Though I loved my years in the Netherlands, I never much liked being called an expatriate. Tax benefits aside, for me the word always carried a negative connotation, one of exiled, expelled patriots, as if by picking up and moving to another country, I was somehow less of an American.
If anything, the opposite was true. Most expats will tell you an experience abroad only heightens their feelings of nationalism. There’s nothing like being a stranger in a strange land to make you feel connected to the place you left behind.
My first few months in the Netherlands were confusing and intimidating and exhausting. The loneliness was brutal, the pangs of homesickness even worse. I missed my family and my friends and my comfortable, air-conditioned existence. I missed my car and big gulps and skyscrapers and walk-ins welcome. I didn’t just feel American, I felt uber-American, and very out of place in Holland.
But as the months turned into years and the years into a decade and more, I also became part Dutch, leaning to love the language, the culture, the people. Some of my favorite memories happened there. Some of my favorite people still live there. It took a long time and an enormous effort to put down roots in Dutch soil, but then suddenly, without my even noticing, they took hold and became firmly entrenched. There to stay, even if I’m not.
So what does that make me now? A Dutch expat? Maybe. Because when I heard the news that on April 30th Queen Beatrix will be passing the crown down to her son Willem Alexander, my reaction was to check ticket prices. The Netherlands hasn’t crowned a king in over a century, and the Dutch are already getting excited for this one. Especially considering this beer-loving future king earned the nickname “Prince Pils” in college. What a party his coronation will be!
And like any good Dutch expat, I won’t want to miss it.