Author Archives: Niki

About Niki

I run the blog http://www.lifeinthehague.com

Random Dutch phrases (Or: B2-C1 course #6-#7)

Okay, so I missed the post for last week’s course! In actuality, it was just more fun to blog about Sinterklaas.

A few highlights from last week include the word hekkensluiter which literally means “gate closer” but translates more as the person who comes last (or brings up the rear, or lags behind). If you think about a group of people crossing through a gate, it is always the last person’s responsibility to close the gate behind them.

Another piece of grammar we learned last week was how adjectives which follow behind iets or niets (something or nothing) have an -s added to the word. But it has to come directly after iets or niets.

Er is niets leuks op televisie. There is nothing good on tv.
Ik wil iets bijzonders doen. I want to do something special.
Wil je iets lekkers bij de koffie? Misschien speculaastaart? Do you want something tasty with the coffee? Maybe speculaastaart?

Some fun phrases we learned in yesterday’s class include:

wachten tot Sint Juttemis = waiting forever. Another way to say waiting forever is wachten tot je een ons weegt, or waiting until you weigh an ounce. Impossible to do and still be alive.

Als je ergens mee zit = amusingly, Google translate says this is “if you sit on something”, but admittedly, it is not something to be translated literally. It means “if you have problems”. Type that phrase into Google and you will get a lot of self-help websites about depression and similar.

And here’s a random picture of Scheveningen to close off the blog post. Not the best quality in the world, but it will do.

Scheveningen November 2014

Notice the tree off to the left completely covered in white lights. On the right side you have the movie theatre, Pathé, with the yellow logo on the top of the building. The north sea is behind the tall buildings in the center.

And hey, I’ve now visited Scheveningen enough (and needed to look up tram schedules) that I can spell the city name without having to look it up… cool!

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Sinterklaas in Gouda (Or: Old and new)

Today is the arrival of Sinterklaas in Gouda, on national TV. The story began Tuesday with a nightly 10 minute news segment (Sinterklaasjournaal - Dutch link). The story this year was the following: the Pieten wanted to hang up a painting of the announcer, Dieuwertje Blok, in the steam boat that was bringing everyone to Gouda. They hung it up using nails and then water started to appear in the boat. In an effort to get to Gouda in time, all of the Pieten except for one left the boat, leaving Sinterklaas and the one Piet to do all of the preparations. (In the end it turns out the water was not from the nails but from an open faucet in the bathroom.)

Because all of the Pieten went missing, they asked the help of Opa Piet (Grandpa Piet – an older actor, Peter Faber, who apparently was a Piet some years ago) to train some new Pieten in time for the arrival today. This segment points to the rather heated discussions about racism since Pieten are usually called Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) and use blackface, red lips, and golden earrings. Some of the newer Pieten that were trained were simply white or had soot on their face, since the modern story of how Pieten turned black was that they went down the chimneys.

Sinterklaasjournaal 2014 Opa Piet

Opa Piet in the middle (2014 Sinterklaasjournaal)

But anyway – the new Pieten were done with their training and Opa Piet was ready to go back to Spain to enjoy his retirement. Unfortunately he accidentally locked the Pieten in the factory and then forgot his suitcase when boarding the bus. Turns out he really didn’t want to go back to Spain and enjoy his retirement… But today, the mayor of Gouda was able to track down Opa Piet (who came back for his suitcase) to get the key for the factory to free the new Pieten. At the same time, there was a bit of issue with the steam boat – there was only one Piet left on the boat and he did not know the way to Gouda. Of course Sinterklaas was asleep. Today we found out that it was all planned, and Sinterklaas had put the boat on the right trajectory before going to bed. So Sinterklaas and the one Piet arrive (finally – there is a storyline delay every year) and meet up with the newly trained Pieten.

In the middle of the program, the older Pieten arrive with a row boat, including Paniek!!! Piet (emphasis mine – i.e. Panic Piet). Whenever he panics he shouts Paniek! Paniek! and spins around two or three times in distress. Opa Piet is also in Gouda, having successfully delayed his retirement to pass out Pepernoten to the kids. While parading through the city with the new Pieten, Sinterklaas meets the old Pieten who have returned and welcomes them back, but seems to think Opa Piet should retire and head back to Spain (he doesn’t know Opa Piet is still hanging around).

