Ever since I could remember, the symbol of my mother’s Dutch heritage has been the tulip. The Netherlands are known for their extensive tulip farming practices, and the tulip paired alongside the blonde, blue-eyed woman wearing the traditional Dutch garb seems to be the overall archetype of this nation. During my sophomore year of high school, I had the opportunity to travel with some members of my family to this source of my ancestry, and experience for myself the many tastes, visuals, and feelings that truly accompany this nation. This was not the traditional family trip, since the only person from my immediate family was my younger brother Peter. However, I had to accompany me two of my cousins and my aunt, making it a very social and friendly trip. Based upon the archetype that I mentioned before, I was met with both fulfilled expectations as well as surprised enlightenment. The Netherlands was everything that I had expected; yet there was more to it. Since most of my understanding had come from my maternal extended family, which mostly held dear to the traditions associated with the past, the extent to which I could predict what would occur was limited. By going for myself, I was able to better appreciate what Dutch life really was like.
My first day was a Sunday, and my family decided to visit the local church to attend services. I have never felt more American in my life. We had misinterpreted the scheduled times for the blocks of the church, so we entered quite a bit late. We were then escorted to the front pew during the middle of the service. After the first hour of the block, I was able to attend Sunday school, which turned out to be a really enjoyable experience. This was my first chance to talk with Dutch people that were my age, and I really gained a great insight into the kind of lives that they lived in comparison to mine. They all seemed a bit jealous to find out that I had a car of my own, and was able to drive at the age of 16; in the Netherlands, it costs a great deal of money and one must be 21 years old. They also explained to me how their educational system works, in which students are placed in a specific job sector (labor, vocational, or professional) based upon a test at the age of 12. This was interesting to me, and it was intriguing how different our lifestyles were, but at the same time we could come together on the same level.
Another specifically memorable experience was a visit to the famous Keukenhoff Tulip Gardens. But we were not simple tourists; it was as if we were making a return back to our ancestry. There was this indefinable connection that I had for the people and culture at Keukenhoff, and I’ll never forget it. My mother had done work with one of the tulip farmers of the area, so we were able to receive a personalized tour of the gardens from him. Things that would have eluded us were pointed out quite poignantly, and the Garden’s beauty only increased.
There is so much that I could talk about from my trip, but the most important aspect to denote is the fact that I gained a greater understanding for the modern Netherlands. The traditional aspect was definitely present, but I could see how the stubbornness and pride of a Dutchman had exuded into every aspect of society.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.