I’ve been in the Netherlands for 30 years. Three decennia. Three times 10 years. What?! How??! I remember moving into the country as if it was yesterday. Our first summer in the Netherlands was the wettest they’d had in many years (plenty of those since then…). Felt like a holiday or a visit to the zoo. Watching the Dutch and their ‘strange’ habits from a distance. They use toilet brushes to do the dishes?! Excuse-me, they’ve never heard of zucchini or egg plant? And who the hell eats dinner before 8 pm, really, while having to survive the whole day on a bread lunch! I remember cycling to the local school every morning with a nice girl … whom in the first two months, I could never tell apart from all the other (blond) kids during breaks. Locating my bike after class, now that was a real challenge! Ooh and that brutal honesty…
Thirty years later, without noticing it, I appear to be so Dutchizised you would probably not know I’m not from around here. Or so my husband tells me. It’s funny how you take over the habits you first thought were bizarre to say the least. Not that I use a toilet brush to do the dishes, thanks heaven for dish washers. I now hold a Dutch passport, but that is not being truly Dutch. Being truly Dutch, to me, is enjoying the ‘gezelligheid’ of a brown café, eating dinner around 6.30 pm, singing ‘Met De Vlam in Pijp’ loudly (and poorly) while showering and knowing Dutch grammar sometimes better than the natives. I find myself explaining and defending Dutch habits to the many international students I deal with at work. Even using ‘we the Dutch’! And you know what the funny thing is, I don’t ‘go back home to France’ during holidays. I actually ‘vacation’ in France. Where I now look upon them as strange creatures intent on eating a warm and heavy meal at noon (ew). Where I’m super annoyed because life ceases daily between noon and 2 pm. Where when talking to people I often think: ‘will you get to the point pluuuhhh-eease? ‘
Holland gave me a good life. And since the country has also integrated into the wider world and now sells not only zucchinis and egg plants, but also red pepper and sweet potatoes, I say: bring on the next 30 years!
Severine Dufour, Student Affairs Officer Maastricht Science Programme