Cultural Heritage & Being Dutch

In honor of The Netherlands still being in the World Cup, my family and I are celebrating our Dutch-ness. It is a pretty cute story. Both of my grandparents grew up in World War II Holland. My Opa was given an opportunity to take a job at the U.S. Embassy, packed up, left his life and moved himself to Washington D.C. He met my Oma in an elevator, and since they were probably the only Dutch-speaking people around, fell in love, got married, moved to Colorado, and passed on their Dutch-ness to us. Here are some things we do that are very Dutch:

-When the cell phone charger goes out, we are too cheap to spend the $15 to buy a new one. The better solution? Spend ten minutes every night, building a bridge underneath the cord to position is just right to charge. And then stop, don’t touch it again until morning.

-My dad, a very successful land surveyor, is very proud of the fact that he furnished his house from Craig’slist ads.

-My Opa claims he must drink three glasses of vine before bed and must get up in the middle of the night to drink another glass of vine in order to sleep through the night.

-We sleep in shorts and never, ever buy pajama ‘pants’, which always turn out to be more like pajama capris.

-My dad loves shopping the ads and spending all Sunday morning, clipping coupons. He will shop at King Soopers and drive ten minutes to Safeway because Safeway has milk for 50 cents cheaper.

-If we could get any kind of beauty treatment/plastic surgery, it would definitely be hair plugs.

-Everyone has knee problems. I am pretty sure half of us had some kind of knee surgery before we turned 18. My older sister slipped on a piece of ice in college and was out for a few weeks. My dad was in a wheelchair for sometime. It’s a Dutch fate–I am saving my HSA money for my anticipated knee problems.

-We are really attracted to all things that involve model railroads, canals, old antiquey stuff, vindmills, bicycles, gouda cheese, and tulips.

-Red wine makes our cheeks very, very red.

-Pickled herring is usually the appetizer at family functions (my irrational fear of fish does not allow me to even get close to that stuff)

-And yes, we all do have a pair of hand painted vooden shoes.

Cultural identity and heritage is definitely a prominent topic, especially in education-speech. We live in a society that ‘values diversity’ and hopes that every single person can have a different idea.

If you have ever traveled outside of the United States, you probably observed what a unique culture we have. We truly are the melting pot. I remember getting off the airplane in Frankfurt, Germany, and feeling kind of weirded out that everyone looked semi-similar. Of course, everyone is unique in their own way. But, in America, we have so many different nationalities mixed together that there is no distinct American look–we have blondes, brunettes, gingers. We have tall people, short people, fat people, people with big ears, people without chin, white people, smurf people, people with lots of moles. 

I recently read two pieces that discussed this idea of cultural heritage: Richard Rodriguez’s “Hunger of Memory” and Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven, which come at America-as-a-mixing pot in two different ways. Richard Rodriguez advocates to completely strip oneself of all connections to another heritage; that speaking a second language at home, having an accent, participating in other customs will put one at a disadvantage in society and we should stick to creating a distinctly American culture. Pigs in Heaven is a story about a girl, Turtle, who, unknowingly, grows up outside of her tribe and experiences some difficulties (aka she has trouble digesting milk). Kingsolver illustrates the complexity of balancing in both an assimilated American and other-heritage culture, but that it is crucial we maintain those other-heritages so we remember where we come from. 

I personally take a lot of pride in my Dutch-ness, because there aren’t too many of us out there and I feel it is a unique heritage that I need to pass on. I love that no one knows what I mean when I say, “My Opa” (which is my grandpa). I love the fact that my family participated in World War II and probably saved a substantial amount of lives. I love that going over to my Oma and Opa’s house when I was a kid consisted of tea time, running the sleds behind the Bouvier’s, and listening to my Opa curse in a different language when we drove the tractor through the electric fence (Oops). I love that no one can ever get our last name correct (Is it Everdeen? Enderveen? Evergreen? Eindervene? Eder-whatever?).

Fun fact, our last name actually means “uncultivated swamp” and my Opa changed the pronunciation when he emigrated over to American-ize it and make it easier for hotel reservations.

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