Can I have that disease in English, please?

When I was working in the City of London, I found it perfectly acceptable to shout to my colleague across the dealing room: I’m not your dotdotdot secretary! Answer your own dotdotphone. I do admit though, that kind of language was par for the course there. So, it didn’t really feel that bad. At all. Liquid lunches were also the norm. When I was about to quit my job at a Japanese investment bank, my girlfriends and I naturally headed to the pub for a gin and tonic and a bag of salt & vinegar crisps to line our stomachs. At midday. I was already plastered after the first swig – yeah, you tend to make strange choices when you’re deliberating in English about how to tell your Japanese boss – in Japanese – you want to resign. But quit that job I did. And it was a good decision. Particularly as another Japanese boss at that same bank uttered the following personal words in his farewell speech, in front of all the analysts, bankers and traders who worked there: “Mariette-san, domo arigatoo for your work, I wish you good luck, gambatte kudasai, and aaaah I’m not sure everybody will be as patient with your English as me.” I’ve been gracious enough not to replicate his accent phonetically here. After the Japanese episode, I went to work somewhere else, for two brokers – a German and a Dutchman. Still in London, so the language was 60% English, 30% German and 10% Dutch.

Am I in a movie?

I felt like I was living in a movie, because, well, almost everything was in a different language, just like on TV. Words just didn’t have the same impact. Just like I couldn’t take it seriously when a US broker with chiselled good looks gushed: Hiii you must be Dutch – you’re so pretty (pridddiiee). Only to follow it up with a question about how often I got back to Copenhagen.

Native Dutch in Amsterdam

Back in Amsterdam, a few years after my London ‘film’ experience, my Dutch native tongue was back on top. That half of the Netherlands insist on peppering their sentences with ‘cool’ English words and phrases doesn’t really matter. Those who do, including myself, still think in Dutch. Take decisions in Dutch. Hear good and bad news in Dutch. You deal with your ‘parkinson’ in Dutch. Although I definitely prefer Parkinson’s in English, better still: American. Reason 1 is Michael J. Fox – not because he has Parkinson’s, but because of the way he tackles it. Reason 2 is distance – the impact is somehow less in English, it’s still there, but it’s slightly further away than in Dutch. It makes the word of difference.

The more, of course, you write about it in English, the closer it gets, but still, for the time being I prefer to have the American Parkinson’s. Leaving a little barrier between me and the real fear in my real native tongue.

Parkinson’s rather in EN than in NL

So for now I’ll have the American Parkinson’s – without Dutch subtitles. And definitely no ‘fast-forward’ button either… in any language, not even in American English.