I’ve been away from Holland for a while, but I haven’t been away from Dutch people.
Unintentionally and repeatedly, I kept meeting Dutch people while travelling, sometimes in the most unlikely of places. So I knew that one of the first things I had to blog about when I got back to the low country was the incredible number of Dutch people abroad.
It was a fact I was completely unaware of before, but I can now say with certainty… Dutch people sure do get out and about! For a country of less than 17 million people, a statistically insignificant population, it was absolutely incredible to me the number of Dutch people I met in my travels half way across the world. In literally every country I went to – Somaliland, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi – I met at least one Dutch person (and saw and heard others… I’m getting quite good at spotting them).
It happened so frequently that it started to become comical… I’d lie down on a deserted beach in Zanzibar, and the one other couple there would be Dutch; I’d check into a empty dorm room in a hostel on Lake Malawi, and then a lone Dutch backpacker would appear to share the room; I’d sit down at a local restaurant in Lamu island, off the coast of Kenya, and I’d hear someone speaking English with a Dutch accent at the next table. Recounting these frequent Dutch encounters to my boyfriend back home, he started to tease me that I must have some sort of Dutch magnet.
Not only did I meet an improbable number of Dutch people, but I also encountered various Dutch hybrids. On my last day in Dar Es Salaam, I met an American guy named Wouter, whose name instantly revealed his dual Dutch-American nationality (I’ve never met a Dutch-American before, in either the US or Holland… apparently they are all travelling in Africa). In Malawi, I met a nice Israeli guy who happened to have a Dutch mother (I didn’t even know that Dutch-Israeli people existed, let alone met one). He was planning, at the end of his African travels, to get in touch with his Dutch roots by going to live in… Utrecht. I’m not making this up, I swear.
I also stayed in a beautiful mountain camp owned and managed by a Flemish-speaking Belgian man, and jokingly reported to him all the Dutch encounters I’d had a long my journey. He told me that one time he had 22 people staying in his camp, full to capacity, and 21 one of them were Dutch. I immediately asked, “They came together as one large group, right?” He said no, they came in separate groups, and it was coincidental that they were all Dutch. Yes, you read that correctly – there just happened to simultaneously be 21 Dutch backpackers in a remote Malawian mountain village.
What impressed me is that I met more Dutch people than I did Americans, Canadians, British, or Germans – all much more populous countries. The Dutch even seemed to outnumber the Australians, an almost equally small country (23 million people), but with a much bigger reputation for sending backpackers all over the world, doing their “overseas experience.” Instead of saying “The Aussies are everywhere,” maybe it’s time we start saying, “The Cloggies are everywhere!”