So you want to learn Dutch? You can!

Be prepared for a long and difficult journey though.

Since Adek Deny is trying to master the Dutch language she obviously comes to me with questions about how and why some things are as they are in Dutch language and grammar. As Dutch is my native language I accepted a lot of things when I learned the language over the years without explicitly thinking about the things I was taught. Frustrating for a new comer, because I have to think deeply and sometimes do not have a proper explanation  at all.

I want to show you in this post some of the difficulties that one might experience, trying to learn the Dutch language. Those difficulties are based on my own experiences with the questions from Adek Deny.

1. The Dutch have a very difficult system with conjugating verbs

Learning to use verbs correctly in sentences can be a nightmare, it is so difficult that the Dutch themselves make lots of mistakes actually. I have this example from one of the most popular and best read Dutch blogs: Geenstijl. It states “betaald” while it should say “betaalt” because they mix up the writing of a past particle with the third person singular tense (there is also an extra other bonus mistake as you can see in the picture).


All media often make grammatical errors (maybe this might give you some comfort). Through Google you can find lots of  websites that will try to give you the best explanations of the difficult matter of conjugating verbs.

2. The Dutch break have a habit of putting words in a sentence in a special order

Sometimes you think you can get away by your knowledge of the English language when creating your first sentences. Unfortunately, in some cases your knowledge of the English language is not applicable in Dutch. Have a look for example at this sentence: “I go to school tomorrow“. Knowledge of English language is not enough to make a correct Dutch sentence like “Ik ga naar school morgen” (although the Dutch will understand what you mean). The correct order would be: “Ik ga morgen naar school”. So besides that you already speak a language with news words and carefully have to think about the verbs to use, things can get extra complicated when at the same time you carefully have to consider the order in which you put the words in an sentence.

3. The Dutch break verbs apart

I never realised it myself, but there is something else strange going on with verbs. We break them apart in some circumstances. There are verbs like ‘aanzetten’ (= “to put on”) that suddenly are split when used in a sentence like ‘Ik zet de televisie aan”  (= “I put on the the television”). Actually what happens is that the verb already contains a preposition (“aan”) that will be taken away from the ‘real’ verb (“zetten”).

4. Pronunciation of the Dutch is very unlike most languages

In Netherlands we have this mocking about to how to determine someone is not originally Dutch by having her or him pronounce the word “Scheveningen” (the name of a beach village located close to Den Haag). The Dutch used that trick in Second World War to discover secret German agents and soldiers.

I started to realise that the Dutch have many more unique (vowel) sounds, like “ui” as in “huis” (=”house”), “eu” as in “keuken” (= “kitchen”), but even more standard vowel sounds like “aa” are difficult to master, because the Dutch really like to prolong  the sound, so don’t be afraid to hold the vowel and say a long “aaaaaaa” instead of a short “aa”. Trust me, it will make you sound more authentically Dutch.

5. The Dutch love to use in between and extra words

Also never realised it, but we Dutch use lots of extra words to create a sort of “cuty” effect or to make someone clear it is all not too serious (I tried to think about why we do that and I can not come up with a more satisfying explanation).

Use lots of words like “hoor” as in “Ja hoor”, “Nee hoor”, “Jammer hoor”. But there are so many other words, like “wel”, “nog”, “even”, “en zo”, “of zo” all difficult or impossible to translate in other languages. An example of a sentence using some of these words would be like: “Ik kan nog wel even doorgaan of zo” (= “I could continue like this’).

Some other tip to improve your authenticity as a Dutch speaking person: repeat some words lot. So when you leave friend or family, say “Doei doei” instead of “Doei” (=”Bye”) or say “Ja, ja” instead of “Ja” (=”Yes”).

6. De/ Het

Ok, so the Dutch have two defining articles “de” and “het” where the English only have one (=”the”). The positive side of the story is that this is one less than in German (“Der”, “Die”, “Das”), the bad news is that you must be prepared to study long time to learn what article to use in what case. There are so many ‘rules’ what to use in what instance, that it is probably easier to learn them by heart and expand your knowledge as you get more comfortable by learning Dutch.

