On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.


My Old American Life

First, my apologies to the handful of people that regularly read my missives. As you may have forgotten, I was back across the blue, blue ocean enjoying a taste of my old American life. I was treated to unseasonably warm weather, which did wonders for my Dutch malaise. I'm happy to report that so far I have not relapsed.

It's been a slow week for culture shock. Dutch class was lekker makelijk (nice and easy), as the Dutch say. We ticked off the past tense of verbs, and thankfully zijn (to be) is the same as English - mostly anyway.

Catching back up to last week, I'll quickly comment on the Muhammad cartoon fiasco. I have no clue if Dutch press published the cartoon, but one feisty member of parliament posted it on his web site, ostensibly championing freedom of speech. Back home where we love "to run at the mouth" as my dad would say, taste won over proving that just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should.

In the battle of personal freedoms, while I cherish the right to speak my mind, I think I value civil liberties much more - something that Europeans seem to give up readily. Take, for instance, yesterday's trip to the postkantoor where I was to pick up a package for B-. They denied my request b/c I failed to present my passport as ID. My Virginia driver's license wasn't enough - not because they thought it was fake, mind you. They wouldn't accept my license b/c they would be unable to enter it into their computer. The guy told me that the computer would contact the US embassy to verify my passport. I had to choke back a laugh at the prospect of the US Department of State being that organized.

This morning, I was successful, though a bit unnerved as I watched the clerk type my passport number into his computer. I wonder what the Dutch phrase is for "big brother." The irony is that B- signed the back of the post slip, authorizing me to pick up the package for him. No ID verification for that.

The moral of the story is that while Europeans sure like to mouth off, they apparently don't care if very mundane aspects of their lives are warehoused in data stores, accessed by God knows what disgruntled, low-level bureaucrats.



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