Around the new year someone shared a post from The Daily Beast on 31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012. I skimmed it, not really looking for new habits to adopt but the opportunity to pat myself on the back for any I might already be doing. Closed the window.
And then a few days later I reopened it to take a survey: how many of the items result from moving to a foreign country. (Whether they make you any smarter or not is a separate story.)
#10: Learn a language. Learning a new language really does explode your mind. Our conversation group has in two weeks given me the confidence to be bursting out garbled Dutch phrases all around Delft. In the chocolate shop: Ik wil maak een kleine… box. I’ve also loved discovering etymological connections between Dutch and English, two languages that feel very different.
#19: Refine your thinking. This plays out here every day. When we are communicating with people who speak English, but whose first language is not English (and it’s not always Dutch–our church and Tim’s work are very international) we have to consciously practice clarity. Say things simply. Don’t use idioms. Find the clearest way to communicate. Go.
#4: Get news from Al Jazeera. OK, we don’t watch Al Jazeera. But the point this item makes is to get your news from different perspectives. We are gradually becoming more aware of how the world is viewed from the Dutch perspective, and how America is viewed from the European perspective. Let me tell you: our European friends are following the American Presidential race with a focus that challenges me to keep up.
#6: Sleep. A lot. I’m going to give this one to Tim, because he gets way more sleep in the Netherlands. Why? Because people here work closer to where they live. He doesn’t have a thirty-minute-plus commute, dependent on traffic. He gets on his bike and is at work in ten minutes. Thus, he is routinely able to be at work at 09:00 after waking at 08:00.
…I get a lot of sleep too.
#2: Eat turmeric. Done. Spices are so cheap here. I go to the market and get a plastic bag of whatever spice I want for €1. Oh, I guess saffron might be €2.
#5: Toss your Smartphone. OK, I never had a Smartphone, and you could definitely get one here. But we’ve never wanted or needed to get entangled in a phone contract (given the relatively short duration of our proposed stint) (plus we operate on a strict budget) so for the past eighteen months we’ve used the cheapest, most-lame phones that we were given for free and recharge with supermarket minutes. And even still we go months without having to recharge them.
#12: Join a knitting circle. One of the direct consequences of moving abroad was liberation from any and all time commitments we’d had in the US; we started fresh. I, in particular, have enjoyed great flexibility with my schedule (a huge, wonderful blessing—and also a responsibility, since I do not aspire to waste my time abroad). Last year I decided I wanted to learn how to knit. This was so I could have cool hats and scarves without having to pay a ton for them, and give them as Christmas gifts. My early attempts to teach myself (books, internet) only got so far. So in de zomer I took a course at a British-run shop in den Haag called Woool. It was a three-session introductory course, and it was just enough to totally launch me.
#30: Write reviews online. A direct result of how much traveling we’ve been able to do. My TripAdvisor contributions have skyrocketed.
#8: Go to a literary festival. Does it count that we’re going to Edinburgh this year, UNESCO City of Literature? (Also, send me your Edinburgh recommendations!)
#31: Get out of town. In a word: accomplished.