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March 2018

How Dutch language changed my brain

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For me, an essential part of starting to navigate in the Dutch society was learning the Dutch language, even though you can ¨manage” with just English.

Since I have a natural interest for languages and a tendency to over-analyse, I asked myself what is the impact of speaking and sometimes even thinking in Dutch.

Before I go further, I’d like to thank my friend René who encouraged me and believed in me and whose support meant the world to me in those first months of being here – still does, but those months were the hardest.

One phrase that I hear a lot in conversations is “kan gebeuren” – literally translated as “it happens”.  Nothing special, you might say. Allow me to disagree.

By showing understanding towards other people’s mistakes you also allow yourself to relax and not put too much pressure on yourself.

It’s a useful phrase both at work and home among family members.

A colleague forgot to forward you an email – instead of reprimanding them for not doing their job, you say lightly “geeft niks, kan gebeuren” and you both go on with your tasks. It helps your emotional health – not making a big deal out of something that “can happen to the best of us”. It mostly happens to the most forgetful of us but that’s another discussion. At home this phrase can be useful with your children, it can teach them that it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s part of the learning process.

Another phrase that I hear a lot is “geen idee” – I don’t know, no idea!

It’s fine not to know something, as long as you’re willing to learn, catch up on your knowledge. Again, it keeps the air light in any kind of environment – be it formal or informal. It might be the reason why the dutch people you’ve met are so easy-going in communication and in life, in general.

One more expression that I have a lot of respect for and reflects a crucial trait of my dutch friends is: “Alles is bespreekbaar” – which means “everything can be discussed” or “everything is negotiable” as in: there are no taboos.

It is a known fact that the key to any relationship is communication. If you state in the introductory phase of a meeting that everything can be discussed, it removes a lot of pressure from any kind of situation. The people involved know that they will have their say at the decision being made, their opinion will be taken into account, since everything can be negotiated.

I will continue observing how the language we use has an impact of our daily behaviour and understanding of things so probaly this post will get an update soon.

Stay tuned!