It’s the World Cup final and I am very excited because Holland (or Netherlands as they’re now referred to in this tournament) are playing!
From my living room in London, I followed all the games and when they won from Brazil the buzz really started. I wasn’t the only one – the media, the players, the people of the Netherlands had overcome a threshold that Friday – Holland won from Brazil. The Dutch are not known for their national pride (which in fact has been mentioned as a problem for integration – why join the majority if they don’t care themselves?). Anyway, after the game, Holland suddenly felt a million miles away. Although I am usually not that bothered about being an immigrant in the UK (noticed that for the Middle Classes this is called ‘being an expat’), that evening I needed to drink a biertje and sing in my native language. So my boyfriend and I took the tube to the Dutch bar De Hems. There, very tall people clad in orange were dancing ‘De Polonaise’ and I stood on the periphery.
I am unsure why this surprised me – it is not necessary to feel of mixed identity through socialisation (as opposed to being biologically of mixed heritage). Yet, if you’d ask me on any day, I am full Dutch but integrated into English society. To the point that when I travel back to The Netherlands, I experience a little culture shock each time.I feel 60% Dutch, 40%English.
But when Holland won from Uruguay and Germany lost against Spain, I found myself trailing the internet for flights to the Netherlands. Suddenly, my identity became 100% Dutch again. I could read via the internet that the Dutch media was all about orange and the Dutch boys in South Africa and I heard from my family that the streets were being painted orange back home. Was this a once in a lifetime opportunity? Should I be standing there among1000s of fellow Dutch on a square in Amsterdam and watch the game on a big screen? I checked the usual expat sites and saw that I wasn’t alone – posts on Facebook and forums indicated that other Dutch people in the UK (with British partners) had found themselves sitting on the couch alone and wanted to know where they could watch the next game. A certain fever got hold of me. Donning an orange t-shirt I went to work and phoned my father – what’s the plan?
What I didn’t know was that my brilliant friends here in the UK had planned to come over on Sunday to watch the game with me, after my boyfriend sent them a text saying I had felt very homesick. So, from Oxford, Buckinghamshire, Slough and London they will come, including one Colombian friend, who will be supporting Spain. This morning, as I was putting up the orange garlands, I realised that I am home away from home and that I’d rather sit in my living room with 10 good friends from all over the world watching what will be a very exciting game than standing among 1000s strangers who happen to be Dutch too. Our sense of identity and belonging is a complex thing – now where’s my orange vuvuzela?