew that Dutch is a Germanic language, so I expected it to have a lot in common with German and English, languages I had learned for many years. But the strange words and certainly sounds that came out of the CD were quite different. The first lesson in the book was of a more general nature and contained among other things the question: “Hoe heet jij?”, meaning: “What are you called?”. It does resemble the German question: “Wie heißt du?”, but only if you know how to look at the words 🙂  But the same question on the CD didn’t sound Germanic at all, if anything, it was definitely Chinese. It sounds something like: “who hate chai?”. Fake a Chinese accent while reading this and you’ll understand what I mean 🙂

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Still, I did not despair. I went on with the lessons in the book and tried to learn words, the few grammar rules in the book that were not really explained further than by examples and, what was more difficult, I tried to learn how to pronounce the Dutch words. I recall listening to some words over and over again and still not understanding a certain sound. Like the infamous (if it isn’t officially infamous, it should be!) “ui” sound, I would like to explain it to you, but it is impossible. If I spoke to you in person I would still not be able to pronounce it like Dutch people do. And in the context of more letters, like “huis” (=house) I think I can mimic a sound which is acceptable, but when the sound is completely naked, in the word “ui” (=onion) I have no place to hide and it becomes obvious how infamous a sound it is 🙂

The reason I was learning the language was that Romania, where I was living, was not a member of the EU at that time and in order to be accepted to live in the Netherlands I was supposed to pass a language test. I had read more than half of the book and I was not really optimistic about passing the test. But I could call a certain number and have a test on the phone in order to get an idea of my level. I don’t remember exactly how long the test was, but it seemed to take forever. I was unable to answer most of the questions. Panic struck as I already thought I will never be permitted to live in the Netherlands. The result of the test revealed however (the following day) that I hadn’t done so badly, if I remember well it was something like 60% OK. Which could only mean that the expectations weren’t high at all, as most of my answers were “I don’t know” 🙂

A few weeks later I was finally saved by the EU, when the announcement came that Romania would join it on January 1st 2007, meaning for me that a language test was no longer necessary.

 
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Posted by on 14 August 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

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