The Dutchman’s Guide to Fitting In

I am an American citizen. I am also a Dutch citizen. This means I get to pick and choose which passport I want to travel on, and when I want to identify either the Dutch or the Americans as a ‘they’, or as an ‘us’. Since I currently live in the UK, I often find myself talking about both the Dutch and Americans as ‘they’ these days. Today, however, I’ll be wearing my Dutch hat.

Not this one, thank god.
Not this one, thank god.

When I moved to the Netherlands seven years ago I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pretty confident that my status as a long-time TCK would help me to deal with whatever came my way. I am used to being immersed in new cultures (for better or for worse), and I am used to having to adapt and fit in quickly. What I definitely didn’t expect was that I would learn a thing or two from the Dutch about this process.

When choosing a nationality for the character of Goldmember (in the 2002 movie of the same title), Mike Myers wanted someone from ‘a place that nobody has an axe to grind with’. How do you develop that kind of status as a nation? Partly by financing half the world and providing vital trade to the other half, partly by becoming known as ‘that place where weed is legal’ (again, a savvy sales tactic), and partly by encouraging its citizens to become expert blenders.

So here, as my gift to you, is the Dutchman’s three-step guide to fitting in. Use it wisely. Continue reading

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Loving and Leaving Morocco

“Inshallah!”…Wait, Does That Mean Never?

Just two weeks ago, I packed up all of my earthly possessions and moved lock, stock, and barrel halfway across the globe. Okay, no. I packed up two bags, two carry-ons, and sold or donated the rest. Airlines these days are not particularly on board with the whole “But I need more luggage, this is a FOREVER move!” concept.

When we talk about moving halfway across the globe, we always picture far off lands, exotic environments, and lots of adventure. Though this is true, in my case the adventure is coming home. I have spent the last few years living in Morocco, and now it was finally time to return to the exoticness that is Washington State.

Morocco—the very word breathes adventure and mystery. Desert landscapes, camel caravans, and towering mounds of spices. Each time I visit home, people have asked me if it is dangerous, if there is unrest all over the place, and “Is it in any way more liberal than Saudi Arabia?” (Practically anywhere is more liberal than Saudi Arabia.)

I have come to realize that there are a lot of misconceptions about this beautiful country, which is a pity given that it is such a wonderful place. Continue reading

Discovering Scotland

Newtonmore Highland Folk Village (G. Fincutter)
Newtonmore Highland Folk Village (G. Fincutter)

The land of Macbeth, William Wallace and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Tasty treats of neeps, tatties, tablet and Haggis. In the middle of summer, I escaped from the heat of London to the rainy days of Scotland. It was one of the best decisions I could have made. Even though it’s not far from England, Scotland is a world of its own. Here are some of the sights and experiences I had throughout the cities, highlands and isles.

Newtonmore Highland Folk VillageSome people find folk villages boring and a waste of time. I did too, when I was a teenager, but at that age you think that about everything. Now I am absolutely fascinated by them. When we pulled into the parking lot I almost busted down the door as soon as I heard that an episode of Outlander had been filmed here. The first part of the village is a few buildings with variously positioned items to show the way the Highlanders would have worked and lived from the 1700s-1960s. There was a school house, which I was scared out of by a yelling teacher. I thought he was going to beat me with a cane if I didn’t sit down for his lesson on proper manners. Being the adult I am, I giggled and ran the opposite way. My hide is still intact. Down a road, surrounded by a small forest, you can find the second part of the village. This section, the one Outlander was filmed in (Season 1), has homes from the 1700s. Inside are peat burning fires, dirt and very little light. A wonderful woman dressed the part, told us about how Highlanders of the time would live and work. She also warned us to stay away from the ducks because they attack. If you like seeing the way people of the past lived, this is a must. Continue reading