It’s tough sometimes when most of my conversations with non-Dutch people about the Netherlands revolve around stereotypes: “Oh you grew up there? So you must have been a huge pothead like from the womb, huh?”
“Wow, so was it hard to bike when you had to wear those shoes?”
“What’s the deal with the tulips? Do you, like, eat them?” In this case it’s endearing and funny, especially since it is always phrased as a question. We can laugh about stereotypes comparatively and enjoy a discussion perhaps. Even if all you know how to say in Dutch is “Neuken in de keuken” or if you have even a slight affinity for Stroopwafels, you’re alright in my book if the curiosity is there.
But when foreigners pish-posh the Netherlands (or anything, really) outright, saying there isn’t much to see or accepting the gimmicks as the only evidence of Dutch culture, I can’t help but feel pangs of loyalty to a country that was, and still is in many ways, my own. I feel sorry for those that see travel, or life, as a checklist: running from St. Peter’s basilica, to the Grand Canyon, to the Forbidden City, to who knows where just to take a group picture and then hurry off to the next place. If you can’t be open to something you hadn’t predicted, you might as well stay home, zap a bag of popcorn, and watch Travel Channel reruns all day.
Instead, why not just grab a sandwich (or a Patatje Joppie) and savor the eavesdropping kaleidoscope a midday snackbar offers?
Stroll a street off on the main track.
Stick around for a little longer and take it all in.
Apply this anywhere–your daily routines, a city you frequent, anywhere or anything new. It’s the easiest way to cut the touristy veneer and deepen the traveling experience. And for my sake, that’ll be one more person with whom I’ll happily split my Kibbeling.