I graduated from college in the year 2000. It was an incredibly exciting time. Not only was I about to step out of the safety of the educational system and into the real world for the first time but as everyone back then knew we were only a few months away from getting flying cars and personal robot butlers. It was an exciting time indeed.
Sadly the reality I discovered shortly after graduation was that I would not be getting my flying/driving license any time soon and that finding a job in the theatre industry as a recent graduate can be incredibly difficult if you are not willing to work for very little money or no money at all. I spent a few months working here and there at different theatres as stage crew. I was enjoying the work but I could not ignore that it was not exactly financially viable for a young go getter like myself (even though I was still living with my parents).
I knew I needed to expand my options and find other areas in which I could apply the knowledge I had accumulated at college between trying to struggle through hangovers during lectures and playing Soul Calibur in the student bar.
Luckily I did not have to think very hard because a friend of mine had hit upon the same road block and already given it some thought.
“Computer games.” Jake said with a matter of fact confident nod which might have been made all the more confident by the two pints we had just consumed. “Think about it.”
I did. The blank look of my internal thought process must have shown because he quickly continued.
“It’s just like building stage sets but inside a computer.”
He was absolutely right. I’d suddenly seen the genius of his idea. I’m sure if Shakespeare had still been alive he would have expanded his famous ‘all the world is a stage’ theory to include ‘and all the stage is a computer game.’ The best part of it was I would be able to play computer games as research for my job (an excuse I still use to this day when ever my wife wants me to put down the controller and come to bed).
So I started applying to all the London computer games companies I could find and when I was feeling a bit more adventurous I even applied for a few a little farther north (I was still a young and naive college graduate living with his parents after all). I didn’t hear much back from my applications. I had one interview and then been turned down. I was starting to wonder if Jakes idea had been so hot after all.
But then something happened. I did not know it was something at the time but it was the event that set me on my course. I had picked up a copy of a gaming magazine called Edge and started looking through the jobs section as I had done countless times before. As I looked through the pages I suddenly found it; a rather strange and cryptic job advertisement. It was the kind of thing that made you expect to turn around and see that the shop you had just bought it from had disappeared and where upon asking locals about it they would reply that there had not been a shop there for 20 years, and then shuffle off while giving you strange looks.
I quickly checked. The Bromley branch of WH Smiths was still firmly there. I turned back to the job advertisement in my hands. I was fascinated by it. In big bold letters it read ‘Do you want to create new worlds?’ and I thought YES! I scanned the rest of the page for details. It was a company called Lost Boys games but there did not seem to be any address. My heart sank a little thinking that maybe they had forgotten to add any contact details and some where there was a group of gaming executives sitting around a phone, checking their watches and waiting for people like me to call. Luckily I spotted a email address at the bottom of the page and rushed of home to send them a email (hopefully a few of them were sitting around the computer as well as the phone).
A short while I had sent the email off a thought acureded to me. I had just applied to a job that I knew nothing about. I didn’t even know where in England it was. What if it was even a real games company? What if it was front for the mob or a gang of black market organ dealers? What if I woke up from the interview in a bath of ice with a kidney missing? I don’t think I could handle that kind of job rejection.
It did not take me long to get my answer. A few day later I received a reply. It contained three surprises. (1) At no point in the email did they enquire about the condition of my internal organs. (2) They were very interested in my application and (3) they were willing to pay for my flights to the interview location… in Holland.
Ten years ago I stepped off a British Airways flight and began my life in Holland. At the time I did not realize that this was what it was. Back then I thought it was just the beginning of the next six months of my life in Holland but I have been here for over a third of my life now.
And I am so happy that Holland has become my home. At the beginning I was not always thrilled about it and for a while when the honeymoon period was initially over I down right hated it. But luckily I stuck with it and discovered so much to love about the country. It’s still hard being away from my family and friends at times but I visit them when ever I can. I’ve also made new friends here who mean a lot to me and most importantly of all I met my wife who I love dearly (I told my self I would not cry).