There are more other difficulties with Dutch, so maybe one day I will expand the list later when Adek Deny comes with new questions. Be patient with your partner to teach him or her Dutch, because despite the difficulties I mentioned, you can absolutely learn Dutch and the Dutch will be very proud when you try to master their language! Mingle among the Dutch, watch television a lot or YouTube movies teaching Dutch, start with children books (like the famous “Nijntje”) and I am sure you will be doing fine learning the Dutch!



To live without your own car (The Greenwheels alternative)

Greenwheels car

Lately I faced a dilemma because my trustworthy Chrysler PT Cruiser, the car I had been driving since 2006 is starting to show its age and I was faced with rather high costs for maintenance of the car. On the other hand in my current situation I only use a car very irregularly and mostly for short distances, anyway hardly enough to justify a big investment in a new car.

So I started to look for alternatives and became interested in Greenwheels. Greenwheels is a Dutch company that already is in business since 1995. Now and then I saw these cars drive with their remarkable color settings of red and green. I always suspected it had to do something with the Dutch railways (NS) because it carried their logo on the side of the car, but this was not really the case, although Greenwheels offer services combined with NS. From their website I understand they operate in Netherlands and Germany only, a subbranch in the United Kingdom was terminated recently.

The way Greenwheels operates is not similar to a car renting company. Greenwheels does not have the same infrastructure as a car renting company, where you pick up your car from a central spot, usually near a station or industrial site (at least that is the case here in the Netherlands). Greenwheels have special marked parking places in a great number of decentralised spots all over Netherlands. In my case that means that the closest location where I can pick up a car is a 800 meter distance (ca, 15-20 minutes walk from home). They have 3 pricing models for private renters and three pricing models (monthly subscriptions) for businesses, based on a light, medium and heavy use. I choose the regular business package, with a price of € 25 euros per month. Besides the fixed monthly costs I pay in my case (costs differ with the package you choose):

  • an hourly fee (€ 3,10)
  • a fee for every kilometer you drive (€ 0,12 per km)
  • a fee for gasoline (currently € 0,0998 per km).

They offer on their website an Excel sheet through which you can calculate your monthly costs and choose the appropriate package.

Greenwheels developed a leaflet that instructs you on the most important things considering their customs when renting their cars.

Yesterday I made my first reservation and had a car (Peugeot 107) available for the afternoon. So here is my first hands on experience with this type of car renting.

To gain entrance to the car you need a card from the company or an OV chipcard, the most common card in Netherlands to use for public transport. That went well, the car opened without a hitch and the next step is to open the dashboard compartment and take out the board computer and a small book that contains notes about the damages to the car.

Before you drive off you have to inspect the car and see if there are any new damages. I did find a new small damage and had to report to Greenwheels. Because they only seemed to have one telephone number for all their services it took a long time for me to connect to someone to report the damage. So I already almost had the car rented for half an hour, when I was ready to take off, that felt like a bit disappointing, the contact person from Greenwheels was nice to offer a half hour reduction on my renting period. From the board computer you take out the keys of the car and the board computer also contains an ATM style card to tank gasoline (Greenwheels expect you to go tanking when the gasoline is around 1/4 from a full tank).

Greenwheels car
Greenwheels car

The car itself was not really super clean, a bit dusty and the windows could need a  wash. Because we had a busy schedule at the end of the renting period you feel a bit the same pressure when you are constantly watching the clock in order to catch a train or bus, in this case to return the car in time.

My costs for renting a car in the afternoon were ((€ 0,12 +€ 0,0998) * 50 km) + (€ 3,10 * 4,5 hrs) = ca. € 25, (excluded the monthly subscription fee that you should take into account and divide by the number of trips you make in a month). Not really that cheap was my first impression.

So all in all the first experience felt a bit cumbersome because there are many things to take in account when you hire the car (see the leaflet). I still feel a bit unsure about some aspects (for example what happens if you miss a damage, what happens then?). There is -in my case- still a certain distance to pick up the car (almost 40 minutes to walk to the car and to return home walking). The car itself did not feel very clean.

