Expat Voices: Gregory Shapiro on living in the Netherlands
Greg Shapiro still finds having his food crushed at supermarket checkouts by the black bar maddening, and total immersion in the Dutch language in Amsterdam impossible.
Name: Gregory Shapiro
City of residence: Amsterdam, since 1994 (continuous since 98)
Date of birth: 8 May 1968
Civil status: Married to a Dutch woman
Occupation: Comedy News Man
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: To work with Boom Chicago Comedy Theater
Living in the Netherlands since: 1994
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
Impressed! The new parts were really new, the old parts were really well-preserved, and people are classy. I’d heard about the drug scene enough to expect a city past its prime (like, say, Brussels). But getting off the plane at Schiphol, it was modern, well-designed, and most everything was already in English. It was like they knew I was coming.
What do you think of the food?
I am a sucker for Dutch food, even down to the deep-fried meat sticks in the wall. I do like teasing the Dutch about their Calvinistic lunches. But one day I knew I’d really assimilated: if the bread is really good bread and the cheese is really good cheese, then why would you want to go putting a bunch of other flavours on there? (Still, I couldn’t gag down a cup of karnemelk if my life depended on it.)
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
I still like to remind the check-out chicks at the supermarket that – in America – they’d be helping me pack my bags. And providing them for free. And giving a shit about my existence. As it is, they still punish me for not packing fast enough by crushing my groceries with that big black dividing bar. Boo.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
The size. From city to city, you can go by train. From place to place you can go by bike. I know it rains a lot. But I used to bike everywhere even when I was living in Chicago. I prefer rain to snow.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
The Dutch language. They say the only way to really learn a language is ‘immersion,’ but there’s no such thing as immersion in Amsterdam. The closest I’ve come is with my in-laws in Limburg.
What puzzles you about Dutch culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
One thing I do miss is late night Mexican food. But that never treated me well the next day anyway. What puzzles me about Dutch culture is that the people can have such a sophisticated world-view, but – when it comes to knowing their own language – they always lose to Belgium on ‘Tien Voor Taal.’
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Honestly, I haven’t lived in a lot of other places. Amsterdam is it for me.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
String underpants for kids. Really, who’s asking for that?
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Learn to fake Dutch! Pick your strong suit: pronunciation, written Dutch, reading… and run with it. At least learn enough to get in the door. Pretty soon you’ll marry one of them and be raising up bi-lingual kids, so you’re not allowed to speak Dutch in the house anyway.
Would you like add anything?
I wish that – when I first got here – there was an English-language digest of the daily Dutch news. So that I could figure out what Dutch people were talking about in the lunchroom. Now there is! I had to do it myself, but there you go. Meanwhile, see you (at The Fair Sunday). Doei!
Experience a taste of Greg Shapiro's humour on Sunday, 23 October 2011!
Greg performs at Expatica's "i am not a tourist' Expat Fair in Amsterdam. Click here to reserve your FREE tickets.
Greg performs 'How to be Orange' Preview NL Theater Tour, 12:45 - 13:15
'How to Be Orange' is for those who live here longer, investigating how to fit in when 'full is full,' how to reconcile the terms 'Freedom' & 'Party,' and how to dye your hair blond, if necessary. In essence, ‘How to Be Orange'.please check gregoryshapiro.com.Greg will be touring with his show between October 2011 and May 2012; for dates and venues, please check gregoryshapiro.com.
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