Today, Lieke from My Media Basement is sharing her bookish corner. You can too- just sign-up here. I would love to have you on the blog!
The second I mention my name, people will already know I’m from ‘elsewhere’. Although my English is pretty good (I believe so at least), I’ll never fully be able to pretend to be an US citizen. As a child, this thought made me sad. I dreamed of having been born in the United States. I always wanted to be in the centre of the media industry, as I believed that to be the centre of the universe. Now, I am content where I am. I love my country. So here it is: my name is Lieke and I am from the Netherlands. It’s a country that is most commonly known for the main city: Amsterdam. That is where I’ve been living for the past two years, as I go to university there. But I’m also quite often at my parents’ house. They live in a much smaller town close to the German border (so close that you can be in Germany within five minutes).
When you say you’re from Amsterdam to a foreigner, especially when you say it to an American, they’ll always mention either the red light district or drugs, or both. Mostly both. For me, that’s not what the city is about. Sure, those things are there, but the people you see walking stoned on the streets are tourists most of the time.
The Netherlands is about much more. It’s about freedom, I think. To be who you want to be. I believe it to be a tolerant country. John Green said it very wisely in The Fault In Our Stars: “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”
What I like most about the Netherlands, is the education we receive. I was lucky enough to be able to learn four different languages in high school: Dutch (my mother tongue), English, German and French. I think languages are one of the most important things in this world, for they connect all sorts of people from all over the world together. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you this if it weren’t for language. When I was a kid, I used to wonder how it worked when you moved to a different country. My younger sister had a friend in school who was a refugee from Afghanistan. She learned to speak Dutch within months and that has always fascinated me. I wondered in what language her thoughts were, or her dreams. Did she think in Dutch now that she lived in the Netherlands? Or did she carefully translate every word in her mind before speaking? Growing up, I learned that our brain is able to think in multiple languages. I didn’t know that when I was younger. Right now, as I’m typing this, I’m thinking in English. Wonderful, isn’t it, how our minds are able to switch languages? My vocabulary in English is much smaller than my Dutch vocabulary, yet when thinking in English I never have to search for words. Thinking in a different language has become an automatic process. Part of what has helped me to be able to think and speak in English, is reading. Books open up a whole new world of possibilities. They’ve taught me about languages, but also about cultures and different kinds of people. Finally, and most importantly, they’ve taught me a great deal about myself. Languages have become part of who I am. English has become a part of my identity. Sometimes, when I can’t express myself in Dutch, I find my freedom in English. When I want to express strong emotions, I find my safe place in French. When I want to feel confident, I obtain German and speak as fast as I can in that language. I know people that are better at languages than I am, and I know people that are worse, but in the end, that doesn’t really matter. That is not what is important. What is important is that we try. We must always reach out to the world around us, in however way we can. The country we live and/or are born in is important, but the world is so much bigger.
Images from Wikipedia.
I absolutely adore this post, Lieke! It's a beautiful description of how amazing languages really are, and I love how you talk about Amsterdam- it's a city I would really love to visit!