I look forward to continuing my life in Holland and would like to thank everyone who has supported me for these past ten years. Thank you. You know who you are.
– – – – – – – – – –
Over the next few days I’ll be looking back on a few of the old stories about my arrival in Holland (with a bit of a re-write).
While in Berlin I found it incredibly difficult to know which language to speak. German is the obvious answer of course (the clue is in the title of the country) but since I don’t actually know any German my options were limited to either English or (questionable) Dutch.
Both of these languages have their own merits of course. Out of the two Dutch is the closest to German both linguistically and geographically which should make communication easier. On the other hand; English is the most widely understood language in the world (or at the very least the most widely shouted at people) which should increase the percentage chance of being understood.
Because of this conundrum I often found myself unintentionally switching between the two languages during our visit. Several of my conversations with locals started with a mumbled greeting in Dutch followed by the realization that I might have made the wrong choice, a collection of nods and nervous laughs in case I had, and finally a mumbled English goodbye just to be safe. It’s questionable which one of us walked away from the conversation more confused.
One evening I even had what I can only describe as a moment of panic when an Italian waiter suddenly greeted us in Italian. The addition of another language proved to be too much for my easily confused brain and I suddenly blurted out something that sounded distinctly French in reply (I don’t know any French).
After the French mix up I decided it was best to let my wife do all the talking. This seemed like a very good idea since she actually knows some German… In hindsight I probably should have actually told her this was my plan rather than simply assuming that she would now know that all foreign relations and communications were suddenly her responsibility. My ‘plan’ resulted in quite a few awkward silences because whenever someone tried to talk with me in German I would simply stare back blankly at them, thinking my wife would know she was supposed to heroically save me. Of course, since I had not filled her in on the details of the plan she probably wondered what the hell I was doing.
Either way it turns out there was an even bigger hole in my plan. After my wife had had what seemed like a very long and complex conversation with our hotel manager (with which I had been very impressed) my wife later confessed that she had not understood a word that he had said. In other words it turns out she knows German just as well as I know Dutch.
I should have realized something was up when she accidentally referred to Check Point Charlie as Check Point Charlie Chaplin.
Our train from Rotterdam to Berlin has been standing the middle of nowhere for the past two minutes. Just as I start to wonder what is going on the train’s intercom clicks into action and a young lady on the other end starts to explain the situation. At first she explains things in German and I do not understand a word. Then she explains things in Dutch and I understand a bit of it (my wife nods knowingly). Finally she explains everything in English and I start to listen properly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for the delay and thank you for your patience. The track ahead of us is in use. Before we can continue we must wait for the other train to pass and…”
A passenger train suddenly tares past at high speed with perfect comical timing, cutting her off mid sentence.
“… Oh. Was that it?” the lady exclaims in surprise and suddenly clicks the intercom off as if in embarrassment. A few people in the train carriage start to chuckle.
A second later the intercom clicks back on again and the lady returns. This time she definitely sounds embarrassed which might have something to do with the co-worker we can hear laughing hysterically and uncontrollably in the back ground as she tries to talk.
“Ladies and gentlemen. We are waiting for a different train to pass us. Thank you for your patience.”
The intercom quickly clicks off again and the train carriage bursts into laughter.
Invading Holland has been the radio again thanks to Stuart Britton of the Stuart Britton Show (I should point out that this is a different Stuart and not an alter ego of mine. I just wanted to clear that up because it even course us some confusion sometimes).
You can listen to the reading in the player below. I’d like to give a big thank you to Stuart Britton who made it all happen and Alan Lambourn who did the reading. Check out more of their show on The Stuart Britton Website.
Things I Like To Tell The English About The Dutch:
You can also listen by clicking here.
Previous reading of ‘The Guide to Being an Expat Supporter’ can be found here and ‘The Englishman Who Spoke Good English’ can be found here.