I’ve just returned to the Netherlands after living for two and a half years in Vietnam. Of course, the Netherlands is my home country, but some things I seem to see with fresh eyes. Things that we take for granted in the Netherlands. Maybe we shouldn’t.
1) There is drinking water coming out of our taps. Just like that. We wash our dishes in LaVie. We shower in Spa Blue. Whenever we go to the toilet, we pour up to nine liters of bloody Evian over our turds. It’s insane.
2) In the Netherlands, we call people who are first and second generation immigrants ‘allochtoon’, from Greek meaning roughly: from another land. This label is applied regardless of place of birth (many are born in the Netherlands) and regardless of citizenship. In fact, it is used primarily to make a distinction within Dutch citizens. If your father was born in another country but moved here when young, tough luck, you’re an ‘allochtoon’. It’s an entirely integrated and sanctioned discriminatory practice.
3) Let me drive that last point home. Within the notion of ‘allochtoon’, the Dutch government makes the distinction between Western and non-Western ‘allochtonen’. Western heritage is determined to be:
“Someone originating from a country in Europe (excl. Turkey), North America or Oceania or Indonesia or Japan. Due to their socioeconomic and cultural position people from Indonesia and Japan living in the Netherlands are seen as people with a “western” background. They are mainly people born in the former Dutch East Indies and people working for Japanese companies and their families”. (Look here for the definition of the Central Bureau for Statistics)
If you’ve missed the not-so-subtle message between the lines: they have tried to isolate “white”.
4) Where are all the old people? Vietnamese streets are filled with them. Older people are busy working, or just relaxing, doing exercises in the park at bloody six in the morning. Where are our older people? The answer is simple, they’re put away in homes. Not with family, but with professional caretakers. If you’re lucky. There was a case of an older woman found dead in her apartment after ten years. Nobody ever noticed.
5) Our sense of indignation is really skewed. A police car was recently dispatched to save somebody’s life. When the officers were done administering CPR and returned to their car, they read a note complaining about the way they parked. To be clear: unlike Vietnamese streets, Dutch streets can easily accommodate a misparked vehicle, and still leave ample room to go around it. Seriously people, be glad with what we’ve got. The police in the Netherlands are exemplary compared to counterparts in other countries. In most countries, the police are not there for your protection. You have to arrange that yourself. And if something bad happens to you anyway, well good luck. Ambulances are no better either. Shit, we’ve got it made here.