This post doesn’t live here anymore. It has emigrated to my other blog:
The Big No-No: An Outsider on American Fascism, where it resides under the title:
This post doesn’t live here anymore. It has emigrated to my other blog:
The Big No-No: An Outsider on American Fascism, where it resides under the title:
Okay, it’s the end of November and that means that Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) is arriving in the Netherlands, with his helpers, who have traditionally been all called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). The Zwarte Pieten are traditionally white people with blackface. People of color in the Netherlands have gradually become vocal about not liking that and the Dutch reaction is incredibly embarrassing to me. Continue reading
Today I rediscovered the Gandhi Bazar, an Indian grocery store I frequented ten years ago, when we lived in an appartment nearby. (For Austinites, it’s on the corner of Brodie and William Cannon, catty-corner to HEB.) I love going to Asian grocery stores–they smell wonderful and everything is strange, except for the occasional item we used to have in Australia, like the proper Ovaltine or rusk. Such is the Commonwealth. Continue reading
R and I looked on Yelp for a place to eat in north Austin this evening, and we ended up in Troy, a Turkish/Mediterranean place in a little strip mall where we had been once before, a couple of years ago. Continue reading
Twenty-three years ago this month, I emigrated to the United Stated. Or so I thought at the time. I now know that emigration is a process that lasts the rest of one’s life. Maybe it’s easier for someone who emigrates from a developing country, for someone who always wanted to come to America. I never did. And when I came, I thought it was temporary. I now know it’s not. Continue reading
Today’s writing prompt is Graceful.
If there’s ever a word that describes what I am not most completely, it’s graceful. I’m the epitome of the proverbial bull in a china shop. More like a stumbling drunk bull in the British Museum’s Asia section. Watch out folks, here she comes. Hide your valuables! Continue reading
Sometimes I go over my blog, to see if there is at least some semblance of balance between positive and negative posts. I don’t want to always sound angry and whiny, especially in my posts that are more directly related to being an immigrant in this
crazy country. That wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of my state of mind outside of this blog. Nevertheless, anger and resentment do seem to crop up on a regular basis. How is it that I am still able to keep that up after twenty-three years? Continue reading
Well, waddaya know? The daily writing prompt is “Recharge“, just as I was getting ready to write about refueling as an immigrant. Another term I learned recently, from Akhtar’s book Immigration and Identity.
What do you do to refuel (or recharge) as an immigrant–to get your home fix, as it were? Continue reading
It’s amazing what one successful hike and a pair of good hiking boots can do. On the road back to Texas, I found myself scanning the maps of Canada, looking for canoe trips T and I could take in the future. Maybe an easy, non-portage one to begin with, like a part of the Peace River… Suddenly everything seems possible again!
In my previous post I described how I bought a new pair of proper hiking boots. (Don’t ask me how on earth I managed to lose my old pair; I have no idea.) So the next day T and I went on a hike rated “moderate”, and about 12 km round trip. I didn’t look at the survey map, because just looking at those made me feel blue, so T told me that it was two kilometers along Lake Louise, which should be pretty level, and then 4 km uphill to a tearoom near the Plain of Six Glaciers. We had all day and if I didn’t feel up to walking to the tearoom by the time we got to the end of Lake Louise, I would turn back and T would go on alone. Continue reading
T wanted a fitness tracker for his birthday, so the kids and I went to REI. Back in the day I would have been in hiking heaven at REI; nowadays it’s depressing and I usually get what I need as quickly as possible and leave again. But I had the kids with me and though I knew I was asking for trouble, I felt I should look around with them and point out gear that resembles mine, and tell them how I used to do this and that, and hey look, that’s about the size my backpack was, etc, etc. Continue reading
So in yesterday’s post, I mentioned some of the ways in which immigration has changed and/or affected my identity. Continue reading
I’ve started reading Immigration and Identity by Salman Akhtar. He speaks about the loss of identity and the mourning process involved for emigrants. I had never thought about it in those terms, but yes, when you emigrate, your identity changes to a degree, and yes, there is definitely mourning involved. Continue reading
I just created a new page, titled Emigration / Immigration. It took a while, but after six years in I realized that that might be a good one to have. Continue reading
This post doesn’t live here anymore. It migrated to my other blog:
The Big No-No: An Outsider on American Fascism, where it resides under the title:
“Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and his Campaign Demagoguery”
I mention in my yellow sticky post on the homepage that I often seem disgusted and elated in quick succession. Well, I wasn’t kidding. Continue reading
Late 1960s Australia. My mother adds a recipe to her limited repertoire–she discovers coleslaw. Continue reading
Do you get drunk on green in the spring? I know I do. As a teenager, commuting to school by train, I would lean my face against the window and just drink in as much as I could of the deep May-green pastures rolling by.
