Sometimes being an expat can be confusing. Sometimes you’re sitting in your apartment watching an American TV show, and your doorbell rings. You get up to answer it, wondering who it could be. Sometimes it’s a group of kids who immediately start singing a song to you, like Christmas caroling. These kids are holding flashlights with grocery bags over the lit ends. They finish up, and happy shout something at you in Dutch, and then stand their grinning. You sheepishly tell them “Sorry, I don’t speak Dutch.” They stare at each other, until one of them finally speaks up:
Kid #1: Today, we go around and sing songs, and you give us money or candy. Money is better!
Me: Oh, uhh, I have some candy.
Kid #2: But if you have money, money is much better!
Me: I have candy.
Roxy hands me a handful of Smarties (the American Smarties, the good ones!) that my in-laws had given us, and I hand them over to the kids. They smile, thank me, and walk away. I’m mad that a good portion of my Smarties are now gone.
I immediately run to my computer and immediately google “November 11th Netherlands”. Wikipedia comes to my rescue. Evidently Nov 11th is “Martinsdag” or “St. Martin’s Day”, and in the Netherlands children go door to door singing and getting candy. Lucky for us we had candy! At an expat dinner the following night, we tale our tale to a native Nederlander, and he tells us “Oh yes, when I heard them coming, I locked my door and turned off all of my lights, since I had no candy.”
Sometimes there are just things you wish you would have known to do.