Monthly Archives: February 2014

Marks & Spencer is back (Or: Time for cake)

Last Thursday, Marks & Spencer opened its doors in the heart of The Hague. It is a British retail chain that used to have a few stores in the Netherlands (including in The Hague and Amsterdam) though it closed its doors years ago. Unfortunately (or fortunately, due to the crowds) I was at work so I did not check it out until this past weekend. Marco and I went on Sunday, right when they opened at 12PM. The crowds, geez! We checked out the food section, but it was pretty hard to move around. We did spy this crazy cake, however:

Marks and Spencer cake

The box reads “extremely chocolatey loaded party cake”

Looks pretty delicious, but I suspect anyone who eats it would be instantly diagnosed with diabetes afterwards. We didn’t have much time to take any other photos – it really was quite crowded and we did not stay that long. Perhaps next time. I am interested in going there to have a cup of coffee – though it might be a few months before the place calms down a bit. The chain does seem to have a bit of a cult following…

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The changing of the bikes (Or: Relocation)

It seems that The Hague has been working on the areas where people park their bikes. A lot of places had a sign on them (example below) stating that bikes could only be parked here until Tuesday, February 18. Any bikes left there after that time would be removed. You could then go to the central bike storage in the city and pay a fee to get it back – 25 euros! link in Dutch.

too many bikes in The Hagues

It seems that – according to some Dutch articles – that the bike stands are being permanently removed as they can cause damage to the bike when it is knocked over. Their solution?

temporary biking situation The Hague

Chalk lines showing you where to park your bike. Not the most elegant solution, of course. We came back a few hours later after taking this second photo and the entire space was full, and people also placed their bikes against the building just like before – making it even more crowded for pedestrians to pass.


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Back in the work grind (Or: 9-5 or thereabouts)

As of last week I am no longer unemployed! This is my first paid job since moving to the Netherlands in late 2012. I wanted to wait a bit on finding a job and instead spend my time learning Dutch, but the last few months I was feeling the itch to get back into the working game. Thankfully it was not a wasted goal – my Dutch is pretty good.

I won’t speak too much about the details of the job and where it is, or what happens on a day to day basis, as I like to keep work separate mostly. But I will say it’s an English-speaking job in The Hague with a short commute by tram. I guess you could call me a “content manager”, as one of my main responsibilities is going through old content that is shifting to a new portal and verifying that everything is working as it should be. Hint: it’s not. ūüėČ But thankfully my background in library sciences is perfectly suited for this bug-hunting task. It’s a temporary contract (through Unique Multilingual, a temp agency) but is shaping out to be a great experience. Also a great company to have on my CV! Here are random insights after the first week:

1. Holy crap, I’m tired. I mostly get there before 8:30am and leave around 5pm, but Tuesdays and Thursdays I also have a 3 hour Dutch class from 6:45-10:00pm. I was walking towards the tram to go home on Thursday afternoon and I realized I never would have been able to get my Dutch to the level it is now if I also held a full time job the first year.

2. I do miss the random things that I did during the day to help learn Dutch. Whether it was hanging out with folks to practice my Dutch or watching the TV (first Dutch cartoons and now the Comedy Central Network with Dutch sitcoms) I did find it helpful. Now I work with an organization whose working language is English but also has documents in French and Spanish. Almost every document has three language versions. Unfortunately my Spanish has eroded enough that I cannot read it that well anymore. Luckily I have found the ‘Dutch table’ at lunch, though it’s still a mix of speaking Dutch and English. (What else is new in this country?)

3. It’s really jarring to go outside after work and hear people speak Dutch again. I’m amused.

4. Trams are crowded. So very, very crowded. Excepts Fridays, where I can probably find a seat. Probably. But the other weekdays? Good luck. I’m back to using my purse again (it’s a good container for bringing along my lunch and backup glasses) but there’s nothing else important there. Beware zakkenrollers, or pickpockets.

5. It’s weird to actually have to plan the grocery shopping lists with Marco. I can’t just run off to Albert Heijn on a daily basis anymore… though he at least has an Albert Heijn and Hoogvliet by his work. Where I work seems to mostly be offices.

6. I like the kitchen at work. Free tea (Pickwick brand) and free soup (Cup-a-soup brand) along with the more normal free coffee. I have the tea on a daily basis but I haven’t tried the soup or coffee yet. It’s also a big office, so we have three half refridgerators, two dishwashers, etc. They also put a lot of effort into the atmosphere – pretty hard wood floors, colorful chairs, a bright dining area – you get the idea.

I think that’s enough for now… I hope you enjoyed my random comments about being back in the work force again. ūüôā

Categories: Working & Volunteering | 8 Comments

Breaking apart verbs (Or: B2 Dutch course #12)

Note: no school related posts next week, as we are on vacation.

