A German dreaming in Dutch

A German dreaming in Dutch

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Roland Henkemeier has lived in the Netherlands for more than a decade and feels like a true Dutchman. Despite the cultural differences from his native Germany, he praises Amsterdam for its international character.

Name: Roland Henkemeier
Nationality: German
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 26/10/65
Civil status: not married, but in a relationship
Employer: ABN-AMRO
Function: call centre employee
In Amsterdam since: 1992

_____________________

Amsterdam and settling in

Like so many other German youth, Amsterdam always held great attraction for me - and not least of all because of the soft drugs policy. Together with friends, I spent many weekends in Amsterdam before I actually came here to live.

The university in Germany where I was studying business economics at the time organised an exchange programme with the HES (Higher Economic School) in Amsterdam and I was the first person that they enrolled.

Once in the Netherlands, the level of the HES turned out to be very low for me and moreover, it was very repetitive. To sum it it up, I had a lot of time to occupy myself with my hobbies, backgammon and chess.

Day and night I sat in Het Hok, a well-known chess café close to the Leidseplein. Besides the pleasure of playing, I got to know a lot of people there and can also say that I learned to speak Dutch there.

One of the slightly older regulars took me a little under his care; he helped me with my homework and often corrected me. That was very nice because I dearly wanted to learn Dutch.
 
A Dutch language course was given at the HES school for foreign students, but that was extremely easy for me as a German so I was not much interested in it. 

I also slightly avoided contact with my fellow students because I preferably want to get about with Dutch people.

A head start with Dutch

As a German, you are actually never a beginner when it comes to the Dutch language. It is a sort of dialect, you could say.

Half of the vocabulary is more or less the same. I mean, you know at a given moment how you can "twist" the words into Dutch. Also, very many expressions and sayings are the same and the grammar is very similar to German grammar.
 
Now, after 12 years in the Netherlands, I speak the language very well and have an enormous stock of words.

But my pronunciation could be better because people often hear my German accent very quickly. Some people think that I come from Belgium and I find that to be a compliment.
 
I have had a Dutch girlfriend for a couple of years now and she helps me in perfecting my Dutch.

Initiations and culture differences

During my study, I started work on the Amsterdam options exchange as a futures trader and ultimately, I worked there for 10 years as a stock options trader.

Every trader has a "ragging period" of about three months, but that baiting lasted for about a year and a half with me. That had purely and simply to do with the fact that I was German and not really because of my character.

In the first couple of years I was seriously confronted with Dutch hate of Germans. All the condemnations and stupid backchat the entire day was very exhausting.

It was strange that it only came from young people who did not experience the Second World War - older people were okay. But also half of the girls in the disco backed away as soon as they heard that I was German.

The behaviour when out at night also unveiled large differences with that in Germany. Only during carnival do the Germans show the so-called Dutch sociability found on the Rembrandtsplein where they stand and drunkenly sing in a pub.

The system of "buying a round" is also not very common in Germany. Most Germans pay for themselves at the end of the night.

I think that behaviour in the pub of "we are such good friends" is superficial. That also goes for the greeting ceremony (mainly for women) in which they give each other three kisses.

What a fuss to make when you come across a group of friends! I am used to simply saying hello or shaking hands.

The good and the bad

I love films very much and a great advantage here is that films are subtitled. In Germany, everything is dubbed and so you never hear the original version.

Unfortunately, the cinemas here are smaller and the video shops are really much more expensive.

What I always find very funny is that Dutch people watch the end credits in a very well-behaved way, while in Germany everyone stands immediately the film is finished.

The advertisements on television are noticeably much better here and more humorous in particular. I sometimes don't know what it is about, but I still have to laugh a lot. In Germany, a product is advertised in an extremely tedious fashion.

What is also a lot of fun in Amsterdam is that you can get everywhere with the bike, Germany is a car country.

Every city in the Ruhr area of Germany has its own speciality, so to speak. For example, you go to Essen if you want to go out and to Dortmund if you want to shop.

The international character of Amsterdam is also fun. If you are seeking contact, it is easy to find it at the Leidseplein or in Vondelpark.
 
But I find the atmosphere is more aggressive, that applies to both shopping streets during the day and certainly for the night life. You must not look the wrong person in the eye for too long!

What also has attracted my attention is that there is much more gossip here. As soon as someone walks out of a room, the others start: "Did you already know that?". When he or she comes back it is like nothing has happened.

Presently, I no longer work at the exchange, but I hope to return there shortly. If that does not come about, I might go back to Germany, but I would also like to take on the challenge of another country. It is essentially a matter of work.

But I feel like a real Dutch person now, especially if I am in Germany. I am not as conspicuous here as what I once was. I even dream in Dutch and according to my girlfriend, I also talk Dutch in my sleep!

_____________________

Roland Henkemeier told his story to Nicole van Schaijik, who owns and operates
Talent Taaltrainingen (Dutch Language Courses), based in Amsterdam.
(Tel: 020 420 66 59 or email:
info@talent-tn.nl).

