I am from nowhere. Not be confused with I am nowhere. Because, of course, I am somewhere. Currently, I am in England. But I am not from England. (Well, not really.) In the past, I was in The Netherlands. And I was from The Netherlands. (Well, not really.) You see, that ‘where from’ wasn’t really true. Saying I was from The Netherlands was an easy way out of a question that was never easy to begin with. I am a third culture kid. And ever since I left my adoptive country about five years ago, I have been spending way to much time asking myself where I am from.
The Netherlands used to seem like an appropriate answer. Even though my passport(s) would suggest otherwise, I have spent the majority of my life in that little country at the edge of Western Europe. It is where I was bred, after being born in a neighbouring country. And it often almost felt like home. Sure, I never understood why Dutch people love celebrating Sinterklaas so much. (For the non-Dutch people reading this, it is a version of Christmas that finds some perverted pleasure in scaring little children. For the Dutch people, please ignore my highly inaccurate depiction of Sinterklaas. It is just really not my cup of tea.) I also didn’t get many of the references
There were many ways in which I wasn’t a real Dutch person and many of my Dutch friends were quick to point out my lack of Dutchness. But as long as I lived there, I felt Dutch enough to use it as my ‘where from’. Those down-to-earth people with their wicked sense of humour were my people. And even when my people would make fun of my otherness, there was still a comradery about all the ways we shared a sameness.
However, this upcoming summer will mark my five-year ‘anniversary’ of leaving The Netherlands. And both my parents have since left The Netherlands, both living in countries other than their ‘where from’ country. As a result, I have visited The Netherlands only a handful of times in the last few years. Each time the visits feel more like a holiday. And I feel more like a visitor. A foreigner. A stranger in my former home. It makes me wonder. Was The Netherlands ever really my ‘where from’ country?
After roaming around for a couple of years, I have now settled in England. It would be easy to call myself English, particularly because I have a British passport thanks to my father’s original ‘where from’. But unlike my mother’s original ‘where from’, Germany, I never visited England much as a child. (I can only recall two times.) English culture feels as alien to me as French or Italian culture would. I refuse to put milk in my tea, I don’t ever watch the rugby and I am surprised every time I stand in a perfect queue without anyone trying to skip it. (Good surprised, but still surprised.) I am definitely an outsider here.
Even though I am not stateless or houseless or family-less, I often feel
Of course, it isn’t all bad. I am very lucky that both my parents are alive and in my life. Even though their locations don’t make me belong, they as people do. ‘Home is where the heart is’, goes the cliché. (I guess my hearts just keep moving around.) And let’s not forget about all the benefits of being a third culture child. Due to my slightly unconventional upbringing, I am good at blending in, starting over and understanding other people’s point of view. I have been exposed to three different ways of celebrating Christmas and effortlessly speak three languages fluently. Being a third culture child has it’s perks. There is no doubt about it.
And that is where I want to leave this post. On a positive note. Because I originally set out to write about my upbringing simply to explain all the Dutch comments on my blog. Now you know. Where I am (not) from.
I will end by sharing my favourite song on this topic. And by explaining that the picture above is from the bathroom of one of my old student homes. It was the only picture I had from a former home…
“It ain’t the bricks that call us home.”