Maybe when you get more experience with this type of renting you become more acquainted with it, but for now I am not yet convinced this will be really something for me.

Farewell to my dad

Afscheid van mijn vader
Me and daddy in the early stage of our journey through life

In sad circumstances my beloved father passed away last Thursday. His passing will leave a big feeling of emptiness in our lives. Besides his most friendly nature and an ultimate love for the ones around him, I will remember him as an exceptionally talented musician.

I feel very much blessed being born as his son and the opportunity of making with him this wonderful travel through life.

Reunited soon!

If all goes well, Adek Deny and I will be reunited within two weeks from now! Then we -finally- can start with the new phase in life, living together as husband and wife. Just in time before we celebrate our half year celebration anniversary (February 9th). After Adek Deny’s graduation and thesis revision, she will spend her remaining time in Indonesia with family and friends before flying to the Netherlands.

Meanwhile I will prepare things over here in the Netherlands, so the administrative things will not too much be in the way once that Adek Deny arrives. I set up a check list so I am sure not to forget things that need to be taken care of before and after Adek Deny’s arrival. The items on the list vary from signing up for general practitioner, dentist, health insurance, registering at the ‘gemeente’ as well as things like arranging a mobile phone subscription.

From a letter I received from IND, they said they will contact me after Adek Deny arrives, I guess to inform us about the ‘verblijfsvergunning’, the identification document that Adek Deny will have to account for her legal stay in the Netherlands. We also will be informed by DUO (the institute from the government dealing with education affairs) about the continuation of the ‘inburgering’ (literally: becoming a citizen) education.

Last week when I wanted to fill in an electronic form for the Dutch Tax Authority I already ran into an issue. One of the first question was ‘Are you married?’, so I filled in ‘Yes’. ‘What is the name and date of birth of your wife?’ and I could answer that one too of course :). But at the third question I stumbled. The question was ‘What is your wife’s ‘BSN’ (a sort of social security number)?’ and that one I couldn’t answer (yet). I don’t even know in which phase Adek Deny will have that BSN number, so another thing to find out!

Adek Deny has been preparing lots of things on her side in Surabaya. She has sent a 30 kilo package with goods to Netherlands, to arrive in 2-3 months. She already has bought a small clothing winter collection, because in January-February weather conditions in the Netherlands can still be harsh! Luckily in Jakarta there are shops that sell winter clothing, so she can arrive at Schiphol well prepared :).

One week in Java (Day 1: Jakarta)

In 2014 I spent a considerable amount of my time in Indonesia, in Java and Bali to be more precise. Lately I got the question from a friend which things to visit if he would spend a week in Java. The most obviously answer would of course be “That’s wayyy too short”, but it made me think how I would spend a week now that I have had so many wonderful experiences. I will write down in 7 episodes how I would spend such a week.

Day 1: Jakarta

Jakarta is a ‘must see’  although probably not everyone’s piece of cake. Be prepared for a continuous flow of cars and motor cycles, day and night. When you have bad luck you end up in one of its terrible traffic jams (not exclusively something that might happen to you in Jakarta, as we will discover along the journey). The air can be heavy polluted, garbage seems to be everywhere. But nevertheless Jakarta contains a lot of interesting experiences that you simply can not experience anywhere else in Java.

Public transportion is never an expensive thing in Indonesia, but in Jakarta they made it extra attractive with a free Jakarta City Tour. This tour will take you in a double deck bus along the most remarkable sites and buildings of the Jakarta centre, like the Monas (the national monument built in the 1960’s) and the presidential residence. It will take you an hour to finish the full tour and you can drop out in between when you think you found something interesting along its route. The tour guides on the bus are very friendly and speak English excellent.

jakarta day 1 city tour jakarta
Deny in front of the City Tour bus.

After the bus tour visit the Monas, the Monument Nasional. You can go with a small elevator to the golden top and from there you will have an overview of modern Jakarta with its countless sky scrapers. Be aware though that the Monument is a very popular attraction, so there might be a long waiting line before you can go to the top. The Monas also contains an underground informative information centre where the history of Indonesia is displayed in countless three-dimensional scenes behind glass. You get a fast update on how Indonesia became the Republic it is nowadays.

