Where Are You From?


In my previous post I asked what my readers would like me to write about. I realized later that I would be in big trouble if I got no reply. Would that mean that no one is interested in what I say? Or they don’t care? Or what if I have no readers that day? Would reposting the question be too desperate? This could very well spell the end of my blog. But fortunately someone did reply. Phew, thanks, Hanneke, for averting my existential crisis!

So her question was: How do people respond when they hear I’m from the Netherlands?

Well, I’ve written a little bit about that in various posts, but let me try and sum it up.

Some people cheerfully say that they’re also Dutch, or Irish, or Swedish, when they’re obviously not–their great-grandparent was. Click here for more on that.

Outside of cities, some people give me a blank look because they have no idea what my answer means when they ask me where I’m from.

Some people say that they knew it, they would recognize that typical Dutch accent anywhere.  (I don’t have a typical Dutch accent).

Kookaburra sits in the Brownsville zoo-hoo,
Oh boy, oh boy, can I relate to you-hoo…

Some people say they thought I was Australian (which I consider a compliment because it means I still have a bit of the Aussie accent forty years later) and some say they thought I was South-African (which I didn’t consider a compliment before Mandela was released and I was consistently boycotting the place by not buying Shell gasoline for my bicycle, but post-apartheid I suppose it’s okay, sort of, maybe).

Some younger Americans grin and start talking about the coffee houses in Amsterdam in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink, know-what-I-mean kind of way, and older Americans will sometimes bring up the coffee houses in a more disapproving way. In both cases I either take the time to explain in a haughty tone that American tourists are the main users of those Amsterdam coffee houses, and that most of us don’t smoke pot, and that that just goes to show that the American war on drugs has an adverse effect, or I don’t, depending om my mood, the amount of time I have, or how hard T is janking me away.

Some men say they were stationed in Germany and enjoyed visiting the Netherlands, and they’ll mention places they’ve been. These are actually nice conversations.

In England they told us a Dutch flag on our backpack would help us get a lift, because otherwise they would think we were Germans and just scowl as they drove by.

Of course, when people ask where I’m from, I say that I’m Dutch, and then quickly add that I’m from Holland, or the Netherlands, because otherwise they might ask if being Dutch means I’m from Germany or Denmark.

Or someone will ask if I’m German and when I tell them that no, I’m from the Netherlands, they’ll say “Close enough, right?” Nowadays I usually just respond with one of my famous “Hm’s”. If you want to know why that’s a loaded question, click here and prepare to spend some time.

Occasionally I’ll get an obnoxious guy who asks if I wore clogs and lived in a windmill, hahaha, but not that often now that I live in Austin. (Although I did wear clogs in the 70s, because, when worn with mukluks and an Afghan dress, it was a Dutch hippie statement (don’t ask), and I did live in a house built in 1607.)

Not long after I had emigrated/immigrated, and I was feeling miserable and intensely alien, T and I met some vague acquaintances when we were at South Padre Island. We ended up having dinner with them. One of the ladies sitting next to me asked me where I was from. When I told her, she said that her son was traveling in Europe right now. I asked her how he liked it and she said he really missed having ice cubes in his drinks. She added that that’s the great thing about traveling, isn’t it, that you come home and really appreciate your own country so much more. Yep, America, land of the the ice cubes, home of the intrepid travelers to places where they serve unchilled drinks.

8 responses to “Where Are You From?

  1. Doesn’t anyone ever ask you if you can make stroopwaffles? 🙂

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    • No, never. I don’t think most Americans know about stroopwafels, even if they have been to the Netherlands briefly, because it’s one of those things that you learn about when you are walking across the market and you see them make stroopwafels. But I may be wrong. Any Americans out there who have been to the Netherlands but don’t live there, who know about stroopwafels?

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  2. Not that I’ve been to continental europe much, but I thought since around 1995 everyone had lots of ice cubes…

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  3. Ice is still pretty rare, even in the fast-food chains.

    I wasn’t familiar with stroopwafels until shortly before I moved here when my mother mentioned them. But she’s British. 😉

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  4. You lived in a 400 year old house? That is so cool. Honestly, if we had met in person, I probably would have given you a blank look on learning you were from the Netherlands and then changed the subject to hide my ignorance. I really learned very little about life in the rest of the world in school and nothing I remember about the Netherlands. What little I know now, I learned here on your blog. It’s one of the things I love about reading blogs. In the last few months, I have also learned a tiny bit about life in the Phillipines, France, Jordan, Kenya and lots of other places I may never get to visit. Very cool.

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