Monday, July 6, 2009

Having an unbirthday party

Remember Alice in wonderland? She fell into the rabit-hole on her birthday, which was quite a shame because down in the rabit-hole they only celebrated unbirthdays. How inspiring that is: instead of a single day of celebration you get 364 days, sometimes even one more. I always liked that concept, except for the fatal flaw in it: why not celebrate birthdays as well?

I have a friend who's birthday is in november. In Holland this means fall weather, sometimes even snow and this all amounts to an indoor party. However, my friend enjoys the out of doors, so together we came up with a better plan. This weekend we celebrated her birthday, on the fourth of july. Having lived in America for 6 years, I particularly like that date because of Independence day, but most Dutch people aren't even aware that the 4th of July is a special day for Americans.

We had a picnic by the river, a rather historical spot where during the war the allied forces dropped in by way of parachute and unfortunately were killed in large numbers by Germans being stationed on the hills overlooking the Rhine valley. This postponed the liberation of the north of our country leading to the worst famine ever in Holland because the north held most the farms. These days however, the spot is a favorite for the beauty of the riverbend, the river locks, the great picnic area right on the waterside.

There were a lot of people there from many nationalities. In Holland we have immigrants from such places as Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Albania and other exotic places. More perhaps than the Dutch they are fond of picnic's. It was great to see how integration works on a field like that. First it's the children, they pretty much play together as soon as someone brings out a ball. They don't notice or care about differences and a headscarf is nothing to worry yourself about. (the Dutch parliament has been in a gridlock about it, should civil servants be allowed to wear one when on duty?)

Later on some Turkish (?) people taught us how to dance a traditional folkdance. Some fishermen explained to a group of children all about river-fishing and another group played snakes and ladders on the grassy lawn. There are many prejudices in Dutch society about people from other nationalities and cultures, but when you actually meet them on an outing, they are all blown out of the water.

Integration is a hot topic in Dutch politics, in fact, it seems like for most European countries it's high on the agenda. To me the solution doesn't seem to be: sending people on a mandatory three day course on how the Dutch do things (another wonderful invention from our government). I would rather see them arrange, stimulate and fund parties where people get to informally meet each other. Any excuse will do, anything that brings people together, a party can help dissolve the mistrust, the misconception and the preconceived notions about "foreignors".

No comments:

Post a Comment