Sunday, 4 October 2009

One month

It's October already. How did that happen? I've 'settled in', as they say; I've even paid the rent for this month (at least I hope I have: my online banking is automatically set to English and I'm not sure I trust the translation).

I'm currently working hard and not doing anything interesting so - rather than writing anything of my own - I've been catching up with the blog written by my former flatmate in Kraków. I hope your Hungarian is better than mine, otherwise that link won't be much use to you. Google Translate is not a lot of help either.

I went to Antwerp yesterday for Argentinian beef and the first actual girly high-street shopping I've managed in a long time (I didn't actually buy anything - what with the recession and the exchange rate I'm much better off doing my shopping back in the UK at the end of this week*) Antwerp is very different to Brussels: it's a more centred city, without the agglomerated village feel of Brussels (and indeed London come to think of it). This makes it less diverse, but much more navigable, especially if you're looking for something in particular, like Argentinian steak (who'd have thought there would be two Argentinian restaurants within a hundred yards of each other), or an autumn-weight coat (it's taking me a while to get used to intermediate seasons again).

Oh and then there's the fact that everything there is written in Dutch only (Dutch, and not Flemish - I stand corrected, they are in fact the same language). Up until about five months ago when Katy moved there I thought Antwerp actually was in the Netherlands. In French the name is Anvers. Anvers! I always thought that was just the Metro stop before Abbesses...

It's strange: for the first time I'm in another country and I have absolutely no intention of actively trying to fit in with the local culture. For a start, wedged between Euroland and the shire of Polonia formerly known as Etterbeek, I'm not convinced that there actually is a culture that could be described as 'local', at least not one that might be accessible to an ex-pat like me.

I did meet a Belgian once, several weekends ago. Clocking his accent, I asked if he was French.
- *deeply offended* no! I'm Belgian!!
(my fellow ex-pat friend) - Oh! which city are you from?
- From Brussels!!

We were awestruck. An Actual Belgian, Actually from Brussels. I glanced over my shoulder half-expecting to see a portal back into my own universe.

It's got to the point where I'm not even upset if people answer my (by now very dodgy) French in English. This time, the move is motivated by pure pragmatism, not a psycho-linguistic experiment. Learning Flemish (oops - Dutch) is not really an option either: for work it's spectacularly impractical, and I simply can't face the idea of grappling with another grammar system, even if it is the closest language (apart from American) to English.

To satisfy my linguistic cravings, I'm just going to have to stick it out with Polish (and maybe get some practice down at the local Biedronka store round the corner. Or up the road at the Polish Embassy. Or just about everywhere really).

Back to the books...

*I tell a lie: I bought socks. Sometimes it's hard to live at this speed.


Anonymous said...

Poles are not in Bidronka. They are in here Pinolona

thousands of them ;)

pinolona said...

yeah... maybe another Sunday, hmm?