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!