We finally got our new stove after having done without for months. Long story, which I’m not going to bore you with. But now we have a stove and the weather is wonderfully wintry. So the first meals I made were stamppots. Continue reading
Happy New Year!
Well, here I am again, finally. Did you miss me?
This is pretty much the way politics are conducted in the Netherlands, as well. Check out this blog, by the way. I’m featuring it for a while; see the column on the right.
It’s hard to get excited about elections in a foreign country. You can’t vote. You’re cautious when discussing the candidates because you’re not sure how to pronounce their names. It would take a dramatic change for a new government to affect expats, anyway.
But I learned a lot about the politics of my own homeland while watching the electoral process up close in Norway during the election campaign over the last month. It’s so different from how things works in the U.S.
For one thing, Norway has 7 different political parties giving its 5.1 million people varied representation in parliament.
The Norwegian government is usually made up of three or four parties. You need 85 out of 169 seats in parliament to form a government and a single party never gets that much support. Instead, the parties form coalitions by negotiating a common platform to govern together, with the leader…
View original post 657 more words
Our last visit to the Netherlands was eleven years ago, when B was six and R almost three. That was also the last time I spoke Dutch for any length of time with other adults. Continue reading
Yesterday I just accepted all comments without replying to each one. I was venting, not looking for a conversation with people who have never been emigrants themselves. I thought I’d leave that for after I’d calmed down a bit.
So, fellow immigrants from Western Europe, wherever you are, I have a question for you.
Most of us spend the majority of our time writing expatically correct—and in my case Americally correct—posts, demonstrating how well we are adapting.
I’m no exception. With tongue in cheek, I can write a halfway funny piece about pretty much any random, absolutely unimportant quirky cultural difference. See my The Gap post. Yeah, it’s not hard to make fun of American public toilets.
People love posts like this. Or posts in which we write about the personal growth we experience, thanks to being permanently outside our comfort zone, and how grateful we are for this growth. And we even manage to believe it. We are able to take a step back and look at our environment and ourselves in it from a distance and laugh. Or at least shrug our shoulders.
I do, anyway. Most of the time. Next time.
Evolution of X just had a post about her memories of 1978. She invited readers to do the same.
So, let’s see. Not in chronological order: Continue reading
This is cool. And Dutch.
In my last post, I addressed the idea of giving teachers guns in the classroom. But the NRA wants more than that. They want everyone to have a gun, because, as they say, “The only thing more dangerous than a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. Or something like that. Continue reading
It feels a bit weird writing you in English, and I don’t think I can call you Dad instead of Pappie, but here goes. Continue reading
As I was going through recipes for Thanksgiving, I came across a small list from almost nineteen years ago. I always come across this list around this time of year, because I keep it in my recipe book. Which, the last couple of years, I only open around this time of year. Continue reading
One thing I’ve learned is the difference between Dutch politeness and Texan politeness.
To A Texan, being polite is not just a matter of saying please and thank you, holding the door open for the person coming behind you, not belching loudly at the dinner table, etc. It also means avoiding embarrassing someone. Continue reading
For many years now, there has been a huge rift within our family, caused by traffic lights. T and I are in permanent disagreement and our son B is pretty firmly on my side. R is undecided, but I’m convinced she will see the light (I couldn’t resist) in due time. Continue reading
I was in a school gym, remembering how we would be made to run laps around a gym just like that in high school in the Netherlands. And I remembered that I could. I’d be tired, and I’d be protesting loudly like any self-respecting un-sporty teenage girl should, but that’s all. And I resented–in this dream–that I can’t run for two minutes now without having a gimpy knee for the next two weeks (this is real; I ran for two minutes last weekend, and now it hurts when I walk down steps). Continue reading
Right before I came to America, a woman asked my then-fiance T how a Dutch person is different from Americans. The first thing that came to his mind to say was that I wasn’t religious. That left her speechless. She had never met an atheist.
When we were in the Rockies this past summer, we met several Dutch people and one of the first things they commented on was how religious so many Americans seem to be. Continue reading
They say that any American alive at the time can tell you exactly what he/she was doing when JFK was shot in Dallas. September 11, 2001 was one of those days as well. Continue reading
One of my readers asked me a while ago to give my take on the apparent ambiguity between the American “melting pot” diversity and America’s dissociation from the rest of the world. Well, here it is. My take. I’m fully aware that I’m generalizing the heck out of this, but the question itself is generalizing, so that makes it totally okay. Continue reading
Another question I got from my funk post was: What do European kids learn about American history. Well, I can only talk about what I learned, but feel free to add to it in the comments, Dutch readers.
