Here I am, on the other side of my first week at work and in Amsterdam and I couldn’t be happier. Unless I had a friend or two to spend the weekend exploring the city with, but I’ll take what I can get. The rest of the work week followed suit with the first day. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. Initially I worried that I’d feel out of place or excluded being American but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, everyone is fluent in English and more than happy to converse in my one and only language. (Not counting the Spanglish.) Unlike many who relocate here, however, I do want to learn some Dutch. So far my vocabulary consists of “alstublieft.” A handy word to be sure.
This week I made a quick trip to the London office to spend time with the person I’m replacing. And last night, Thursday, there was a program team update followed by a dinner cruise through the canals of Amsterdam. Unfortunately it was cold and rainy so I didn’t venture above deck but it gave me a great chance to meet people from other departments which was nice. With week one complete, I’m looking forward to week two and the new things I’ll learn and people I’ll meet. I’ve already been told that on Friday one of the guys will be bringing in a Dutch treat. It’s fried dough and covered with sugar. How can that be bad?
In addition to experiences, I thought this would be a great forum to share some observations. Just the little things I notice that are new, different, and make me look like an idiot. For example, I had an interesting debacle when I was in the UK in October because I didn’t know the difference between the terms single and return as they related to train tickets. (They mean one-way and round trip.)
This week, I had a similar experience. On my first day I got lost in the building. <insert embarrassed sad face> Let me start by reminding you that this office holds 1,000 people so it’s not like I couldn’t find my nose. You know what it’s like on your first day at work when someone shows you around the building, points out the different departments, where things are, introduces you to 50 people you can’t remember in five minutes, and so on. I went through that routine on Monday morning and was shown the 1st and 2nd floors. Or at least that’s what I thought.
Lost in infinity
In the US when you get in an elevator in most buildings, the bottom floor is 1. Not so here. The bottom floor is 0 (ground floor) and the second floor is 1. Imagine my confusion when I got in the elevator, pressed 2 to get to the floor above me (ground floor) and stepped out. Nothing looked familiar and I couldn’t find the person I was looking for. The people on that floor must have A) thought they were having horrible de-ja-vu or B) been laughing at me silently as I walked by them time after time looking confused and lost. To make matters worse, every floor is laid out exactly the same so no matter the floor, you step off the elevator and it’s the Twilight Zone! (I later learned that each floor’s support beams are painted a different color. I have yet to learn/remember which is which.)
When I got back in the elevator and more closely examined the buttons I figured out what had happened, pressed 1 and found who I was looking for. But why should it end there? I did the same freaking thing today! At least I knew, as soon as I stepped off and didn’t recognize things, what I’d done.
So there you have it. My first week in a nutshell. This weekend the plan is to spend time in Amsterdam finding my way around and doing a little holiday shopping. I’ve been taking pictures on my iPhone all week but can’t get wifi anywhere to upload them so this weekend I’ll be taking my Flip and point-and-shoot, looking like a total tourist. Wish me luck!