50. The one about the vagina

So today, my Dutch stepped up a level.

With tomorrow being my last day on chemo, the cocktail of meds I take each morning will drastically reduce; the Capecitabine (four chemo tablets) will be finished and the various others I take to offset side effects – Omeprazol (stomach protection), Emend and Ganisetron (anti-nausea) calcium and vitamin D supplements – can all stop too. That said, I’m conscious that my bones and joints have been hugely weakened by the meds, my knees especially. So I’m going to stick with the calcium and vitamin D for the time being, at least until my knees stop feeling wobbly. But having received a crazy bill for the knockout meds my doc prescribed for me, I thought I’d take a look in Etos (the Dutch version of Boots) and see what they had to offer.

In my usual fashion, I tried to be organised and prepare. But by now, I should’ve learnt that, when shopping in the Netherlands, preparation is pointless, as things are rarely as, where, how, or what you’d expect. Unless you’re Dutch, of course.

Nevertheless, before I left home, I looked at the ingredients of what the doc had prescribed me: lots of calcium and lots of vitamin D in a combined chalky tablet. I googled what each ingredient does and confirmed that, whilst the calcium strengthens my bones, the vitamin D is essential to help my body absorb the calcium. OK, so they’re more effective when combined – makes sense. Finally, I looked up what ‘calcium’ and ‘vitamin D’ are in Dutch, then set off to Etos for supplies.

It started well. I was in a different store to my local one (not that that matters, as they’re all laid out differently) but I still managed to find the vitamins – win #1.

Realising they were in alphabetical order, I quickly skimmed to the Cs and Ds, but all I could find was vitamin D3 – no sign of calcium. Luckily, as I spotted Mevrouw Etos wandering towards me, I put on my most puzzled expression, to which she responded bang on cue with “Kan ik helpen…?” I replied “ja, heb jij calcium met vitamine D alsjeblieft?” “Natuurlijk…“ she nodded and hurried back towards the counter, producing an array of options. I checked the ingredients, made my choice and moved across to the till – win #2.

Super excited at having actually conversed, and being on the verge of completing a transaction, resulting in a successful shopping trip (beyond just buying groceries and saying “no thanks” to a receipt), I was clearly feeling far too smug, as it all fell apart from there.

The lady in front of me at the till had her daughter with her (who can’t have been more than 3). The little girl was sitting quietly on the desk while her mum paid, and as Mevrouw Etos handed over her change, the little girl smiled and said “Dank je wel!” Mevrouw Etos smiled back and replied “Alsdublieft, doie!”.

As they left the store, Mevrouw Etos and I exchanged that ‘Awwwwww’ look and she just said “cute!”

At this point, whilst I was totally immersed in the idea of being considered a local, potentially mistaken for being Dutch, or at the least being able to speak Dutch; it all went a bit wrong.

You see, the Dutch often add the letters –tje to the end of a word to indicate that something is small. For example; bread in Dutch is Brood, while a sandwich is Broodje (like, a part of a loaf of bread). Similarly, a beer is a bier, whilst a small beer is a biertje.

AN: any Dutch readers will undoubtedly be pissing themselves laughing at this point, knowing exactly where this is going…

So following the –tje logic, I responded to Mevrouw Etos’s “cute” comment by nodding and saying “ja, cute-tje”…

AN: I’ve just relayed this story to the barista in my local coffee place, and he fell about laughing too. Pipe down Dutchies…!

Meanwhile, back in Etos; for a second, Mevrouw looked at me like the shocked emoji on an iPhone – a blank face with huge eyes and a look of sheer horror at whatever I’d just said. I panicked and tried desperately to explain that I meant the little girl was little and cute, at which point she fell into giggles, explaining that what I’d actually said (in Dutch) meant vagina – #fail.

Well, the pick & mix dispenser could’ve just opened up and swallowed me whole, right there. Apparently ‘cute’ is not a Dutch word, it’s one they’ve nicked from us Brits, so because it’s an English word, you can’t just chuck a -tje on the end. Right. Noted.

I left shortly after that…


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