I had History several times a week, from seventh through eleventh grade, and from Mesopotamia to the Vietnam War, more or less. I seem to remember that we started learning about America in tenth grade, and it would have continued through eleventh grade, whenever America came up in relation to a certain period. This would have been around 1977-1978. I’ll just describe what I remember; trying to be systematic after all those years wouldn’t work.
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! Continue reading
Do I seem schizophrenic to you? Well, that’s because I am. Not clinically, but being Dutch in America, I can’t help being in a permanent schizophrenic state of mind. Depending on what I’m Continue reading
Although I’ve lived here for 18 years now, and although there are a lot of things I’ve gotten used to and in some cases even adopted, there are some things that, by now it’s safe to say, I’ll never get used to. Here are ten of them.
1. Bobby socks for men. Yep, men here (including T) often wear socks that barely show above the shoe, just like girl bobby socks in the fifties. The only difference is the absence of pompoms. I know they’re considered perfectly normal here, but to me they will always look ridiculous. Sorry, guys. Continue reading
I visited a nice blog with photos of Enkhuizen a while ago. My parents lived there for a few years. in the Westerstaat. It has a link to Google Earth and it was great to stand in front of the house!
I told myself I should do that more often. There’s nothing like Google Earth if you’re a homesick emigrant. Or just getting older and wanting to go down memory lane. Well, now I can.
The first place I went was Collaroy, in the state of New South Wales, in Continue reading
My son B.’s ninth-grade class is learning about World War Two right now, so I offered to give a presentation about the Netherlands during WWII. Not because, in itself, the Netherlands’ history is so important in the big picture, but because I suspected that otherwise the students probably wouldn’t learn too much about how it was for Europeans to be occupied by the Germans.
The demography and geography of the different countries in Europe may vary greatly, but the stories of German occupation, resistance, and living in constant fear and uncertainty have much in common.
And, of course, the occupation of countries, the killing of Jews and the constant intimidation and terror all over Europe is what American soldiers were fighting, even though they may often not have been aware of it, since they were mainly in battle situations against other soldiers. But when they were fighting for freedom, this is what it meant.
I am going to commit one of the biggest faux pas you can commit in America. I’m going to correct your grammar, Americans!
Yes, my Dutch friends, it’s considered impolite at best to correct anyone’s grammar here.When you do, people think you’re pedantic, rude, or a “grammar nazi”.
I will write about the inflation of the word “nazi” some other time.
So back to you, my American readers. Let me explain myself. Continue reading
The first time I visited America, at age 18, I visited my great aunt and her husband in Bakersfield, California.
The evening I arrived, we went out to dinner at an Elk Lodge and after we had finished our meal, my great aunt asked me if I wanted to join her in the restroom. I replied that I wasn’t really tired, but she insisted.
Did I mention that my Dutch library degree isn’t recognized in America, and that that was pretty much the end of my pretty good career? Well, you can take the librarian out of the library, but can’t take the library out of the librarian.
I have always had the urge to arrange books systematically. This may be traced back to my very earliest youth, when rearranging books was strictly forbidden. I have been making up for that cruel Continue reading
We Dutch are world-famous for our directness, so American conversations require a whole new set of skills. In my previous post, I wrote about an example of what Americans say and what they mean. There’s a lot of that. I have figured most of it out by now–at least I think I have. But that doesn’t leave me any less mystified.
Take “That’s interesting”. Continue reading
Another post in the “Weird Things Americans Say” spirit.
When my brand new American boyfriend T–now my husband for 18 years–first spoke to his parents on my phone in the Netherlands, he ended the call with telling his parents he loved them, apparently in response to them telling him the same.
That was weird to me. My parents and I had never Continue reading
I opened my oven drawer yesterday, and was immediately reminded of a language misunderstanding I had years ago. Continue reading
I ate some terrible stuff in the Netherlands. Some of it tasty but super unhealthy, and some of it tasted terrible as well. The terrible tasting stuff was mostly food I had as a kid, when I had no choice. Ugh! Continue reading
In general service in America is much better than in the Netherlands. But there is one aspect of telephone service that really gets me. Continue reading
