My Dutch class became a whole lot more entertaining.

No, sadly it hasn’t turned into a wine and chat class, but it is definitely holding my interest.

This may be because the wall of sound is beginning to unscramble and decipher itself. Or perhaps because the group has metamorphosed from an estranged sea of faces, into a welcoming and amicable group of adults.

Unfortunately we have also regressed to our former teenage behaviours in class. Childish behaviour helps to soften the blow that is Dutch grammar.

It is also slightly disturbing how loosely we held our veneer of adulthood…

I mean, I actually wrote the words ‘LOSERS’ on the small whiteboard I was using and held it up for the Italian couple, sitting next to me, to read. They countered with the impressive, ‘YOU SUCK’. We were all in our 40s and were playing a Dutch spelling game. It got competitive.

Our group changes and fluctuates in size depending on who has time, whose kids aren’t sick and who can crowbar themselves off the sofa after dinner, dredge up some motivation and make themselves turn up.

At any one time we can be up to 13 different nationalities in one room.

There are accountants, housewives, waiters, cleaners, factory workers, biomechanics, chauffeurs.

There is also a guy who regales me with tales of the hotel he works in. I’m not entirely clear what he does, it appears that neither is he, but the stories make me want to stay there, if just to witness the mayhem and chaos.

Some of us have kids, some of us have family here, some have come alone. One came for a week, accidentally fell in love and is trying to learn the language as fast as possible to figure out what their hotnewpartner is wanging on about.

But the class has got me thinking.

We all have a commonality. At some point in our lives, we decided to rip our entire lives up by the roots and transplant ourselves and our families into this slab of flat Dutch ground.

It can’t just be for a love of tulips and cheese. It wasn’t always for work.

Asylum seeker
Foreign worker

What are we?
Each title comes with powerful connotations and undertones.

I make assumptions when I hear the words.

I no longer know how to describe what we are.

We are no longer temporary. We have been here too long. Have we fully emigrated? And our kids. Have we exiled them?

We are here and yet we are outsiders – living alongside.

Are we alongsiders?

I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We lived in the Netherlands with our two differently wired kids before all moving to Yorkshire. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all that Sheffield has to offer.

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