Monas in the late afternoon
Monas in the late afternoon

Then visit the National Museum. The Museum is a two-part building: one is a reminiscent of the Dutch colonial days, the other part is multi store modern building. The impressive thing of the Museum is that you get a real good overview on the complexity of all the different cultures of Indonesia. For me it was an eye-opener because here I learned that Indonesia is such a diverse multi-cultural and multi-racial country (which obviously brings a lot of challenges in keeping its unity). There is a lot to see about the different races, clothing, religions, music, house constructions from its habitants.

jakarta day 1 National Museum
The National Museum – Jakarta

Now that it is afternoon visit the ‘Old City’ (Kota Tua in Bahasa Indonesia), the part of Jakarta that reminds most of its colonial past, when the Dutch were in charge for circa 500 years. In those days Jakarta was called Batavia (and Batavia refers to ‘Batavians’ one of the original tribes that lived in the Netherlands some 2000 years ago). Many of the interesting places are centred around the square where the so called Gourverneurskantoor (Office of the Governor) is situated. In front of the building you can even rent bikes and discover the surroundings on a bike. You will  surely be noticed by the local people, but be careful: pedestrians and bikers are somewhere at the bottom of the Indonesian traffic hierarchy chain! You can visit the Gouverneurskantoor, it contains a nice museum that gives you an  impression how the colonial Dutch decorated their office.

jakarta day 1 kota tua
Rented a bike, put on the heads and posed in front of the old Governmental Office.

So when you have had enough for the day and you want to relax a little bit among the local Jakarta people, return to the Monas park, sit down in the grass and order a typical Betawi (name of the local Jakarta people) meal: Kerak Telor. In the park at night there is an abundant choice of souvenirs that are being sold by local Jakarta people.

jakarta day 1 kerka telor
My part time job as Kerak Telor chef and sales man.
jakarta day 1 monas by night
Lot of activities in the night time around the Monas.

This ends our first day in Java and Jakarta! On the second day we will explore more of Jakarta.

-Den Haag, November 16 2014-

Status update on the immigration

Over the past week we have been receiving a number of letters from the IND (the Dutch Immigration Services) to inform us about the procedure. After intially sending in the 7018 form there was a notification letter that the documents had been received well. First of all there was a need to transfer 228.,- euro in order to have someone actually continue with approving the request. The IND has a maximum of 90 days (!) to treat the request so ultimately on January 25th 2015 we should receive an answer. After directly transferring the money on receiving the previous mentioned letter, today, 1 week after the money transfer I received a new notification from IND that the money transfer was received and that a person was now assigned to the request.

So there is still continuity in the process and we are now entering the most crucial phase for us: how fast will we receive a hopefully positive outcome and can we be reunited?

To get things done as soon as possible, I tried to clearly lay out all the information for the person to approve the request after sending in the 7018 form with all the attachments. It is quite a heap of papers, so there is a big chance that the person assigned on the case will get lost in all the documents. And that is something we certainly can not use at the moment :). This is an example of how i set up the index page and the character + number refers to a single piece of paper.

example of index ind
This is how I made the index to accompany the forms for IND

So to be continued …..


33% – 67%

Those are the cold statistics when measuring the percentage of time we actually spend together since our marriage (33%) versus the time were forced to live apart (67%). Although we are supposed to live in an age of globalisation, this certainly does not hold up when you choose a partner that coincidentally does not come from the same country you live in.

Then you will find yourself confronted with larger-than-life entities without faces and names, but that come to you through mail addresses, forms and service desks. These entities have no face, they know no emotions and their names usually come as an abbreviation. So far Deny has successfully passed her exam that tells the authorities that she knows enough of the culture and language to cope with Dutch society. It sometimes feel that we are in an episode of Fear Factor goes Kafka. Instead of eating creepy insects we have to deal with getting things done at bureaucratic institutions.

At this moment we have delivered an impressive amount of documents at IND, the Dutch immigration and naturalisation organisation that will ultimately decide on our faith when we will be allowed to live together again as a pair.