2. Donuts: fried cake rings.
3. Pork rinds: fried pork fat, eaten as chips. Continue reading
I miss lots of Dutch foods, but here are the top five American foods that make up for them. Continue reading
Another strange link in music: I was about fifteen, I think, in Holland, in high school at the Werkplaats in Bilthoven, when Gerard Cox had a hit. “‘T Is Weer Voorbij, Die Mooie Zomer“. Roughly translated it’s “Summer’s Over.” Continue reading
Living in America, the music I used to listen to in Holland as a teenager and college student now has a whole new dimension. Take ZZ Top. I was in the second year of library school in Deventer, around 1980. My boyfriend and I had broken up but we still lived in the same student house and he would play his music really loud when he got back from the bar at 1 a.m. He drove me nuts, pretty much literally. And definitely consciously. A friend of mine who was in a biker phase at the time introduced me to ZZ Top and it was the perfect music for being mad. Continue reading
Today’s Plinky prompt: if you had your own restaurant, what would you name it? I have actually thought a lot about my own restaurant. So here’s a free entrepreneurial idea for any Dutch people in America or thinking about emigrating to America (although I would stay where you are if you’re still in Holland). Continue reading
The Plinky writing prompt asks me “Coffee or Tea?” and my immediate response is “tea”. But that’s not actually all that true anymore. Continue reading
I love this blog. Such recognizable photos of Utrecht streetscapes. Especially these photos of the Saturday flower market make me slightly homesick. But at least I get to see it again in these photos.
Thank you, Flamingo!
Okay, read on… Continue reading
Not worrying about money, or getting fired, or getting sick, or not being able to retire, or how to pay for the kids’ colleges.
Isn’t it amazing how smells can evoke memories? The first time I remember experiencing this was when I lived in Australia.
When I was in school, it seemed that only private religious schools made the kids learn the Dutch national anthem. The rest of us never learned, and so we didn’t get much further than the first two lines, and nobody cared.
If I could go to dinner anywhere in the world tonight, where would I go? And with whom and what would I eat? Well, since I’m in my Dutch immigrant blog mode, I think I’d beam myself up and over to Holland, to the Saturday market in Amersfoort or Utrecht or Amsterdam. Yeah, I know it’s only Thursday, but it’s Saturday there whenever I want it to be. If I can beam myself anywhere, it can also be any time.
Being from the Netherlands, I speak four languages. Or at least, I did. Dutch was my mother tongue. English, French and German were taught from seventh grade onward. I lived in Australia from age 4 to 10, so I was excused from English class. I only had to take the exams each year.
Maybe the biggest difference between the Dutch and the Americans is the American need for patriotic display. The only time the Dutch wave the national flag or play the national anthem (instrumentally–most people don’t know the lyrics past the first three lines) is during an international soccer game. Here in America you can’t turn your head without seeing some form of the red-white-and-blue spirit.
I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my Honda Odyssey minivan, with my feet up on the dashboard. I’m parked in front of the theater in the east side of town, where my 11-year-old daughter has her acting class every Thursday evening from 6 – 8:30 p.m. It takes us about an hour to get there because it’s rush hour, so my daughter took her laptop with her to work on a “book” she’s writing while we’re driving. Now I’m using it while I wait for her to be done. Continue reading
Notes From a University Student 11
Not everything related to education here can be easily translated into Dutch. To American standards I’m studying at a university, but to Dutch standards that’s a rather big word.
Notes From a University Student 3
That was a great course. It was largely a survey of poets and poetry, but since I hadn’t had much poetry in high school, most of this was new to me.
One thing that comes with America being The Greatest Country in the World is that everything has to be an American invention. Even when it’s not. Even when it was invented decades ago, half a century ago, a century ago, in another country.
My (at the time 2-year-old) son says almost everything in English, but he does understand my Dutch. It does lead to misunderstandings, though, like recently at the zoo. I told him he could give the goat an “aai” (a pat), so he promptly poked the poor beast in the eye. Later, at home, we practiced patting his pet monkey, giving it lots of “aaien,” because the next animal may not be as forgiving as that goat was.
My father-in-law, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, had a stroke in August, and he has been in a wheelchair ever since. He was in a nursing home for two months. You would think that at least my mother-in-law would be relieved that he would be taken care of professionally, wouldn’t you?
I had been asked to be a bridesmaid.
This was a big test: could I do it? Could I stand in a row with five American women, in front of a church congregation, without being the odd one out?
Yes. I would just have to do it. I would just have to forget my Dutch sense of individuality and put on a dress that I was ordered to wear – the exact same dress that five other women would be wearing – and walk for several hours in high-heeled shoes of someone else’s choice.
I would have to ‘have my hair done’ – in a style, at a time, and at a location determined by others – and I would have to ‘have my nails done’ with a polish that was handed out at the bridesmaids’ luncheon.
I came to this country with a degree in library science and eleven years of experience setting up, running, automating, and reorganizing libraries. I had voluntarily left my wonderful job in the Netherlands as the librarian of an awesome archaeology library, to follow my husband to his country, and – as it turned out – to his hometown. Continue reading
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