Paniek Piet Sinterklaasjournaal

Paniek Piet

The national show ends with Opa Piet hiding somewhere and the old Pieten leaving again with the steam boat (and more importantly to the kids, all of the gifts), because there was not enough room in the Piet house for the old and new Pieten. You’ll have to tune in tonight for more!

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The pending arrival of Sinterklaas (Or: 2014 edition)

Sinterklaas will be arriving in the Netherlands on Saturday, November 15. This is the 67th year that he has first arrived in Scheveningen before making his way inland (2014 event). That link states that spectators along the parade route will be treated to over 8,500 kilograms of kruidnoten and assorted candy, among other edibles. Yeesh! Sinterklaas is similar to Santa Claus, although he travels by horse — apparently the name of the horse is Americano.

Sinterklaas also visits the other cities; for instance, he will be arriving in Maastricht on Saturday the 15th, while he arrives the following day in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Den Bosch. The Sinterklaas holiday extends through December 5th, when Sinterklaas brings candy and small gifts (usually placed in shoes) to the children.

One fun part of the holiday is the use of Sinterklaasjournaal, which translates to “Sinterklaas News”. This is a short news program aimed at kids which follows the journey of Sinterklaas on his way to the Netherlands and in the country. It airs every day at 6pm, starting this Tuesday the 11th. They will also be covering the national arrival of Sinterklaas (this year held in Gouda – a different city gets the honor every year) on the 15th.

2011 sinterklaasjournaal

still from the 2011 Sinterklaasjournaal (announcer with Zwarte Piet)

It can be an interesting thing to follow if you are an expat – sometimes they do have cute stories that can be amusing for adults as well. Last year they had a story that the staff of Sinterklaas was missing and one of the Zwarte Pieten (the helpers) had to find a replacement staff. You can read a review of those developments here.

Edited Monday morning to add: I was on the tram this morning and I heard a recorded announcement: Dames, heren en kinderen – Sinterklaas komt weer naar Den Haag! HTM maakt graag plaats voor de intocht! “Ladies and gentleman and children – Sinterklaas again comes to The Hague! HTM makes way for the arrival!” followed by service information. But the fun thing was that the announcement was also aimed at children – the lady’s voice was full of hope and wonderment, as if talking directly to the kids.

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Ignoring illegality – gedogen (Or: B2-C1 course #5)

This week, one thing that we covered in my Dutch class was the concept of ignoring what is officially illegal. The term for this (a verb) is gedogen. The Dutch do this with soft drug use (cannabis) – allowing “coffee shops” to exist. The rules call for no advertising to take place, no hard drug sales on the premises, no sales to those under the age of 18, no quanities greater than 5 grams, and no public disturbances. Ironically the coffee shop is allowed to buy and sell cannabis within the rules above, but the supplies of the cannabis are not allowed to grow, import, or sell it to a coffee shop. Thus the expression “the front door is open, but the backdoor is illegal”.

During the class we also discussed the various forms of certain words. For example, nu (now) is both an adverb and a conjunction.

Ik ga nu naar de bibliotheek. I am now going to the library.
Nu het te laat is, komt hij. Now that it is too late, he comes.

In the second example, nu translates to “now that”; you wouldn’t say nu dat het te laat is, but you still invert the order of the sentence as if you had done so. I’ll be honest – I had no idea about this one and could only stare at the teacher blankly as she asked if we had heard of this piece of grammar.

Something similar can be done with toen (then), which I knew. It is also a adverb and a conjunction, depending on the sentence.

Kids or new speakers to the language ;) tend to say En toen… en toen… en toen… as they tell a story. “And then I did this. And then we went there. And then we ate this.” In that sense it is an adverb. But toen is also a conjunction - Toen ik naar huis ging, heb ik de hond gevonden. “When I went home, I found the dog.”

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Holiday decorations (Or: It’s that time again)

In the last week I’ve seen various holiday decorations. It seems a bit early but Bijenkorf, a store, was busy putting up their winter lights:

Christmas lights 2014 by the Bijenkorf

(Here’s what Bijenkorf’s lights looked like last year.)

And here are some Halloween decorations:

Halloween decorations 2014

Haven’t seen any Thanksgiving decorations yet…

Categories: Holidays, The Hague | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Word webs (Or: B2-C1 course #4)

This past week was the 4th of 10 lessons for the Dutch B2-C1 course at Volksuniversiteit in The Hague. One thing that stood out to me was the assigned homework. We had to construct a word web to show how you can go from one word to either synonyms or antonyms.

