God Bless America (From Europe!)


Alright staff member Zack Higgins, I guess I will be no longer sharing my ideas for columns and stories with you anymore since you ‘stole’ one of my ideas. ; )

I am just kidding, don’t worry, and I am glad that you seem to agree with me to a certain extent when it comes to Americans and their “ignorance of overseas travel.”

During the four years I have lived in the United States, I have had countless conversations with others about their vision of the world and what they know about everything that is “out there.”

Multiple left me speechless, stunned by the lack of knowledge and interest some have in other countries and their cultures. 

On the first Monday of this semester, I had my first Writing for Digital Media class with Professor Perrota. When I was asked to introduce myself, I mentioned that I am from the Netherlands and I specifically pointed out that that is in Europe. After I was done, Professor Perrota said that he finds it funny how I always say that the Netherlands is in Europe. 

And I agree. It is funny. 

But is it not also ridiculous? 

Our capital city is Amsterdam and I am happy to hear that basically everyone here has heard about the city with the beautiful canals and the canal houses, the Anne Frank Museum, the Rijksmuseum with paintings from Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn, and the thousands of people riding their bikes. 

But it seems the history and the looks of Amsterdam are not what it is known for in countries overseas. 

Whenever I proudly say that I am Dutch, I get loads of different questions and many are genuinely interested. Unfortunately, they never really ask about the traditions and the culture. 

I get asked the following questions at least once:

“So, do you smoke weed then?”

“What is the Red Light District like?”

That is not even the end of it. I get asked if we drive on the opposite side of the road and if people speak English at all. 

(No, we do not drive on the left side of the road, and yes, about 90 percent of all the Dutchies speak English.)

I will never forget that one day in Founders Hall, my freshman year. As I was walking back to my dorm after practice, I noticed there was a meeting going on in one of the lounge areas. Someone yelled at me saying I should join them and as the people pleaser I am, I could not say no. So we went over introductions as usual and then someone asked me this:

“Just to clarify, the Netherlands is in Amsterdam right?”

And when I thought things could not get any worse, this girl jumped up and got all excited because she thought the Netherlands is the place where Peter Pan lives. 

Well, that place is called NeVerland, honey. It is imaginary. That means it is fictional. Therefore, it is not real. 

I really wish I was joking, but I am not. This really happened. 

To be honest, that is when it started. I started to feel sorry for some people here. 

The lack of knowledge is not their fault. It all starts with education and interest.

I started learning English when I was ten years old; I had a global history for more than six years and learned everything starting with the cavemen; I am fluent in English and Dutch and I can understand Spanish, French, and German; I can name basically every country in the world and their capital city. 

And then there is this: the Netherlands only has 17.5 million inhabitants and is a little bigger than Maryland when you look at the size. So yes, it is small and easy to ‘forget’ about. And yet, the Netherlands was ranked fifth in the list of highest export sales in the world in 2021. China was on top, followed by the United States, Germany, and Japan. 

Just remember, the Netherlands is a little bigger than Maryland. Let that sink in. 

I believe the small size of my country is beneficial. It comes with the fact that we depend on a lot of other countries, especially bigger countries like the United States. This forces us to know what is going on in the world. We need to be aware of everything that is happening around us. Otherwise, we stand alone. 

My education focused therefore on different countries, cultures, languages, and ideologies. 

And I have been realizing that that right here in the United States is not always the case. 

I feel sorry for them.