Tag Archive | language struggle

City trip to Melbourne

4 February 2011 (Australia)



After 3,5 years of financial drought and lack of time (because of the renovation of our house) we finally could treat ourselves to a city trip to Melbourne. I want to tell you why I so enormously enjoyed it!

For me personally it felt like a kind of landslide to understand the Australian accent 100 times easier than the New Zealand accent. I know; probably my language struggle begins to be a pretty boring topic for you, and for me it’s quite annoying that I hardly can explain why I find language & personality are so tightly connected to each other.

But … apart from the certainty that there are way more serious problems in the world (really, I know, haha) the fact is that I have to cope this struggle and in Australia I experienced an almost physical relief because the bustle around me was no dense cloud of abstract sounds anymore. Without significant concentration I could pick up complete sentences! For example; listening to the people gossiping about their aunty on the seats behind me in the lunchroom … oh, the joy! Or the teenage girls in the tram discussing how they would approach their prey that night. It made me serenely smiling. It were fragments of lives that had nothing to do with my life, but suddenly now I was part of the same space, instead of being an almost deaf and dumb person in a separate bubble.

What also made me so happy was that people understood ME TOO!!! Usually without I needed to repeat my words 3 times! Of pure happiness I asked things on my own initiative! Just for fun! Without those questions were urgently needed! No deep conversations though, but you have to start in baby steps, isn’t it?
In New Zealand, when I asked for an extra sugar packet … without exception they looked at me like I’m hysterically yelling at them. Even if I pointed to the empty pot of sugar packets at the same time. Sometimes I almost choked of frustration!
Then what a relief to simply ask in the fitting room: “Can you bring me a larger size?” and the shop assistant kindly nodded and DOING it right away!!! Oh … those little things made me so happy last week.

I always have felt if I was the first person in the world by asking such an idiotic thing like a larger size, or a sugar packet, while requesting these questions in a completely logical situation. After all, I didn’t ask for a sugar packet just after a fire has broken out. And I didn’t ask for a larger size, just when I was lying down to undergo a gynecological examination.
Anyhoo … if you often experience that feeling of despair, then after a while it will affect your behavior. And if your behaviour is changing, it slowly infects your personality.

If I concentrate I can follow the news on tv in New Zealand. But a constant high focus is too much. I only can muster for things that interest me in a certain level.
I don’t know why other people pick it up so much faster. Probably I need more practice. To practice you need to talk to strangers. Ha … and THAT is quite unthinkable for an introvert!
But it remains a curious fact that I have much less trouble with the Australian dialect. Four years ago, I already had noticed this during our visit to Brisbane.

The above story is not the reason for our desire to move to Australia in the future. We miss the Big City. That doesn’t mean we made the wrong choice 5 years ago. At that time, New Zealand was the right choice. We wanted to leave the Netherlands, away from the crowds and live in a quiet area. Well … we did. Now we are five years further in life and have learned a few things. Perhaps we have changed too. We broadly moved to the right direction. Now we just need to do some fine tuning. Geographically-wise.


Somewhere in Melbourne

Awkward silence

28 November 2010

Our neighbour was waiting before us, in the line at the checkout of the supermarket.

Neighbour: “Hi! How aya?”
I: Goe … ehm, fine.
Neighbour: Do you want a white home?

Me thinking: (Huh? Does she means something of Christmas, or what?)
I: Ehhh ……… (silly grin)
Neighbour: Do you want a white home?

Me thinking: (Ow shit, is she asking about our house painted beige last year?)
I: Pardon? (I learned to pronounced this in New-Zealand dialect like the Dutch word for ‘horses’)
Neighbour: Do you want a white home?

Me thinking: (Oh boy, what the hell is she meaning?)
I: A white home ???
Neighbour: Yes (expectant look)

(Long awkward silence)

Frank: Oooooh, you mean RRRight home?
Neighbour: Hahaha, yes, a rrright home???
Frank: Yes, after the shopping we are going right home.

In the meanwhile, I saw an empty spot at the self-service-checkout and vigorously nodding, pointing and smiling I pushed Frank and myself out of the line.
After we paid and packed our groceries, the neighbour was still waiting for us.

Neighbour: Did you guys walk down to town?
Frank: Nooo, our car is parked here (I made helpful matching gestures to the door … and pretended to hold a steering wheel.
Me thinking: (Omg, she must think I’m a lunatic. Why I’m doing this?)

Neighbour: So, you don’t need a ride home?

awkward silence

Isn’t my homegrown carrot artistic?


