Expats struggle a lot with living in a new country. Often, they don’t speak the language; they try to understand the norms and traditions of their new home. Being an expat is not easy. But let’s try to see this from the other side.
Imagine you have lived in one place your whole life. All the languages you speak, you have learned at school or through language courses. And then you hear a conversation that goes like this: “Well, I am originally from country A, but when I was little we moved to country B. Then, I met my spouse who is from country C, and in the end, we settled down in country D. We are raising our children to speak languages 1, 2, 3 and 4.” How does that make you feel? Maybe you feel happy to have firm roots, and a feeling of stable cultural identity. But maybe not. Maybe you feel… boring.
But you are not “just Dutch” and neither are you boring. I think you are just as colourful and confusing to us as we are to you. Seriously, sometimes I feel you are from a different planet. I mean, how would you explain your huge obsession with bicycles? Why do you think that bitterballen can actually count as food? Oh, and the healthcare system? What’s with that? You challenge us as much as we challenge you.
The Netherlands are a country with a rich history. You have great artists (Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Escher, and many others). Your influence has stretched much beyond the Dutch borders, and still does. You have had contact with many cultures and nations and religions. At the same time, you have known wars, famine, intolerance and floods. The latter has forever shaped the Dutch landscape and mentality.
For years, you have fought for more land, only it was not people you were fighting, but water, a dangerous and yet beautiful element. While you admire the water, you also respect it. I love to be able to live so close to the sea. They say that God created the Dutch, but the Dutch created the Netherlands. Your country is where human work and nature come together in intricate and exciting ways.
For many of us expats you are the reason we are here. You are our spouses and partners, our employers and employees. You are our friends and acquaintances. For others- myself included-, you are our hosts, and we are your guests. Thank you for your hospitality.
Do I have any Dutch readers? If so, give me a shout and tell me what do you love most about being Dutch!
And of my expat readers, I ask the question: what do you like most about living in the Netherlands?