Are Germans always digging holes?


He loves jogging and likes singing, and that’s why Hannes Datta (25), a second-year master’s student of Business Research, speaks Dutch fluently. What? Datta laughs. “I have a talenknobbel. I love learning languages. In September 2008 I arrived in Maastricht and started jogging with a Dutch friend who spoke Dutch to me. During the first few weeks it was difficult to even remember what rechtdoor or linksaf meant. He invested a lot of time in me and taught me the basics.” At the same time, Datta was taking a course at a private language school in Maastricht, but the classes were “too easy. It was a lot of grammar, but it had nothing to do with daily life. After that I had two options: sign up for the advanced course or join the University Choir.” The tenor in Datta chose the latter. “Then it really took off. After rehearsals we went to the pub, I became member of the ‘buitenland committee’ and now we’re organising a trip to Lithuania. I have to write emails in Dutch; we have meetings in Dutch.”

Strangest thing that has happened to you in the Netherlands?

He hesitates, not sure if he wants to share his ‘stupid mistake’. “Okay, I’ll just say it – maybe it can help other German students not to be embarrassed when they make mistakes. I went to Pinkpop last spring, and ordered a ‘broodje shoarma’. I pronounced it wrong and said a ‘broodje schaamhaar’ [pubic hair –Ed.]. I didn’t realise that I was completely wrong until my Dutch friends mentioned it.” He laughs, still not quite comfortable. “These things happen when you learn a new language. It shouldn’t stop the learning process.”

A funny example?

“I never knew that Germans were always digging holes on the North Sea beach.”

What’s your favourite Dutch sweet?

Pepernoten. They’re quite similar to our Spekulatius. I also like the chocolate letters; I send them to my family. In Germany, we celebrate Sinterklaas on 6 December, in the morning. I’ll throw some candies in my housemates’ shoes.”

What do you do when your parents visit you?

“I just need to drop them at the Vrijthof and they’re happy. They love the shopping streets.”

Imagine if  you were a member of the UM board. What would you do to improve the integration between nationalities?

“A lot of people focus on cheaper rates for languages courses. But that’s not decisive. The attitude is more important. Either you want to learn the language or you don’t. For Germans it’s not that difficult. It’s a bad excuse to say: I can’t learn it because everybody in Maastricht speaks English. It’s your own responsibility. Just say: sorry, I want to learn your language, please say that again in Dutch.”


Riki Janssen

Are Germans always digging holes?
Loraine Bodewes Fotografie

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