12 February 2009

For my new studio, I was looking for a cheap carpet where I freely could spill on paint. At first I thought about vinyl, but at the local carpet store I saw a leftover of dark laminate. Oooow, beautiful …

Frank always wants to have a look in other shops first, but I wanted nothing else anymore than that half priced laminate. The last remnant, be quick! “Come on, buy NOW!”
That night I couldn’t sleep. Dreaming of the laminate that would bring me to the stars in my career. Via kilometers of laminate I sailed from one metropolis to another. Sitting on the laminate the finest paintings came from my hands and I made the best decisions in my life. Everything was good and I was happy. That night.
On Friday I got nervous. Imagine the offer was over, the new season was coming (whatever ‘flooring seasons’ may be). That day my English exercise was to personally ask how long the offer would last. No, not by phone. I rather walked to town.

An old woman with angry eyebrows -the disillusioned mother of the carpet prince- strode up to me and asked what I was doing in her shop.
Trying to break her reluctantly I said in a conspiratorial tone that I was very interested in that dark laminate, but my husband could not make a decision. In addition, I put my own eyebrows as sad as possible. Her face lit up and she said, “What if we half the halved price again” My face also lit up and I said, “Oooh, but that will be a huge help.” Suddenly light-footed she walked to the desk and whispered to her heir. His face then also lit up and he said: “This offer is until Monday, but then you have to take the complete stock of that colour!” It sounded like a punishment, but I didn’t care. I said; “Well, I think I’m going to win this fight with my husband tonight.”
“Bye”, I waved elated.
“Bye”, waved mother and son excited.
And so, on my turn I light-footed walked back home. My first and very own haggle! In English!

And because I had to take it all, Frank is now stuck with dark laminate in his office too.

Sound effects

18 April 2008

A month ago, exactly on the day my 2 boxes with paintings from Perth arrived on the New Zealand airport, I received an email from a gallery in Melbourne. They had found my website and were full of praise; “Wonderful, refreshing, interesting! We can, we want, we will, we love, etcetera.” All nice words.
This was badly timed, because on this blog I just had written that I never would exhibit anymore via a gallery. Now I haughtily had to remain to my principles, without throwing in my own windows (Dutch proverb).
I wrote back that I didn’t longer exhibited via galleries, but this didn’t mean they could not sell my work … (building up a constructive silence)
I offered them to buy my paintings for a reduced price. Then it was up to them to sell them for a higher price.
I never expected to hear from them anymore, because 9 out of 10 emails is only bullshit.
And then … (whipping violin sounds) … I received an email that the gallery owner couldn’t find my phone number on my site.


That means I had to cope with my 2 biggest phobia at the same time!!! Phoning AND talking English … (sound of a gun cocking)
What to do? I could start with an uncontrollably and long cry. Or shall I drink half a bottle of wine? Then I’m better in talking. I already had bloodshot eyes, so who minds?

The creepy thing of a phone call is that uncomfortable silences are scaring the hell outta me. My desperate solution then is to fill them with talk asap. Not informative talk, but incoherent ravings. Thereby making unintelligible jokes, which again causes awkward silences.
And it’s not even an insanity or something, because afterwards I can repeat every syllable! Afterwards my own shrill chatter echoes through my head for hours. Awful!

But I had no choice …
So we did a phone call. A small 5 minutes.
And nothing new was discussed. The lady from Melbourne gave it up soon and stayed very polite. Thanked me again for the discount and said that she was still interested. And that we would talk about the rest by email … (sound of a fading horse gallop).

After one week I got an email again. She wanted to buy 2 of my paintings to start with!
Isn’t that great?! (stadium applause)


Fear and pride

19 July 2007

In the meanwhile, we have been to the marae 6 or 7 times, without me blogging about it every single time. When a new lesson in marae protocol was announced, Gina phoned us to ask whether we want to participate again. We play public. In exchange for food.

After 4 or 5 times, I thought it would be nice to truant, but because Frank always picks up the phone and without exception says yes to everything, my unwilling movements didn’t make any sense.
He draws his sorry face  photo kweetniet_zpshfnjdtqq.gif and shrugs. Sometimes I think I see an evil glint in his eyes.

A few visits ago (could be around that same 4th or 5th time) Gina began to proclaim that Frank too should do a speech next time. That didn’t happen, so we began to believe it was just a joke.
But today -in contrast to the previous times- we suddenly were recalled to the marae again after finishing lunch in the dining area. Gina’s students also came back from the dining area and obediently sat down on mattresses against the walls of the marae.
In a few words each of the students had to tell what his thoughts were about the last lesson. Preferably in Maori (a lot of Maori people don’t speak Maori), but English was okay too. Gina was sitting between us and suddenly began wildly whispering to Frank. She gave him possibilities of what he could say soon …
Now Frank was already somewhat prepared, so he let it come over him.

fear pride

That brave man over there … has a very childish spouse.

