Learning to speak Dutch isn’t karate, but if it were, it seems like the white belt would be learning to maneuver a conversation at a supermarket. And I would probably have a lot of bruises.

I thought supermarket transactions were a good starting point because, unless something strange is happening, people only say a few different things at a grocery store. They want you to give them money. Or they want you to use cash. Or they want to know if you need a bag. It’s easy enough.

There’s only one part that so complicated that no matter how many times I visit the grocery store and no matter how many wortels I buy, I still haven’t learned it. Every single time I’ve almost made it through a perfectly-executed (ok, almost adequately-executed) Dutch conversation, they say something so confusing and unfamiliar that I have to ask them to say it in English, and they do:

“Would you like a receipt?”

Memorizing the Dutch word for receipt seemed like the simplest solution to the problem that is the complicated string of words you hear after you hand someone money. But I swear the word receipt changes every time.

They say that eskimos have 100 words for snow, but what they don’t mention that is that the Dutch have 100 words for receipt.

A slip of white paper printed with proof of a monetary transaction is an object so beautiful and multifaceted that it requires an entire section of a vocabulary to describe it. To you it’s just proof that you bought a juice and two blocks of cheese, but to a mathematician it’s poetry, and in a Dutch grocery store it’s the key to the whole universe. How could one word ever do that justice?

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