I was known as the ‘Holland-hater’. I blamed it on the culture, especially on the way it celebrated the status quo as the highest goal. I just wasn’t made for this little corner of Europe. Holland simply felt too small. So for years I told my parents that I would leave the Netherlands as soon as possible. And sure enough, just before my 18th birthday I stepped into an airplane which took me to the ‘land of the free’. I wanted to break out of the boxes that trapped me, so I could finally live in the independence I had worked so hard on to develop.
I found the freedom I was looking for, but in an unexpected place. I found my freedom in family. Belonging to a home was what empowered me to be fully myself. Yes, I felt more at home in the United States as a foreigner than I ever felt as a native in the Netherlands. But I realized that my rebellion against my nation came out of fear. It was fear to be forced to be conformed to a culture I didn’t agree with and fear to be limited to one place that caused me to distance myself from any familiarity with my childhood’s country. But as I became more secure in my identity, this rebellion and fear melted away. I found out I was more Dutch than I wanted to admit. I now was able to appreciate my home country without feeling threatened.
A couple of weeks ago, the Dutch students of my school were responsible to represent the Netherlands with a booth at the ‘Festival of Cultures’. I was asked to create a hand-out to introduce our country by describing the Netherlands in words of hope and affirmation. It was an interesting task for someone who taught herself only to see her culture through a critical lens. But the words started flowing and I could feel God’s heart beating for Holland. I saw the potential for revival.
At the night of the Festival, our Dutch booth was a brave explosion of orange – and for the first time I felt a part of it. In between prayer requests for our nation and compliments for our pastries, something bubbled up. I think this is what they call ‘Dutch Pride’.
I would like to introduce you to the culture I grew up in. It might not be the country of my calling, but it is the nation of my birth. It’s the country that taught me how to peel my oranges, how to make bread my main source of nutrition, how to have more bikes than people in my house, how to always complain about the weather and how to clearly state my opinion. It’s the culture that taught me that freedom is always achievable, that excellence is the only acceptable standard and that tradition is a strong foundation for innovation. It’s the country that ruined me for terms like ‘taboo’ or ‘beating around the bush’ and that taught me how to cram too many people in too little space.
Its culture strangely beautiful and extremely powerful. I want to introduce you to the Netherlands by sharing the hand-out I wrote. Because there’s one thing I know; Dutch Pride is loud. It needs to be shared.
(Click on the image for full size.)
Ps. If you’re confused about the mixed terms of Holland, the Netherlands and Dutch, watch this funny video for the explanation: http://youtu.be/eE_IUPInEuc.