Strangely enough, I had always felt a touch more culture shock in England because the little differences always crept up on me rather unexpectedly. Still, I'm getting a crash course reminder in just how difficult it was for me to adjust to Amsterdam the first time.
If you're a tourist, Amsterdam is wonderful. It's gorgeous, laid back, clean and friendly. If you live here, it's all of those things, plus food stores. Food stores are a trial. If you ever move to a country for which English is not the first language (or even an option), then you had better learn to cook. By cook, I don't mean opening a tin and heating the sludge inside. I mean learning to really cook. Tomatoes aren't just something to slice up for a hamburger or salad, they're an ingredient. This makes them more versatile for a few reasons:
- Buying raw ingredients is cheaper
- Buying raw ingredients means you have full control over what you're making
- Buying raw ingredients means that tin of corned beef hash isn't actually Geriatric Kitty Food
Trust me, you want to learn how to cook. When you buy some broccoli, you know it's broccoli. When you buy a tin of something which looks like stew, it's a crapshoot.
Fortunately, I have a couple of advantages. First, Dutch is the language closest to English¹. Second, I speak a fair amount of French and many French words have crossed over into Dutch (and many foods are also marketed to Belgium, so it's often marked with French). Combine this with the knowledge of a few Dutch words and you really have an advantage in shopping. Case in point:
Moving along finds me typing this up while trying to make a spaghetti bolognese for Leïla, but struggling with ingredients. The spices are tijm, oregano, and basilicum, which isn't too bad. However, the rest is rode wijn, ui, knoflook, champignons, rundergehakt, zout, and peper. I think it will be OK, but even the most basic shopping is a brutal reminder that I truly have arrived in Europe in a way that I never could be in the UK.
1. Actually, you'll find Frisian to be the closest spoken language to English, but Dutch is the closest language which you've actually heard of.