Monday, October 31, 2005

Cultural Limbo

The last few months I have decided that I now live between cultures, and between countries. Even though I have lived in the Netherlands for just under 4 years, have learned the language and have recently been granted citizenship, I do not feel remotely Dutch. I do not like the food, and in fact love to insult the bland fatty diet on a regular basis. I do not eat sandwiches for breakfast and do not like mayo on my French fires. I will not go near raw herring and can not stomach the idea of eating raw hamburger meat spread on a cracker. Unlike everyone here, I do not ride my bike everywhere. In fact it took me almost 3 years here before I even purchased a second hand bike and I have only used it once in the past 10 months. I can’t stand the lack of service in the stores, and the fact that you can’t find anything even slightly unusual. I don’t watch football (soccer for Americans) and do not care if Rotterdam or Amsterdam wins (though I do cheer loudly for Holland during the European and World cups). I have little in common with my neighbors, and would prefer if they just left me be. I miss the idea of privacy in a culture that is very open. Being blond and white skinned I may not stick out like a sore thumb, but I am not Dutch, and wonder if I will ever feel like I fit in here.

Yet being away from America for the last 4 years, I also do not feel completely American anymore. There are things there that just bug the hell out of me. I do not understand the need for an SUV to drive from your house 5 blocks to the supermarket, and can’t contemplate the reason anyone needs to have a Hummer. I roll my eyes when people groan about paying $2 a gallon for gasoline when we pay the equivalent of $6 a gallon. I hate that the minute you get the meal in a restaurant you also get the bill, and that the waitress stops by your table every two minutes to see if everything is alright. I am baffled by the ignorance of so many people, the fact that many have not seen anything outside of their closed little community; yet feel that they can comment on what is right and wrong with the world. I do not understand the need some people have to force their ideals on others, and the fact that religion is creeping its way into government and into everyone’s lives. To me it just feels more and more closed minded and oppressive every time I go back.

When I am in Holland I miss America, and when I am there I can not wait to get back to Europe. So what am I if I do not belong here or there? Will I eventually become more Dutch and feel like this is my home? Will I become more and more alienated with the country of my birth? Or am I to remain in limbo somewhere between cultures, not fitting into either place? And what about Pumpkin? Is she going to be more Dutch than American, or will she be a blend of both? Will she feel comfortable in both places or will she also feel slightly alienated by each? What is the fate of our cross cultural family?

posted by Laura @ 9:33 AM   4 comments