Kookboekpraatjes vullen gaatjes!

If today is Tuesday, this must be Belgium

(Licht bijgewerkt artikel dat ik recentelijk in opdracht schreef voor een webmagazine van een Amerikaans relocatie adviesbureau. Ik probeer hierin globaal de verschillen weer te geven tussen uitgezonden worden vóór en na 2000. Verder heeft mijn echtgenote 12 jaar voor een lokaal relocatiebureautje gewerkt, met alle ervaring van dien).

To a European child of the early ‘60s the sight was not unusual at all. In fact, to my generation this phenomena provoked a sense of envy, a sense of “wish I had the means to emulate their freedom". I am thinking of course of the flocks of American kids who, after college or high school and before university decided to “do” Europe. Funded by smashed piggy banks, held up grandparents, and blackmailed parents, supported by mostly illegal jobs “en voyage”, like picking grapes, busking, producing chalky sidewalk art, selling the Herald Tribune or generally using their wits to make any sort of buck, at which they seemed to be so much better than us. These were the scruffy kids camping at “Arrivals” in tired 150.000 km Volkswagen campers at Schiphol, Amsterdam or Heathrow, London, waiting for the washed relay coming off the planes, hopefully buying their steeds. The deal was usually made on the spot, for enough cash to buy a one-way ticket back to New York, Atlanta, Boulder or L.A. This migration, soon copied by Australians, later supplemented by Hippy travelers in all directions, could have been deemed the greatest move of people after Attila the Hun, had it not been that most returned to their point of departure and moulded themselves into the solid, responsible and respectable citizens of today, now surely greying heavily around sideburns and nostrils. It was only after my own sojourns in the States in the sixties and nineties, analyzing my own motives for living abroad as an expatriate for over 35 years, that I realized what really drove those youngsters. Indeed, like in the days of the Grand Tour of the Victorians, it was adventure, to see something different, to satisfy an interest in great art and culture, a yearning for the unseen. But, unlike the Victorians who had a great sense of who they were, it was also often inspired by a search for roots and self-confirmation. The self-proclaimed Italian-Americans, Italian parentage often lost in the mist of time except for a surname and a vague name of a village, were also trying to establish who they were. Like the Swedish- or Norwegian-Americans, (language descriptions, today long died out) who tried without fail to prove to themselves that the Pacific North West was indeed alike to Central Sweden or the Norwegian Coast where grandparents or great-grandparents started their journey, but so much better to live. Like young Irish-Americans, dreaming to experience the genuine Irish bar their grandparents mythicized about. Doesn't almost any American president seem to claim Irish decent to before the potato famine and must officially visit the croft or hovel their ancestors used to occupy? The adventurous reason for “doing” Europe in those days was also to experience the excitement of how it was to travel, crossing international borders several times a day on a single itinerary if one so wished. It was the thrill (and frustration) of having to cope with yet another currency. (Often referred to as Monopoly money.) It was to experience great changes in culture, for better or for worse, sometimes within just a few miles. With added suspense if the Iron Curtain was to be crossed. If nothing else, it confirmed that being able to travel unimpeded for thousands of miles in the U.S.A, backed up by one language, one culture, one currency and one McDonald’s is not so bad after all. Mind you, I am not suggesting that there is anything objectionable in this conclusion: who has never had the feeling of relieved joy, coming home even after the most wonderful time of travel? But the unquestioned trust in the sole good of one’s own culture, if not put into context by experience of travel and the willingness to accept differing attitudes and cultures, remains the greatest barrier to the real enjoyment of actually living and working abroad. To people of any nationality, but to Americans in particular.

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Aad Zaaier 13-06-2011 19:55
Herkenbaar uit mijn jonge jaren. Ik kwam nooit verder als druiven plukken in zuidwest Frankrijk. Wel met de 2cheveaux. Daar was ook veel van die Amerikaanse jeugd. Leuke tijden, dat wel, maar daarna bij de PTT op kantoor in Den Haag en nooit meer verder gekomen dan Berlijn en de Costa's, tot ik ver in de 30 was. Ik geniet van Uw stukjes meneer Darius. Blijf schrijven. Groeten van Aad en Rie.
Leuke reactie Aad. Hoop dat jullie intussen in goede gezondheid wat meer van de wereld hebben kunnen zien. Voor expat moet je wel in de wieg gelegd zijn, want niet altijd even leuk of gemakkelijk! D.
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