Recently, a good friend provoked me to offer her some examples of the cultural differences that I am experiencing since I set my foot on Dutch land. So, here I am trying to put them together. I notice that these differences do not irritate or make me sad anymore, on the contrary they start to amuse me and to enrich me. It might be a sign of integration, who knows!
The other day, I started to analyze the first report my daughter got from school. It’s a well done paper that describes my little one very well using ratings and comments. On one specific comment I would like to perform a text analysis. My daughter’s teacher says: „From time to time, Anna literally likes to hang on to me.” For a better understanding, I mention that we are talking about a four and a half years old child. Who according to me, naturally, needs from time to time to be hold by the teacher. But according to the teacher, my daughter is like a monkey who uses her as a tree because isn’t it that the monkeys like to hang from a tree while they meditate on Darwin’s theory of evolution. I see it as a desire for love and security, she sees it as a lack of independency.
Staying on the same page, I remember an event from her swimming lesson. It’s nothing special that my daughter is already trying to deal with swimming, here is well accustomed and almost mandatory to learn swimming from an early age. If life throws you in a canal, you should be able to survive all by yourself, not to go down like a rock. At a certain moment, out of the blue, she hangs on to the teacher’s neck and, with the Romanian passion that I blessed her blood, she gives a very sweet kiss. Proud of her little gesture, I smile to the teacher who almost drawn herself out of shame and panic. To defend the teacher, I need to mention that a couple of years ago Netherland was shaken by a pedophile case of a day care worker, Roberts Mikelsons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam_sex_crimes_case). Since then, kindergarten’s male workers have dramatically changed their career, becoming painters, plumbers or business men, according to their possibilities. If a mother sees any part of a man around nursery schools, she grabs her child and runs away quickly. Now, the swimming teacher is a woman, but maybe in her mind my daughter was a proud member of the LGBT community and, instead of an innocent kiss, a sexual harassment accusation would have been run. Meanwhile, praise the teacher for this, she has overcome her fears and got used to the love gestures of my little monkey.
Changing the direction, I was also in the position of a cultural shock, some months ago when the school began. In the Dutch school community the play dates are a common practice. We also have this in Romania, but at this age, 4-5 years old, it is natural that the parents participate in the play date by drinking coffees and gossiping while their children are playing around. It was on a Friday, my daughter comes out of the school and she is officially invited to play with a colleague. I think I have seen the girl’s mother two times before, we were barely saying hello to each other. In 2 minutes, my daughter was sitting on that mother’s bike, waving me good bye. On my face, a big stupid smile appeared. The mother noticed my hesitation and asked me if I am ok. I blushed, I stuttered, then quickly redid my neural connections, so I succeeded to exchange telephone numbers and addresses. And my daughter was gone while I stood there, with my feet stuck in the concrete, looking how my little one is disappearing from my sight.
Our daughters continued to play together, either in their house or in our house. The parents seemed nice, so naturally, from my heart, as Romanians are saying, I tried to befriend with them. I invited them for a coffee, I told them a bit about my country and my life, but every time, smiling politely, saying that they are busy, they declined. I understood in the end that our daughters playing together does not mean automatically that we are going also to have a relationship.
A positive difference for me is the way in which parents and the system react when a child is sick. In Romania, most of the time, a flu is solved in the hospital’s emergency room with parents going home with a long list of drugs to be taken. And the child is kept at home, otherwise the parents will be blamed by society. In Netherland, things happen differently. You go rarely to the emergency room, especially if we talk about little babies. To the GP you go if the sickness lasts too long or if it seems that complications appear. If the GP does not notice something abnormal for a child with flu, then you are sent home with the famous Paracetamol and the recommendation for the child to drink and rest properly. Personally, I came home from the GP with a prescription only one time. If the children don’t have high fever, they are sent to the kindergartens and schools, by thinking „the strongest one will survive and if not he will become stronger.”
Something that I like a lot is lack of fights in public. Especially the ones between lovers that most probably happen inside the house and also there with a low voice. In 4 years of living here, I witnessed two romantic fights, in fact more of a hysterical women shouting, the masculine side was replying politely without showing their muscles. Talking about public space, I wouldn’t thought I will miss the whistles that you can get easily in my country when walking in the street. It’s not clear for me how do you approach a woman here, but I swear that nobody ever looked at me in that typical way. I guess I am not the ugliest woman, also I do not posses very long legs, but still nobody looks at nobody? Honestly, I do miss some sexual comments, you know, a confirmation that the woman inside me still exists.
Until the next episode, I live with the conviction that if you did not die after you first months in a new country, you can enrich yourself, at least getting rid of some unhealthy habits that you inherited from your native land. The ones that you choose to proudly preserve and give forward, make you more aware of who you are, where are you coming from and how beautiful is in fact the world in which you were born.