My Dutch friend is coming to visit and I am so very excited.  We haven’t seen each other in many years–we went to high school together.  I suppose we will now see just how much of an obnoxious American I’ve turned into, in spite of my blog name.  We have had a few long conversations on the phone, and there were some predictable cultural differences which popped up, but also some things which surprised me…

That my friend is a big environmentalist *didn’t* surprise me, as this is pretty standard in Europe.  In fact, her work in Holland is as a sort of environmental/sustainability coach.  When her family and she visit the States, they almost always use Amtrak and they bicycled around New York City.  Have I mentioned that they visit the States a lot?  Yep, the Dutch get a lot more vacation time…grrrr.  My friend has seen a lot more of America than I have.  I have warned her ahead of time that we are living the typical suburban American lifestyle, with a giant carbon footprint.  She confided in me that she secretly loves cars.

Like most Europeans, my friend is weirded out by how many guns there are in this country.  However, we also discussed the other extreme.  Not only is it illegal in Holland to carry a gun or a knife with you for self-defense, there is apparently a law there which makes it illegal to help defend anyone who is being attacked, even if it’s only with your fists.  As a bystander, you are only allowed to call the emergency number–their equivalent of 911–and watch.  Anything beyond that makes you legally responsible for what is considered another assault!  My friend and I agreed that this was ridiculous, and that by the time the police get there, the victim will likely be dead.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear that my friend and her husband sometimes think that the Dutch should be more like Americans.  They like how practical and realistic Americans are, and how hard they work.  So America is still loved and respected by at least some people in the world.  This gave me pause, and reminded me that it’s all too easy to bitch about the place where you live.  Although my friend did mention that as far as income inequity, she wishes things would be “more equal” here.

Well, she arrives tonight, so there is plenty to be done.  I don’t know how much time I will have to blog over the next week–I only have a short week to show off all of the fabulous Portland area to her!  But if there are anymore interesting political and social observations I get out of this culture clash, I will be sure to post them here.

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