Texel, The Netherlands. February 2020.
My experience living in The Netherlands for 6 months was by and large a negative one. This was predominantly because of my pernicious, profiteering employer who made my life hell. It was (is) easy to equate The Netherlands and the Dutch themselves with this singular experience, as if the people are as much culpable as the college I worked for. I find myself questioning their attitude to foreigners and using phrases like, ‘The Dutch are….’, ‘The Netherlands is…’. A nation tied and tarred by my own anger which should be directed solely at my ex-bosses. This is, I guess, how xenophobia develops.
When I was a schoolboy, the teachers would consistently remind us that when we left the school premises we were “ambassadors” for our school. On the rare school trips abroad, we were told we were not just ambassadors for the school, but our country too. This is a tremendous expectation to place on over-sugared, 14-year-old boys, more interested in losing their virginity than the battlefields of Dieppe, but I see now how it holds true. A single negative experience of a people—particularly if it’s your first one—can colour your perception beyond the reach of re-education. Yet can we expect citizens, at all times, everywhere, to always be hospitable ambassadors?