I was born in The Netherlands, but does that make me Dutch?

Having a Dutch passport technically makes you a citizen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

I was however raised in France, attended an English speaking international school, was employed in the US, Belgium and twice in France. For over 33 years I travelled the globe to develop new business of which I spent 10 years navigating the German Autobahns. Perhaps they should issue new passports for expatriates having somewhat lost their native country’s identity along the way; Global Citizen; this passport is valid for all countries and please help this lost soul re-discover his roots.

Traveling to Holland Michigan on the verge of the last century change (I am not that old), I bought an imitation Delftware (Delft Blue) wall tile with the following encryption:

It’s tough being Dutch but somebody ‘s gotta do it!

At $ 3,95 this would make people laugh and I wondered what the Dutch Calvinists separatist would have thought about it back in 1847 when they were compelled to emigrate due to unfriendly economic conditions in the Netherlands.

Is it tough because the country is for 1/3 under sea level and the population density exceeds 510 inhabitants per sqkm (water excluded)? Or did the Dutch have to bear the burden of the reputation they gathered in the Golden-Age being the (according to many economic historians) first thoroughly capitalist country in the world?

Or is it their directness, as Ambassadors to the Netherlands would sometimes qualify as “blunt”? Although all have come to appreciate this unique character trait of being a little too straightforward as one needn’t much words nor time to understand what your Dutch counterpart felt or thought (Diplomat Magazine 2013).

Or was it the need for many Dutch people traveling the globe since 1609 (when the Dutch VOC (Dutch East India Company set foot in Japan), as a small country, to listen, adapt to thrive?

Not many years ago our newly wed Queen Maxima made a controversial speech in which she stated that, according to her, there is not such a thing as The Dutch Identity. “The Netherlands are to multifaceted to be summarized in one cliché”. It is my belief that she nailed it on the head. The fact that she is Argentinian by birth, highly educated and having spent the time to analyse the Dutch culture, was not at the time fully understood however. Coming back to my search for identity, I am apparently not an exception and many Dutch people have this second nature for traveling and understanding the necessity to respect and listen to other cultures, look for common grounds and not highlight the things that differentiate parties. This character trait has helped the Dutch economically conquer the world, silently (despite the directness) as you do not always know we are there.

So here you have it; Personal and business success is not tributary to where you come from nor what cultural stigma you carry but heavily rests on the aptitude of listening and willingness, even curiosity, to understand others. Perhaps one needs to be a bit displaced to understand the fundamentals of what a real global society entails.

Written by our guest blogger Raymond Courbois

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