Like this (taken from the text book):

Dutch word web

The original discussion came from discussing the qualities that the Dutch are known for, and being tolerant is one of them (opinions can differ, of course). Hence the Nederlands on the right (for Dutch). On the top you have three verbs which are similar to the noun, including to accept, to understand (though probably begrijp is better) and to allow. After that you have antonyms: intolerance and discrimination. On the left, underneath, you have expressions or feelings which are created when talking about tolerance (in this case: freedom, living together, and culture), and further two more adjectives: understanding and respecting.

Not the perfect representation but you get the idea! It was definitely an interesting assignment.

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Another reason to learn Dutch (Or: Fraud detection)

Marco came across a funny news story about a women in Florida who had apparently slipped on the wet floor of Target (a retail store like Hema but on a larger scale) last year. She complained of neck, legs, back and shin pain. Sounds awful.

Except that is not what happened.

After she got the attention of some of the Target workers, she called her mother and told her in Dutch that she had simply sat on the ground and was looking for insurance money. There is no problem calling her from the store, right? I mean, there are only about 17 or 18 million people in the world who speak Dutch…

Turns out one of the workers spoke Dutch. Ouch!

Upon reviewing the security footage, Target was able to clearly see that she simply sat down on the ground and she was charged with insurance fraud.

News story: English version || Nederlandse versie

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Taalhuis (Of: Bij de Centrale bibliotheek in Den Haag)

Earlier this year the Dutch books moved from the 4th floor of the Central library to the second floor. I was recently on the library’s website and came across a mention of the Taalhuis (“Language house”). Someone is available for a few hours on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Here is the linked article translated in English:

Taalhuis

Difficulty with reading, writing or speaking the Dutch language? Stop by the Taalhouse on the second floor of the Centrale bibliotheek. Here you can find books, cd-roms and practice material to help you. During the consultation hours there is someone available to help you with questions. You are welcome to stop by.

What does the Taalhuis do?

If you need help with learning how to read or write the Dutch language better, you can come to the Taalhuis. Volunteers can support you by finding the right information about language courses or education in The Hague. But the Taalhuis also has a collection available to help you with self study: study material to learn reading and writing the language better. Or to help someone else with improving their language abilities. The collection in the Taalhuis is available during the opening hours of the Centrale bibliotheek. Only during the consultation hours is someone available to help you with finding a course that works best for you.

Consultation hours
Tuesday from 11.00 – 13.30 hours
Thursday from 13.00 – 15.30 hours

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Curious to see what is being built? (Or: Peek here)

Near Central Station they are currently working on revamping a new building. This of course means half of the path being blocked off and unusable to commuters and locals for months. Of course, I’m exaggerating a little bit. Of course, they do provide little windows of sorts to see what its going on on the other side…

construction window in The Hague

The words above the image say “Curious? Take a quick peek behind the walls!”

Of course, I did not take a picture of what was actually behind the wall, but I am sure you can guess what it looked like. :)

Categories: The Hague | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The headline said what? (Or: B2-C1 course #3)

One of the more amusing things that we did in the Dutch course a few nights ago was look at headlines that might have double meanings:

odd headlines or signs in Dutch

With headlines like this:

Nieuwe baas Douwe Egberts komt van Mars = The new boss for Douwe Egberts [coffee company] comes from Mars… but they mean Mars incorporated, the candy/etc seller, not the planet. I hope.

Verkeer van Druten naar Nijmegen moet 3 dagen omrijden = Traffic from Druten to Nijmegen must detour for three days. What they actually mean is that the need for a detour will last three days – the Netherlands is definitely not big enough for a three day detour!

Eikels beschadigen auto’s in Hoog-Keppel = Eikels has two meanings in Dutch. The first, and what they mean here, is acorns. But it is also slang for the derogatory term ‘prick’ – which also makes sense in this context, though you’d never see it in a headline.

We also talked a bit more about the term “lekker” and the various ways it can be used. It is at times a hard concept to grasp for the non-Dutch. The easiest way is to use the term is with food, to say that the food is tasty (lekker).

But you can also use it with temperature or weather - Het is lekker warm buiten, with smells – Dat ruikt lekker. - with sounds – De gitaar klinkt lekker, and more. You can even use it sarcastically: Dat is lekker belangrijk (That is really important – but not really). Or Hij is lekker laat. He is late. Or the oddest of them all: Het stinkt lekker! Since things stink (but some people still like the smell).

Next week is herfstvakantie (fall vacation) so I will have a week off.

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