First off, let me just start by saying that Holland is a beautiful country. The Dutch are an extremely hospitable and polite nationality of people, if they like you. I highly recommend that fellow travelers take time to tour this great country.The Netherlands is a great place for Americans who would like to have an experience that is completely unlike any other. I mean, they eat fish for breakfast for crying out loud! They walk the streets legally toking reefer, and use windows as places to showcase ‘risque’ business opportunities. I used the trip to observe their culture from afar, instead of participating in it. I did get one opportunity to engage in an eye opening conversation with my husband’s friend that he met during the war in Afghanistan.
Before entering Holland,we stopped near the border of Belgium and Holland at the metropolitan area of Ghent to meet this friend and his family. The family traveled from Terneuzen, a suburban city in south-western Holland to meet us. After engaging in friendly greeting exchanges we walked around the cobble stone streets of Ghent following and chatting with this typical little Dutch family of three. Our friend said to us “I can’t understand why Americans who have this big, nice, country want to come here and visit”. He emphasized the word “HERE” like his home in Europe was some sort of unpleasant place. This statement surprised us a bit, Andrew and I raised our eyebrows and sort-of stopped in our tracks to glance at each other because we had been having a fantastic time on the trip. Andrew replied “well you have history here”, he pointed over to a cathedral a few blocks away and said, “that church right there is older than our country is”. And he’s right, I think this conversation about sums up American’s infatuation with Europe in general. This was merely the beginning of what I actually got out of the evening. Meeting this couple and their little baby girl really got me thinking.
At home, I often find myself upset, pissed off, and thinking about problems we have in our country. Somewhere inside of me, there is an idealistic, unrealistic, and childish part of my mind that often resorts to wondering if I could run away from these problems and move my family to another place in the world, a fictional place that has no problems, a fictional place that does not exist. I aim to simply state the facts here: The U.S. is $17+ trillion dollars in debt. Americans discuss issues about the immigration of Mexican-American/Mexican people moving to the U.S.Some people are upset about the rising number of Muslims in the U.S. Politicians argue about who to tax, and how much to tax them. There is a rising cost in healthcare and changing policies to be instated this year, similar to some of the policies that they have in Europe. These are just among some of the hot-button issues that are going on at home. Almost a world away, the Dutch also have big problems. They are also in debt. They have the same issues regarding immigration with peoples like the Polish and Muslims. They are taxed based on their income at 45%, plus a 21% sales tax on everything that they buy. They have socialized, expensive healthcare & unemployment is high among young people . . . I could go on, but do you see the similarities here?
I urge you to think about the connections that I have made here over an extended amount of time to draw your own conclusions. Over the past few days, I’ve continuously tried to analyze, process, and refine this information in my own mind. What does this mean for the United States and countries all over the world? I think that it means that our problems are not that unique, and that we have more in common that we would like to think. Our problems at home are not too big too tactfully tackle, with time, in a unified manner.
Now, on to celebrate the new year in Cologne, with fireworks over the Rhine!