For Maori not only their ancestors are very important, but also their mountain, their lake and the marae where they live closest to. So Frank stood up and told that he was the Pakeha from Holland and was born in Heiloo (a Dutch village) near the Puke Ngeru (the cat-mountain of 10 meters high) and near Roto Hukupapa (the IJsselmeer, lake) and the Ma Whare Karakia (the little white church). And that he was in this marae to learn something about the Maori culture. His translations were a kind of self-taught.

Isn’t that great?! How brave! I was proud on him.

While assenting applause, Gina started pushing me.



NO …

All previous times I never was threatened with the request for “public speaking” and so I was not prepared! Since the compulsory lecture in elementary school at the age of 10 years old, I had decided I would never speak in public again. The lecture was the first low point in my childhood, and I swore I would never grant such a request for the rest of my life. I also never did the opening speeches at my art gallery, 25 years later.
The compulsory lecture in elementary school in itself was a sufficient reason to not reincarnate after this life.
Now you got the feel for my aversion and fear. By the way: I read this is the # 1 fear to most people. Even more scary than death itself.

Together with my most adorable smile I tried to radiate a NO as much as possible. And I hardly could distract my eyes from the side door, which behind I knew our car was parked. The getaway car. I put my attitude to unyielding and made subtle, but hopefully scary looking movements with the muscles in my jaw (you know, that are so typical for serial killers and psychopaths). Happily that worked. Gina ran to Frank on stage and together they did a little impromptu Dutch wooden-shoe-dance. On a completely unknown tulips song.

I still was proud mixed with fear and relieve.

Poooooh … thanks Lord, for left alone the rest of the time. But hey Lord, next time be a bit quicker with your intervention.

The gains 1

29 September 2006

Last week the day of our move to New Zealand was 1 year ago and someone asked us if we had gone through the ‘gains’. Of course I first had to look up that word. I thought it were the rugby results or something, but it means benefits or profits. In other words; Did the emigration enriched our lives?

Old immigrants say that you first have to go through all the seasons to know if the emigration is successful. They also say that the homesickness mercilessly will strike after 1 year. The latter I don’t think so … During my life people always have said too that ‘later’ I certainly would have children. Or that I would be sorry when I drop out of school to work in a restaurant (and never went back to the classroom again). well, I still feel nothing. No homesickness, no baby wish and no career-remorse.

But back to the gains; There are a few things that troubles me in New Zealand. After 40 years on birth ground someone exactly knows where to go for any wish or any question that comes to him. Even for things that I had nothing to do with ever in my life, I knew to find special stores or agencies in the Netherlands. Also all within a range of 1 hour driving. That’s a difference over here. In New Zealand I have spent hours to search for the most silly things.

About the language problem I’ve ranted a few times, but before the emigration I knew that would be a stumbling block. Beforehand I was not eager to spend much time learning the language properly and today in daily life I barely speak English, so I don’t make any progress. This implies that when I’m in front of new people, I can not present myself as how I am. I’m not able to make nuances during a conversation. For example I can’t use funny theatrical old-fashioned words like I loved to do in my own language.
During last year I even more realized how much a language is connected to your roots and connected to the history of your birth country. The same old immigrants always say: “Ah dear, don’t worry, it will grow on you.” But I know that’s not going to happen. Maybe still possible if you emigrated as a teenager, but not as a mid-ager.
I miss the essential foundation where the contact with my own Dutch peers is based on. I’m not talking about the foundation in the history books, but the foundation of the people living in the same place as you. A place thoroughly known by everyone else around you.

Another important connection to your own language is everything that has been on television during your life. Every Dutchman knows what I mean by “My Dad the Magician” (it’s a well-known children’s tv show in the seventies). Every Dutchman knows who are the Hennies (two Dutchies unjust locked in a Turkish jail). Everyone knows the difference between ‘the It’ (a nightclub) and It’s (an appliance store). Anyone immediately sings along when they hear the melody of: “Sauerkraut with fatty gravy” (an alternative comedy show). And no Dutchie once will use the phrase ‘the realm of thoughts’ anymore with a serious face (a phrase too much used after the murder of a controversial politician). I could make jokes and wits with these shared knowledge. Here in New Zealand this kind of things are a huge empty spot in my expression.
So … there are thousands of wires in a language, which I never can catch up with. And I’m talking about me, because there are immigrants out there, who perfectly can blend in. But they are a lot more social and perhaps a lot more laid-back than me. Less uptight.
It’s all frustrating, but let’s be honest; I do not want it badly enough. So actually … the language has a large impact on me and is a bit of a negative consequence, but it doesn’t fall under the ‘disgains’. Because I had anticipated.
No … disgains wasn’t a real existing word 🙂

Well, did the immigration enriches our lives, or not ???
I don’t often talk about that. If I write down something positive about New Zealand, it looks like I down thumb the Netherlands. If I find something better here, I’ve obviously seen worse, isn’t it?

the gains 1

My first herbs.

