26 February 2009

Expat And Anthropologist

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of expatriate is: to leave one's native country to live elsewhere. That's me. I have left my native Netherlands to live in the United States of America. I am, technically, an expat.

For me however, the word is synonymous with the superficial, arrogant, British banker or stock broker in South East Asia I once saw in a documentary on expats. He lived like a pig. He asked his maid to iron his clothes naked because "that's how she likes it." She didn't look like she liked it. This inhuman being made my skin crawl. And whenever I hear the word expat, he pops into my head. I therefore always refer to myself as The Dutch Girl, never as an expat.

Besides my negative connotation with the word, I don't feel like an expat either. Most likely because I lived in the United States as a child. I went to an American elementary school, an American junior high school, and for a whole year, I was part of an American family. It may not be in my genes, but there is definitely a little bit of American blood flowing through my veins. And when Ryan and I go shopping together, HE is asked the question: "Where are you from?", not me. Okay, that happened ONCE. But it happened, much to his dismay.

Nonetheless, it's time I face the facts. I look at my surroundings through Dutch glasses. (Proving it immediately, I realized upon rereading this post. The correct English expression is through Dutch eyes. The Dutch use the term glasses.) I compare my new country with my old country all the time. Classic expat behavior. Or is it? I am, after all, an anthropologist too, albeit without degree. I guess I am both. When it directly concerns me, my expat-side surfaces. When it's an observation on American culture, the anthropologist in me sets the tone.

For a while now, I have been thinking about the direction in which to take this blog. It is, first and foremost, a way to bring my daily life back to the people that were a direct part of it, not too long ago. And to include my (new) friends and family that live in different time zones. I do not want to change that. But I do not want to turn it into Lola's blog, either. While she is an adventure of olympic proportions, that is not what I meant when I titled my web log. (It is tempting, though. She is such a funny little person at the moment. Very helpful and loving, yet independent and exploring. Learning new words everyday. "Hoppetee" is the word for today. She loves it, repeats it over and over. But I digress. Focus, Hannes!)

Yesterday, I looked into spreading the word about my blog. I submitted it to a few websites for approval. I was asked under which header to file it. So far I have filed it under Family or Life. But online magazine rack Alltop provided the category Expats (where you can now find me). That got me thinking. I have a little extra to bring to the table here and I should make use of it. And since I did not finish my anthropology thesis, Expats it is!

Hanneke N. - Expat and Anthropologist. Cool business card. It really is a shame about that thesis.

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