8 July 2004

 

pat Roland Henkemeier even dreams in DutchName: Roland Henkemeier
Nationality: German
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 26/10/65
Civil status: not married, but in a relationship
Employer: ABN-AMRO
Function: call centre employee
In Amsterdam since: 1992

_____________________

Amsterdam and settling in

Like so many other German youth, Amsterdam always held great attraction for me - and not least of all because of the soft drugs policy. Together with friends, I spent many weekends in Amsterdam before I actually came here to live.

The university in Germany where I was studying business economics at the time organised an exchange programme with the HES (Higher Economic School) in Amsterdam and I was the first person that they enrolled.

Once in the Netherlands, the level of the HES turned out to be very low for me and moreover, it was very repetitive. To sum it it up, I had a lot of time to occupy myself with my hobbies, backgammon and chess.

Day and night I sat in Het Hok, a well-known chess café close to the Leidseplein. Besides the pleasure of playing, I got to know a lot of people there and can also say that I learned to speak Dutch there.

One of the slightly older regulars took me a little under his care; he helped me with my homework and often corrected me. That was very nice because I dearly wanted to learn Dutch.
 
A Dutch language course was given at the HES school for foreign students, but that was extremely easy for me as a German so I was not much interested in it. 

I also slightly avoided contact with my fellow students because I preferably want to get about with Dutch people.

A head start with Dutch

As a German, you are actually never a beginner when it comes to the Dutch language. It is a sort of dialect, you could say.

Half of the vocabulary is more or less the same. I mean, you know at a given moment how you can "twist" the words into Dutch. Also, very many expressions and sayings are the same and the grammar is very similar to German grammar.
 
Now, after 12 years in the Netherlands, I speak the language very well and have an enormous stock of words.

But my pronunciation could be better because people often hear my German accent very quickly. Some people think that I come from Belgium and I find that to be a compliment.
 
I have had a Dutch girlfriend for a couple of years now and she helps me in perfecting my Dutch.

Initiations and culture differences

During my study, I started work on the Amsterdam options exchange as a futures trader and ultimately, I worked there for 10 years as a stock options trader.

Every trader has a "ragging period" of about three months, but that baiting lasted for about a year and a half with me. That had purely and simply to do with the fact that I was German and not really because of my character.

In the first couple of years I was seriously confronted with Dutch hate of Germans. All the condemnations and stupid backchat the entire day was very exhausting.

It was strange that it only came from young people who did not experience the Second World War - older people were okay. But also half of the girls in the disco backed away as soon as they heard that I was German.

The behaviour when out at night also unveiled large differences with that in Germany. Only during carnival do the Germans show the so-called Dutch sociability found on the Rembrandtsplein where they stand and drunkenly sing in a pub.

The system of "buying a round" is also not very common in Germany. Most Germans pay for themselves at the end of the night.

I think that behaviour in the pub of "we are such good friends" is superficial. That also goes for the greeting ceremony (mainly for women) in which they give each other three kisses.

What a fuss to make when you come across a group of friends! I am used to simply saying hello or shaking hands.

The good and the bad

I love films very much and a great advantage here is that films are subtitled. In Germany, everything is dubbed and so you never hear the original version.

Unfortunately, the cinemas here are smaller and the video shops are really much more expensive.

What I always find very funny is that Dutch people watch the end credits in a very well-behaved way, while in Germany everyone stands immediately the film is finished.

The advertisements on television are noticeably much better here and more humorous in particular. I sometimes don't know what it is about, but I still have to laugh a lot. In Germany, a product is advertised in an extremely tedious fashion.

What is also a lot of fun in Amsterdam is that you can get everywhere with the bike, Germany is a car country.

Every city in the Ruhr area of Germany has its own speciality, so to speak. For example, you go to Essen if you want to go out and to Dortmund if you want to shop.

The international character of Amsterdam is also fun. If you are seeking contact, it is easy to find it at the Leidseplein or in Vondelpark.
 
But I find the atmosphere is more aggressive, that applies to both shopping streets during the day and certainly for the night life. You must not look the wrong person in the eye for too long!

What also has attracted my attention is that there is much more gossip here. As soon as someone walks out of a room, the others start: "Did you already know that?". When he or she comes back it is like nothing has happened.

Presently, I no longer work at the exchange, but I hope to return there shortly. If that does not come about, I might go back to Germany, but I would also like to take on the challenge of another country. It is essentially a matter of work.

But I feel like a real Dutch person now, especially if I am in Germany. I am not as conspicuous here as what I once was. I even dream in Dutch and according to my girlfriend, I also talk Dutch in my sleep!

_____________________

Roland Henkemeier told his story to Nicole van Schaijik, who owns and operates
Talent Taaltrainingen (Dutch Language Courses), based in Amsterdam.
(Tel: 020 420 66 59 or email:
info@talent-tn.nl).

 

8 July 2004

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