Well, not breaking them. Just pulling them apart. Last night we learned about separable and not-separable verbs, although this post will only cover the first kind. Somewhat similar to English I suppose, except that our prepositions tend to come after the verb (to bring with) and are not attached to the verb. In Dutch, the prepositions are actually prefixes attached to the verb.

Verbs classified as separable always have the accent on the first syllable! WEG-gaan (to go away). AF-was-sen (to wash dishes). UIT-leg-gen (to explain).

Here are some rules in the various tenses:

Present tense, main clause/hoofdzin: Ik was vanavond af. (I wash the dishes tonight – afwassen). Here the prefix separates and moves to the end of the clause.

Present tense, relative clause/bijzin: Ik beloof je dat ik vanavond afwas. (I promise you I will wash the dishes tonight). Since it’s a relative clause (introduced by¬†dat) the verb must move to the end of the relative clause and conjugate itself based on the subject (ik/I). If it does, the prefix remains attached to the verb and comes before.

Past tense, main clause/hoofdzin: Mijn moeder stapte een halte te vroeg uit. (My mother got out a stop too early Рuitstappen.) As present tense/main clause, you conjugate the verb and move the prefix to the end of the clause.

Past tense, relative clause/bijzin:  Toen mijn moeder uitstapte, regende het hard. (When my mother got out, it rained hard.) As the verb is already at the end of the clause (required for relative clauses), the prefix stays with it.

Modal auxiliary verbs (can, should, shall, may, must, etc), present or imperfect, with verb as infinitive: Ik wil jullie voor mijn verjaardag uitnodigen. (I want to invite you [all] for my birthday Рuitnodigen.) As it is not the main verb, but just an infinitive, it goes to the end of the sentence and thus the prefix remains attached.

Present perfect (perfectum), main clause/hoofdzin:¬†Hij heeft ons voor zijn verjardag uitgenodigd. (He has invited us for his party.) Again, the present perfect tense demands that the participum (genodigd) goes to the end of the clause, thus the prefix is allowed to attach itself to it. NOTE: ‘ge’ goes between the prefix and the verb. uitgenodigd.

Present perfect (perfectum), relative clause/bijzin:¬†Weet je dat ik de grammatica al drie keer heb uitgelegd? (Did you know that I have already explained the grammar three times?) In this case since it is a relative clause the helper element (heb from ‘hebben’) also moves to the end of the clause, but otherwise it is the same as above.¬†NOTE:¬†the order of the helper element (hebben or zijn) and the participum (in this case uitleggen) does not matter. It’s a style choice.

Past perfect (plusquamperfectum), main clauses and relative clauses: The same rules as above for present perfect apply, including the order of the helper element and the participum. The only difference is that the helper element can only be had/hadden (from hebben) or was/waren (from zijn).

te + infinitief:¬†Je hoeft me niet meer op¬†te bellen.¬†(You do not have to call me anymore –¬†opbellen). Some verbs require the¬†om … te¬†construction (or in this case the¬†te construction). If¬†te is present it will go between the prefix and the rest of the verb, with spaces on either side.¬†One of the semi rare times a prefix can still come before the verb but not be attached to it.

Imperatives (giving commands): Pas op! (Watch out Рoppassen). Ga weg! (Go away Рweggaan). Trek een jas aan! (Put a jacket on Рaantrekken). It might not be obvious but this is of course another example of separable verbs, where the verb is conjugated and the prefix comes at the end of the clause (Note: Trek aan een jas is wrong Рyou must put the prefix all the way at the end of the clause).

I hope you found this informative. If you didn’t, sorry to be such a grammar geek!

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Hunebedden (Or: B2 Dutch course #11)

No grammar today. Here are two random things we covered in Tuesday’s class, for fun:

1)¬†hunebedden in the providence of Drenthe (Dutch wikipedia¬†| Lijst). These are heavy, unwieldy ‘grave stones’. During the last ice age the northern half of the Netherlands was covered by ice. The boulders were brought over from Scandinavia on slow moving glaciers. When the ice melted, the stones remained.¬†Around 4000 BC people moved the boulders into grave stone formation ¬†– somehow.

File:Grootste hunebed van Nederl.jpg

2.¬†Laan van Meerdervoort¬†in The Hague follows an old shoreline (which was apparently very popular to live near). I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s also the longest street in the country.

Laan van Meerdervoort, Den Haag

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Another tense in the past (Or: B2 Dutch course #10)

First, a minor thing I forgot to mention from the previous class (Tuesday) which I found amusing/useful. You have a few different ways to talk about the length of time, namely pas for a short length of time and al for a long length of time.

Therefore, you can get some emotion into your sentence just by using one of those words. Ik woon al 5 jaar in Nederland. (I have lived in the Netherlands for 5 years already.) Ik woon pas 5 jaar in Nederland. (I have lived in the Netherlands for just 5 years.)

