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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Dear Dutch people. You are not boring!

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?

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  1. I have never heard this "I'm just Dutch" expression and this is frankly something I had no idea of. Perhaps it's because I'm married to a Dutch man and our kids are half Dutch that the Dutch figured I already have found the Dutch exciting enough. :D What do I like most about living in the Netherlands... this is a tough one. Perhaps I'll answer you in my own blogpost (if I get the time to do so...)

    1. This is a tough question, and it was meant to be so. I have heard it quite a lot, and that's why I decided to write about this.For me, there are many things I like about living in the Netherlands, and the closeness to water is one of them. But maybe not everybody feels this way. Maybe it's also the fact that we live in a multicultural neighborhood where the Dutch are actually in minority.

  2. As someone living here for almost 8 years, I love the things that at the same time sometimes get me crazy, such as ( in random order and compering with my country of origin):

    - you can have neighbors for years and don't know their names or anything about them (in MAcedonia, neighbors sometime knows more about your life then yourself.:)) and from the other hand, they are very often like your extended family helping in good and bad)

    - the business like attitude with not much empathy in almost every public institution (including hospitals).
    The attitude of the people working in public institutions in Macedonia, is very often "i am bringing my private problems with me to work ", so not getting a smile in the "gemente" for example is almost a folklore there, but from the other hand, they can be more flexibile (though sometimes even corrupted :(.
    - you can be great at something and no one will really make much fuzz about it. ( no compering with Macedonia, since people there like to put in the sky the one who are good in what they are doing :))
    - if you don't ask for help, people won't really notice that you need it, because they are busy with their own life ( in my country people very often "know" what you need and try to give you advice, even if you don't ask for one:)
    - one can feel invisible,since no one is really bothered with you (how you look, how are you dressed, what are you doing, ...)

    - practicality and ratio (versus emotionals drama from the Balkans)
    - speaking direct ( versus use of methapors,alusions,irony,in my country)
    - self confidence (versus balkan syndrom of being less valued then "westerns")

    p.s.the woman was Macedonian, not Albanian.Regards,Aleksandra :)

    1. Dear Aleksandra, thanks for your comment. It was very insightful! And sorry for my stupid mistake! What you said is very interesting- and I see some similarities with Poland, and Polish culture.

  3. The problem with the Dutch is that they are just extremly uninteresting. They just have nothing to say, nothing to put forward. They cannot display any sense of humour, imagination, creativity. I think the only way to have creativty is too have a training for that... lol. They think in boxes more than any other country, it's just not possible to creat any bounds with them. The social pressure is so high that it prevent people to be truly themselves. Honnestly, it's 3 years I live in the country and I can't wait to got out, this crountry has a nasty energy.

    1. Hello, Anonymous! Thank you for your reply.I've been in the Netherlands for 3 years as well! I do agree that Dutch people are hard to bond with, but I've experienced the same thing with Germans. I think this is because they already have their networks of friends and family, and so they aren't as likely to reach forward to foreigners, who, on the other hand, are more active to meet new people. I agree that the social pressure is high in the Netherlands (everyone is expected to do the same things, and the formalities are pretty strict.But then, the Netherlands offer great opportunities for so many people. These are just my impressions, of course. But not everybody would agree since the experiences of the people living here are very different.


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