I recently met a woman who lives in Veldhoven. She told me about her new neighbor, a Japanese man. She was sad to discover he did not speak Dutch as she did not speak English. But she very much wanted to connect with her neighbor so “I just invited him for a bike ride.” Together, they rode around Veldhoven and she showed him the sights. I am sure this involved a lot of sign language but the connection was made. I hugged her and told her I hoped that every international settling in Veldhoven had a neighbor like her.
You don’t have to speak Dutch to live and work here. Everyone speaks English. At least, that is the common belief. But does it really work that way? It probably does if you are a real ‘expat’ and only plan to stay here for 2 or 3 years. But if you are an ‘international’ – meaning you will be here for a long time and your children may even grow up here – this is an entirely different story. Sure, people will speak English with you. But if your Dutch colleagues exchange news at the coffee machine, you will not be able to join the conversation. And you may not get to know your lovely Dutch neighbor.
I know, it is not easy to learn Dutch. Not only because the language is hard but because Dutch people will immediately switch to English when they notice your accent. They either want to be helpful or show off their language skills. So let me tell you a secret about the Dutch: we have an inferiority complex. We just cannot imagine that anyone would want to learn our language. But here’s the trick: if you insist on speaking Dutch and you explain you really want to learn, Dutch people will melt and love you forever. There is nothing more endearing to a Dutch person than a non-Dutch person making this huge effort to learn our funny language. And, finally, one tip: there are button badges available that say: “Spreek Nederlands met mij”. Give it a try.
Corporate Communications & Public Affairs ASML