Yesterday we learned the voltooid verleden tijd: Ik had gewerkt. (the past perfect in English РI had worked). It is pretty simple to the perfectum Рthe helper verbs are again either hebben or zijn but this time they are in the past. Luckily you only have two forms for each Рsingular or plural: had/hadden and was/waren. You then use the voltooid deelwoord (gewerkt, gehad, gedanst) without any changes from the perfectum.

First reason to use the voltooid verleden tijd: 

You are already talking about something in the past (using either the perfectum or imperfectum) but you also talk about something even farther in the past (past perfect). This is actually pretty similar to English.

Gisteren LAS ik in de krant dat er eergisteren een ongeluk WAS GEBEURD met twee vrachtwagens. Yesterday (gisteren) I read (las, imperfectum) in the paper that two days ago (eergisteren) an accident had occurred (was gebeurd, voltooid verleden tijd) with two trucks.

Warning: you can also start with the past perfect, as long as the first thing you talk about happened before the more recent thing.

Nadat mijn broer een nieuwe lcd-televisie HAD GEKOCHT, HEB ik er ook zo een GEKOCHT. Ik vond hem zo mooi!¬†After (nadat) my brother had bought (had gekocht, voltooid verlede tijd) a new LCD television, I have also bought (heb … gekocht) one. I found it so nice!

Note, of course, that the Dutch doesn’t translate as cleanly – it sounds a bit forced to use ‘I have bought’ in English for that situation; the simple past is better. But you get the idea.

Second reason to use the voltooid verleden tijd: 

Something¬†didn’t¬†happen in the past but wonder what might have been if it had.

Helaas we hebben de trein gemist. Als we harder hadden gelopen, hadden we misschien de trein wel gehaald. Unfortunately we missed the train. If we had walked (hadden gelopen = voltooid veleden tijd) a bit harder, maybe we could have caught (hadden gehaald = same) the train. Again, English differs in what tense sounds best, but you get the idea.

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Valentine’s Day (Or: PB&J sandwiches)

So Marco surprised me this morning with a Valentine’s Day themed peanut butter and jelly sandwich in bed.

Valentines Day pbj sandwich

Definitely a surprise since he came into the bedroom at the normal time he comes in (to give me a hug or two and then go to work). But as he has to work pretty late tonight, he surprised me by saying he wasn’t going into work until 10am. Yay.

It’s also the first time I had a pb&j sandwich since I left New York… I used to have them every work day for a few years, since they were easy and quick to make. Of course, I varied the other stuff I had. So yeah… it’s been a long time since pb&j!

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Het ei van Columbus (Or: B2 Dutch course #9)

We had an interesting expression in class last night –¬†het ei van Columbus¬†/ the egg of Columbus (English | Dutch Wikipedia). Apparently it exists in English as well even though I had not heard of it before.

Regardless, one story goes that after Columbus’ journey to the Americas, he returned and dined with Spanish nobles. They told him that it was easy to discover America, and anyone could have done it. He retorted by placing an egg on the table and saying that no one could make the egg stand on its own without help or assistance but he could. Everyone tried to do this and failed. Afterwards, Columbus gently tapped it on the table to break it slightly, which allowed it to stand on its own. (Meaning: things always look easier after you know how to do it.)

In this class we covered the perfectum (ik heb gewerkt, ik ben daar gegaan), although I have covered that before in this blog. You need to use a helper verb (hebben or zijn, depending) with a participle like¬†gewerkt or¬†gegaan. In a normal sentence the helper verb stays close to the subject while the participle moves to the end of the phrase. Ik ben nooit naar Spanje geweest¬†(I have never been to Spain). In a subordinate clause¬†the helper verb moves to the back of the clause – either before or after the participle. Whether it’s before or after sometimes depends on the situation, or the flow of the sentence, or lots of little things that you’ll eventually get the hang of.¬†It is not that clear cut.

But sometimes you can break the rule of “participle or helper verb always comes at the end of the clause” when you have a prepositional phrase.

Hij vertelt over de reis die:
…hij naar India heeft gemaakt
…hij heeft gemaakt naar India

He talked about the trip that he did (“made”) to India. In Dutch ‘to India’ can either come before or after the participle. In this case I would probably use the first one, as it is a short prepositional phrase and thus the participle isn’t that far back. But sometimes you need to stick the prepositional phrase after to not disrupt the flow of the sentence – too many prepositions can cause the listener/reader to lose the logic of your sentence and hearing the participle quickly is more important than the prepositional phrase.

And one final note about prepositional phrases – the little word¬†om marks a different sort of phrase (also known as the om…te construction”). It’s hard to explain as it is not used in English anymore but it’s basically a short phrase which answers “why” the first part of the sentence happened.