It is like I mean that I don’t understand that you guys are still living in that stupid country. Well, of course that isn’t the case … it’s just too dark there. The grey Dutch weather doesn’t particularly made me sad, but the reverse is; nice weather makes me more lighthearted over all. That’s an umbrella gain.

Gallery Fisher

10 December 2005

This week we went to Auckland to show my newest paintings to the owner of gallery Fisher.
After this visit, I was wondering … is it too much to expect a chair and an offered cup of coffee after we have driven a trip of 4 hours? Fisher may be one of the better and upmarket galleries, but a little courtesy belongs to that world too, isn’t it?
Anyway, these ‘different’ manners we shall gather under the no-nonsense policy. The sunny side is that next January 5 paintings can participate in the Summer Salon. I’m not sure what this exactly will mean – but for now I’m happy the paintings will hang somewhere, instead of getting dust on the attic.

Unexpected I got a great understanding for Moroccan women who still don’t speak Dutch after living in the Netherlands for 20 years. During our vacation in New Zealand 2 years ago, I didn’t understand a word of the accent. Now, after three months living here, I slowly begin to understand about 30%  I’m developing a talent for scanning the pitch of the voices, to know when I need to draw a matching animated face.
From the beginning, Frank is an intermediate between me and the outside world. Very occasionally I try to say something myself, but every time my courage sinks deeper and deeper. Without exception the listener looks at me in horror when I have said a few words. Even if I’m sure it is no dirty talk! The only thing I can do to break the frightening silence is to loudly shout out the keyword of my intended conversation. Mostly then the conversation is moving on, or sometimes Frank brings salvation. But it is not really encouraging. The Pavlovian effect is that I’m already blushing if I’m only think I should say something.

gallery fisherI still need to cancel the appointment with that cruel hairdresser. I’m not going to do that by phone! “Hell nooo,” I’ll send a postcard, because writing goes okay. Although … I guess you are able to read this blogs.
The willingness to belong to some kind of community has faded away already, so I can drift away into my seclusion. Though I still have quickly hung up the latest fashion in Christmas lights (from the Dutch Ikea) on the curtain rail to show the neighbourhood how ‘worldly’ we are!

My IELTS test

31 Oct 2004

Before I moved from the Netherlands to New Zealand I had to do the International English Language Test (IELTS). And I needed a band score of 5 (out of 9) at least to be allowed to live in New Zealand.

From 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM I found myself in exactly the same state of mind like 2 decades earlier at high school.
These days I was under the impression that I enough mastered reading and writing in English, but I was very concerned about the spoken test. So, in the lunch break prior to my speaking presentation, I sneaked into a bar and quickly gulped down two glasses of gin for the purpose of the indispensable overconfidence.

After the examiner ignored my offered handshake, I instantly became an insecure adolescent again.
The monologue about my work went fine. Although, the story suddenly was a lot shorter than I had practised at home in front of the mirror … While my brain was feverishly searching for another few smooth sentences, the examiner asked me about ‘the most impressive letter in my life’. I got 1 minute to think about this question en I thanked Whatever that I knew my reply after a few seconds already. I would tell him about the New Zealand gallery owner, who recently sent me an enthusiastic email. In that way I could turn the conversation into a subject that I was familiar with.
Happily I started to rave about it en tried to spice up my story with some interesting gestures en sweet ladylike voice inflections (yuk). But being realistic; in my desperation I noticed I used some quite weird words. My last straw was throwing in my most disarming glance.

I wasn’t done with my ‘show’ yet, when the examiner interrupted me by asking something very complicated about ‘the future of the written word’. I picked up some words as “ministry, professors and academics” and I asked him to repeat his difficult question. The long-expected black-out kicked in and my brain got frozen. Probably the examiner saw this happen too and he reckoned the oral test as finished.

On my way back home I was relieved this bad day was ended en mopishly I hoped I would get a more easy-going person if I had to do a new exam.

But …
A few weeks later I got the IELTS-envelope in my mailbox.
My score was a 6,5 ! And for conversation a … 7 !!! A SEVEN!
For 2 days I euphorically and non-stop shouted out loud: “How is this possible?! How is this possible?! How is this possible?!”

certificate ielts