The Dutch response to non-Dutch speaking Dutch ~ Thoughts on Less from Andrew Sean Greer #MondayBlogs #PulitzerPrizeChallenge #PulitzerPrize #amreading

less book coverI was still stuck in editing hell last week and didn’t have much time for reading. Oh, the horror! As we’re leaving on vacation soon, I did make time for a hair appointment and pedicure. Priorities! Luckily, my hair takes several hours to color (I went with bright, red highlights), which gave me at least some time I had to read last week.

Although I’ve found Less a bit difficult to dive into, I enjoyed the segment I read last week while Less was in Germany. Arthur Less thinks he’s fluent in German. He’s not. But he must be hilarious to listen to. The jokes Greer shared with us were hilarious, especially for someone like me who speaks German (hopefully, better than Less does!). The Germans Less encountered were very tolerant of his language skills. In fact, only as a sort of epilogue did anyone even mention his language skills (or lack thereof). This, of course, reminded me of speaking Dutch in The Netherlands.

board-64269_1920The Dutch, unlike the Germans in Greer’s book, have no compunction about correcting the Dutch of non-native speakers. One the one hand, they are super excited if someone tries to speak their language. But, on the other hand, they actually discourage this by switching to English and brutally correcting mistakes. Most foreigners I know don’t bother to learn Dutch. “Why bother,” they say. “Everyone speaks English anyway.”

This reminded me of a story. Several years ago, I was working in Amsterdam. The city was overrun by tourists as the European Cup was jointly hosted that year by The Netherlands and Belgium. I worked in the center (on the Prinsengracht, if you must know). One day, I headed to the bakery to get a sandwich for lunch. A horde of English tourists left the store as I was entering. When I walked in, the workers immediately began to complain about the tourists to me – the Foreigner! It was at that moment I knew my Dutch was up to snuff.

We’re off on two weeks of vacation tomorrow. I have Less packed in my carry-on baggage and plan to finish the novel on the plane ride. That’s assuming I don’t become obsessed with the movies. It’s a concern.

See y’all in three weeks!

On Vacation 2

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