Saturday, October 28, 2006

First contact from the Dam

Before I met my husband, all I knew about Holland was that it was responsible for some painful, and questionable, defeats over the English football team. The only living Dutch person I had heard of was Dennis Bergkamp, who I thought of as a penalty-box diving blonde cheat. If prompted, I would think of windmills, clogs and edam cheese. But I was completely incapable of distinquishing the Dutch language from German. I had read Anne Frank's diary at school and had some van Gogh's paintings as prints, but hadn't really realised that these two historical and cultural icons were Dutch.

All said, I was completely ignorant of the who the Dutch were, their history or the rather sizable impact they have had, and still have on the world, despite their tiny population and percentage of the earth's surface.

I think that most Dutch people, who tend to have great pride in their country and a huge amount of self-respect, would be very disappointed to know how little the rest of the world knows about their nation. I've learnt some interesting facts about the Netherlands in the last three years, but ashamedly I still haven't committed the Prime Minister's name to memory - all I know is that he looks like Harry Potter. And if after spending 27 years living in a neighbouring country this is how little I know, I'm sure I'm not the only one surprised to hear that the Dutch have a royal family and a colonial history as rich as the British Empire.

Today I live in Amsterdam, and I have learnt more about the Dutch in the last three months than I did in my previous 27 years. Most of what I have observed has been unconciously, but immediately and directly compared to my life in England. The majority of this blog will inevitably be dedicated to these comparisons, and I welcome your thoughts and comments on my impressions as I recognise that my impressions are only one, very narrow, point of view.

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