Story Time

My Funny Foreinger Story With The Public Transport Here In The Netherlands

I’ve told this story to a handful of people here in the Netherlands and it’s always a good chuckle. The other day I was like oh wait this would actually make a funny blog on my website so well here we are. Alright so we know by now before I can start my stories I need to throw a bit of background information out there otherwise some things won’t make much sense without it. So excuse me while I do that.

Where to start? Wait I know. South Africa and the Netherlands are completely different and at the beginning of my au pair year, you could guess that I was still learning the ropes of it all. So the one main thing that was completely new to me is the public transport. We have public transport in South Africa but it’s in no way reliable nor safe. It also won’t get you everywhere you would want to be. Here in the Netherlands, the public transport is pretty damn amazing. Yes, there are some delays but you can go anywhere by train and it’s relatively clean and I haven’t had a problem with safety. I mean I don’t need to worry about being mugged or stabbed so that’s great. Oh wow, that’s dark. Before my year here I had no idea what trams are. I knew of trains and busses. That’s it. So it’s safe to say that my first independent tram ride makes one funny story. Alright, that might be enough back story. Let’s get to the interesting bit and also I hope this blog turns out to be funny. We can’t have another key story.

I was probably only here for three weeks, one month max when I had to go to Den Hague to get my permit. To get there I would have to take two trams. The first part was easy as I had to climb on the tram close to the house and just take it all the way to the city. It was when I got in the city when everything derailed. First of all, the trams suddenly looked different so I wasn’t sure if I could still use the card or if I would have to get a new card or anything like that. It went from a blue and white tram to a red and cream tram. So the night before my host mom tried to explain the system to me but I had no idea what she was talking about but the only thing I knew was the tram number, 8. So I jumped on the first tram with the number 8 on it and scanned my card. It read ‘Overstap Ok’ which basically means the transfer went great but I literally had no idea what that meant so I kept checking in and out in hopes it would say something different. In a complete panic, I called my host dad to ask if it’s okay. He was like get off my back I’m at work but said all was good in the world. I for some reason did not believe a single word he said. A person nearby was like no it’s fine. I still was unsure but sat down anyway. 20 minutes later I was starting to get worried. I haven’t heard my stop yet and the tram just turned around? It was also at that moment that the person who scans your card walked along. I was so terrified that my host dad and the kind stranger was lying to me and I would have to pay this massive fine that I jumped out the next stop. In the middle of fucking nowhere. I waited for the tram, bought a ticket when the card did the ‘Overstap Ok’ thing and hoped that somehow this time everything would be okay. That hope came to crashing halt when we stopped at the central station. I was right where I started and by now I was convinced it was the wrong line number. I climbed off, walked around, trying to build up the confidence to ask the information desk. Keep in mind that I was convinced that no one in the Netherlands could speak a lick of English and I could barely understand Dutch, much less speak it. Finally, after a good few minutes, I decided to stick with line 8 and see where the road takes me. This time the tram actually went in the right direction and I was in such a panic that about the card not working and the train ticket already being expired that I jumped off at the first stop that began with an R. I was so completely stressed about the entire situation I just wanted to walk the rest of the way but it was a good 45min walk so I waited those 15 minutes before I climbed on the next tram and kept my eyes peeled for the building.

The rest was pretty okay. I saw my stop, climbed off and got what I needed in 30 minutes before taking the tram back. Luckily I climbed on the tram going in the right direction and the rest was smooth sailing. It was only when I spoke about the entire situation with my host dad that I realized that every tram line has a tram to go in each direction. I know this is so obvious and I can’t believe this didn’t cross my mind but hey it makes a fun story to tell now. I also realized later on that I was paying for the same trip twice so that’s great. I still get confused sometimes heck I bet even some Dutch citizens get confused. I mean sometimes they have the different companies and it gets really confusing.

Just recently I had an incident where it was a different company but I checked in with the other company and I realized it way too late and then when those scanners came around I proudly played the confused foreigner card because well the poor bloke was trying to explain the system to me in broken English and I was just like alright buddy I’m fucking lost now. He surrendered and I got out of paying the fine. Funny enough on my way back the same bloke scanned my card and this time around I did everything correctly so that was really awkward. In my defense, I still don’t understand what he wanted me to.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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General Life Tips, Other

So You Want To Au Pair Abroad? This Is What You Need To Know…

Leaving home isn’t always easy. So going abroad for a set amount of time and taking on the big responsibility of being an Au pair isn’t for everyone. BUT it’s an experience like no other and something I’m so happy and grateful for being able to have done. It’s life changing and eye opening. If it’s something you’re interested in then don’t let fear stop you. I was an Au pair in the Netherlands for one year with two kids. I can honestly say that it has changed me as person like no other experience could’ve.

  1. Kiddie Love

This probably sounds funny and obvious but I really can’t express it enough. You really need to love children and I mean all the different parts of it. The good and the bad. Children aren’t always easy. They’re going to test your limits and really see just how patient you can be. There will be days when you honestly don’t want to deal with the same nonsense and there will be days you love your host kids so much that the idea of leaving them physically hurts.

  1. Country Love

If you’re going to au pair in another country it really needs to be a country YOU are interested in. It’s going to be your new home for a year so it really needs to be a place you feel like you can fit in, experience new things and really embrace and learn from the culture.

  1. Host Parents

Please take your time with choosing a host family/parents. Don’t just choose a family because they chose you and your scared you won’t find a family. No. Kick this idea right out of your head. These people are not only going to be your family and basically the baseline in this strange and new country but they’re also going to be your boss. You have to have similar views and interest or it won’t always be a breeze in the park.

  1. Au Pair Friends

Having Au pair friends is really a blessing in disguise. They’re experiencing the exact same thing than you are: the frustrations that can come with looking after kids, the home sickness, the struggles with the new culture and language and overall they’re your support in this new environment. They’re your comedian relief. They’re someone to have fun, unwind and most importantly to grow with.

  1. Wise Company Choices

Choose your company wisely. They’re going to effect the entire experience in ways you won’t imagine. You can get absolutely wonderful companies that truly carries your best interest to heart, but then you get horror companies that basically…to put it nicely screw you over. Do your research on the company, specially Google their names with words like scandal, horrible company etc. If someone didn’t have a great experience with them it will be somewhere on the internet. Go to their Facebook page, try to contact other au pairs that went through them and not just that, go with your instinct. If you feel good about the company then that’s all you need to know. I recommend House-o-Orange for my South African Au Pairs: https://www.house-o-orange.nl/

Take the leap and Au pair. At least once.

child-594519PS: It’s not always going to be fun and games but again, it’s a great experience. You really ‘grow up’ while you Au pair. If you’re interested, go for it!

Edit from future Cassy – 25/06/2018

I know that I promised to write about my actual au pair experience but after long consideration I’ve decided against doing so. I respect my host family too much to share about it in such a public platform. In the end of the day I need to respect their privacy and I also need to take into account that one day the host kids might read it. It’s not like there was many bad experiences, heck I will cherish some of my memories with the kids forever but too write about it honestly I need to be able to share the good and the bad you know. I’m sure you will all understand.