Standing Out From the Dutch Crowd, British Style
Guest post by Amanda van Mulligen October 2012
I have three little boys who have both Dutch and British nationality. We live in the Netherlands, the birth country of my husband and our children but not mine. Up until the year 2000 England was my home. Up until that time I could not have imagined I would swap my British life for a Dutch one. I never dreamed I would marry a Dutchman and have three little boys. Three little Dutch boys if we’re going to be totally honest.
Although they share my nationality on paper, the reality is that they are far more Dutch than British. However, as Dutch boys they stand out from the crowd. They are differentiated from other little Dutch boys by virtue of their English mother.
At age five my eldest son speaks good enough English to communicate with my family. My two-year-old mixes his sentences using both Dutch and English, just like his elder brother did and my one year old will. In the case of my eldest, his English is tinged with a Dutch accent, but nevertheless he speaks two languages, which is a notable achievement within his peer group.
My sons’ bookshelves are lined with English books that translate “Nijntje” to “Miffy” and which teach them English nursery rhymes that other two-year-old Dutch boys don’t yet know. The English books sit proudly intermingled with the Dutch version of The Gruffalo and Elmer the Elephant. It’s the norm in our house, but not in many other regular Dutch households.
My boys eat HP Brown Sauce with their dinner, and don’t flinch when I add Heinz Baked Beans to their plate. They eat Weetabix and Shredded Wheat for breakfast whilst other Dutch boys their age kick the day off with bread and sprinkles.
They happily watch In The Night Garden and Waybuloo in the original language, and knew about these BBC kid’s programs long before Makka Pakka got his big break into Dutch television. CBeeBies is a fact of life in our dual language household but most other Dutch children have never heard of CBeeBies.
Every other week in school, my son’s class has a walk-in games morning. It means parents stay behind at drop off time and play board games with the kids for half an hour. The children can take in any games they like from home. One week my son chose Snakes and Ladders. Unheard of in the Netherlands, yet one of the most common and standard children’s board games in Britain. His teacher was fascinated by this little input of British culture into her Dutch classroom.
For my three little Dutch boys English books, English language TV, British board games and British food are a part of their normal life. They don’t blink an eye at these items in their home. For their friends they are novelties, unknown and incomprehensible. My three little boys may well be more Dutch than British, but they certainly stand out in a Dutch crowd.