Ik ga naar school om mijn huiswerk in te leveren.  I will go to school (why?) to turn in my homework.
Zij heeft met haar zusje gesproken om een goede oplossing te vinden. She has spoken with her little sister (why?) to find a good solution.

When you are using the¬†om…te construction it always goes at the very end of the clause.

Hij vertelt over de reis die:
…hij¬†naar India¬†heeft gemaakt [om foto’s te maken]

but not: Hij vertelt over de reis die:
…hij¬†naar India [om foto’s te maken]¬†heeft gemaakt

Today’s “when to use de or het” lesson is for het words. You use¬†het¬†for:

– all singular diminutives or “small words”.¬†het zusje (little sister),¬†het hondje (little dog) and similar
Рcompass points: het noorden, het oosten, het zuiden, het westen
Рall two syllable words that begin with ge normally (note: not participles)
het gebaar (the gesture), het gesprek (the meeting), het gevoel (the feeting)

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More and more crowded (Or: Construction in The Hague Centrum)

Do you know what ‘construction’ is in Dutch? If you’re like me you might have said¬†constructie (a lot of Dutch words seem to start the same and end with -ie) but alas, it is not. It’s¬†verbouwing.¬†Bouwen is ‘to build’ and the prefix¬†ver ends up on a lot of Dutch words.

The Hague’s centrum area is a bit insane at the moment. Not only to you have them working on the Nieuwe Passage¬†(a passage which links two main streets), and Marks & Spencer being built, you now have them tearing up the entire middle of the street, forcing¬†voetgangers (pedestrians) to the left and¬†fietsers (bicyclists) to the right. Crazy.

construction in The Hague CentrumIt’s getting to the point where I can’t quite remember what this place looked like when I was here on vacation a few years back, before any of this construction started!

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Nieuw woord: potloodventer (Or: B2 Dutch course #8)

Eerst, het verhaal in Nederlands:

Op donderdag had ik mijn les bij Mondriaan.¬†We hadden een oefening met het liedje ‘Centraal Station’ bij Guus Meeuwis en Vagant. E√©n van de regels was “een potloodventer in een donkere hoek”. De lerares heeft gevraagd: “Weet iemand wat potloodventer betekent?” Een student weet het al! Zij heeft het laten zien met haar handen (zij kon het niet met woorden uitleggen), maar iedereen was nog steeds een beetje in de war. Toen legde de lerares het uit – het is een¬†exhibitionist¬†– en de lerares heeft haar gevraagd: hoe weet je dat woord? De student heeft gezegd “van mijn schoonmoeder”. Een student vroeg, verbaasd, “Jouw schoonmoeder was een potloodventer?” “Nee!” Iedereen moest echt hard lachen. We hebben een beetje meer over het woord gepraat, misschien drie of vier minuten. Nadat heeft de lerares gezegd “Ok√©, dat is genoeg van dat thema.” Maar helaas heeft zij de volgende regels van het liedje gezegd – “Maar ik zie je nog voor me, als ik mijn ogen sluit” – toen moest iedereen weer om lachen.

And now in English:

On Thursday I had my lesson by Mondriaan. We had an exercise where we must listen to a song, “Centraal Station” by Guus Meeuwis and Vagant. One of the lines was “an exhibitionist in a dark corner”. The teacher asked if anyone knew what the word meant. One student actually knew it! She demonstrated with her hands (she couldn’t explain it in words), but everyone was still a bit confused. The teacher explained what it meant – exhibitionist / someone who exposes themselves – and after asked her how she knew the word. The student said “from my mother-in-law”. A student asked, surprised: “Your mother-in-law was an exhibitionist?” “No!” Everyone just had to laugh. We talked about the meaning of the word for a few more minutes, and afterwards the teacher said “Okay, enough from that theme.” Unfortunately she then said the next few lines from the song out loud, to go over them. They were “but I still see you before me, as I close my eyes”. Everyone laughed again… Good times.

That was the highlight of the lesson – otherwise we just reviewed grammar (the imperfect/simple past – zij danste – she danced) and did an exercise or two with that. I won’t cover that here (I have before) but here are three rules for when you can use the imperfect:

1. To describe special events in the past when the attention of the listener is already in the past. Het was afgelopen week erg druk in de stad. It was very busy last week in the city.

2. Routines / commonly done things in the past. Vroeger fietsten we altijd naar school. Back then we always biked together to school.

3. Actions that took place at the same time in the past. Erst namen we de trein naar Berlijn en daar namen we een taxi naar ons hotel. First we took a train to Berlin and there we took a taxi to our hotel.

If you’re talking about more recent events, as in something that happened in the last few days, it’s usually better to use the past perfect. (Ik heb gedanst – I have danced), at least, that’s what my textbook says. I’m guilty of breaking that rule… I am a bit shaky on when to use the simple past and past perfect.

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