So this past weekend, starting on Thursday was all about birthdays!! My birthday was this past Thursday, and I could not have wished for a better time for my birthday. On Thursday Andrea's parents came and when they arrived we had tea and cake (typical way to celebrate) and I opened all of my presents and cards from my family back home.
Friday was a celebration with my friends from school. I invited 5 girls over for a high tea that Andrea made for us. It was absolutely wonderful. Andrea is such a good cook, and I'm so grateful that she did all this work for my birthday. She made scones with the cream and jam, brownies and really good tea sandwiches. There were egg salad, chicken salad, cheese and ones with brie and jam that were too good. I had a really good time with all of my friends and I think they really enjoyed coming over too. They all gave me a really beautiful scarf and bracelet for my birthday, and a little gift card to H&M so I can go shopping soon! But it was a really nice afternoon spent.
All weekend we had lots of different kinds of cakes, which was really fun to try too. Then on Sunday all of the family came over! We celebrated Anne-Claire and I's birthdays together. That morning we opened our presents and the rest of the family came over later that afternoon. There were 17 of us in total, and we moved the table from inside, to outside so we could all have room to sit. That was really nice too. But, this birthday was really fun because even though I have been to two birthdays here, I now got to learn about the inside traditions behind birthdays.
Every birthday you have a birthday table, which is a table that you can display all of the presents on. This seemed like a strange idea to me at the time, but when the family arrived they wanted to see my presents! This surprised me, but it was nice to be able to show the presents to. Andrea teaches me a lot about Dutch people everyday, so I need to share something with you all. Dutch people are genuinely interested in you. This explains why they wanted to see what birthday presents I had received. They ask you questions and are actually wondering how you are doing and really care to hear. This is not just true for the family, because it's true with people at school. It's not as noticeable with kids at school, but everyone always asks how your weekend or day is going. And its normal for you to be interested as well, which I feel is very different than home, because when someone asks you how you are doing, you say good, and they say they're good too, and that's about it. To find out how they are actually doing you have to dig a bit deeper.
There are also some table manner differences... little things. For example, it is considered rude to not eat everything on your plate. And the other day I learned that you are supposed to keep both hands on the table at all times when eating, even if you are only using one utensil like a spoon or something. This I feel is different than America because when I am eating at a restaurant at home, generally I keep one hand on my napkin also, since I use it a lot. I am not sure if the hands above the table rule is a etiquette rule in America, but if it is I have never heard it. Also in the Netherlands, it is not considered rude to keep your napkin on the table. We don't use napkins a lot, but the other night we did and I noticed I was the only one who put my napkin on my lap. This was when I learned about the both hands rule, and then I asked about the napkins. They said that it is perfectly normal to have a napkin on the table, even if you are eating out. This was interesting to me since it's considered very rude not to put your napkin on your lap, and sometimes waiters will put it on your lap if you haven't at a nice restaurant. We always find it very interesting the differences we have in manners because you wouldn't imagine how many differences there are.
But for my birthday I got some really nice presents. I also gave Anne-Claire her present which was really wonderful. I gave her a baking book from America, and measuring spoons to go along with it so she doesn't have to convert them. She was looking at the book all morning, and it's so nice to see how much she likes it. She just can't wait to start baking. It's a really nice book too because there are pictures that show "what went wrong". So if the cake doesn't look like it is supposed to, you can see, oh I didn't do this right, so it matches the incorrect cake picture here. Anne-Claire and I both got a rain poncho, which will be good for those rainy school mornings, but it's also good because you don't sweat in it. From Hans and Andrea I got a pair of Birkenstock! I am so excited they found them because it was the off season for them. They're a really nice color, and they're very unique but they will go with so many things. We both got a handmade card from the German Oma and Opa, and a bike bell and candy from another family member in Germany that I will meet at Christmas. From the Dutch family I got a nice sweater and some shirts and a board game called I love Holland, which I think is also a game show on TV. I also got a little gift card to a jewelry store so that will be nice to shop for. But it was a very nice birthday, and it was really wonderful of all the family to give me presents as well. They've really welcomed me into the family, and not just my host family, the entire family has.
But it was such a nice weekend, and things are going well. The routine is still not really there yet, but I think that is because my school schedule is so strange, and since last week we had a 40 minute roster. That means that each period was only 40 minutes instead of fifty, so all the times were off. But it has been nice having the German grandparents stay here. Oma Renate is a gymnast, and her and her partner were on a German quiz show (i think it was a quiz show) performing their routine on tv, which aired on Friday. It's amazing to think she's 73 and can still stand on her head and do the splits... very good performance. And Opa Gunter reminds me of my Dad's father a lot. He seems a lot older to me than my grandfather does, even though he is younger. But he is very sweet and likes to talk too much like my grandfather. We have all spent a lot of time together playing games (including one that I always lose). The language barrier is definitely hard though. Oma does not speak much English, so mostly she speaks in German and sometimes a little bit of English, but not much at all. Opa speaks english however, but he only talks if you sit next to him and listen to him. But I feel like I'm in my first week of being here again. German is a lot different than Dutch, even though many people think they are similar. German is not a guttural language like Dutch is. They do share some of the same words, but it's not close at all... So this has been a challenge, but it was nice to spend time with them, since I will be seeing them again at Christmas. So soon we will be back into the Dutch. I will post pictures from this weekend soon!