Literally it means times ago, but tijden geleden is something you would say when you reunite with someone — intentionally or not. You can say it to an old friend, an acquaintance, or even a familiar stranger. An equivalent in English would be: long time no see. And just like in English, tijden geleden suggests that you’re glad about the reunion.
“Long time no see.”
It’s my last month here in Utrecht. And just as things are starting to wrap up, I’ve been bumping into people I met only briefly throughout the year. People I’ve sat next to in lectures, people I’ve made small talk to in the elevator, and familiar strangers I meet whenever there’s a party.
The odd thing is that while we can recognize each other and remember the conversations we had, the name of the other person still escapes us.
But when they do remember your name, and you remember theirs, and when you both remember tidbits (superficial as they may be) about each other’s lives — it’s a wonderful feeling to behold. Just to think — wow, a stranger actually cared enough to listen to me and remember who I am! (And you, too, get to play a role in helping another person feel that way).
On the last day of my lab work, I went to the Gutenberg café in the university library. The barista recognized me from about a month ago. I recognized the barista as well, because I embarrassed myself after trying to make small talk with her in broken Dutch.
Tijden geleden, she says. I didn’t know what that meant, so she had to repeat it a few times before she eventually explained it in English. We exchange pleasantries and chat about our weekend.
I ordered a big cappuccino, but she only charged me for a small one. For a second I wondered if it was a slip of the finger.
Nee, it couldn’t be.