By TIFFANY JANSEN
Never mind assimilation. When I moved to the Netherlands, I was all about chameleon-ism. I couldn’t look or act or sound American, or lead anyone to believe that I might be the slightest bit American.
I figured I’d have to blend in to be happy for what might turn out to be the long haul.
For two years I rode my bike loaded down with things that one would never think to transport by bike (unless they’re Dutch), weaving in and out of traffic. I spoke Dutch with a pretty convincing accent. My garb became the local combination of boots, skirts with leggings, numerous layered tops, and a scarf.
I was so busy trying to disappear into the background that I forgot where I came from. I stopped following the news in the US, lost touch with friends and family, buried my American pastimes and hobbies. Eventually, I started to lose and miss the person I had been for more than 25 years.
Time to merge the new and the old me. I’m trying to work out what I want to keep or leave behind, and what I need to see in a different light or do in a new way. But I’m starting to feel more like me than I ever have before.
I still argue it’s best to assimilate, though realize how important it is to hold onto who you were. Now I’m the exotic foreigner who embraces Sinterklaas and Sint Maarten but also celebrates Halloween and Thanksgiving loudly and proudly. Who can mingle with local and expat communities. Who’s happy with who she is no matter where she is.
How have you reconciled the different yous?
Tiffany Jansen lives in Utrecht with her husband and their dog. She chronicles adventures on her blog Clogs and Tulips: An American in Holland, is a freelance writer and runs her own company, Little Broadway.