I was in the elevator. A big backpack hung over my back. Inside of the bag there were t-shirts, shorts, boxers and socks. All the basic stuff to survive abroad for a short period of time. Hanging from my chest, another bag, but smaller, where I kept my video camera, e-reader and a book of poems written by Pablo Neruda. I got that book from my auntie when I was living in the United States. That was 10 years ago although I never had the chance to read it before and when I was packing everything I felt that I needed to bring it with me. I think it had nothing to do with the book itself but what it represents. Maybe I just wanted to carry a piece of my family with me.
There were another 4 people in the elevator, among them, an elder Dutch married couple. Once I entered they mumbled something in Dutch but I was wearing my earphones and I didn’t pay too much attention, after all my proficiency of the language only allowed me to say “Good morning”, “Thank you”, “One Beer, please” and just a few words more. During my 5 years in the Netherlands, I have had the chance to improve my Dutch but I never thought that I would stay there for a long time so I decided to use my time more efficiently and I studied a Bachelor Degree in English. I could only listen through one of my earphones so their mumbling came to my ears.
-I think he doesn’t speak Dutch.
I raised my head and nodded.
-Only English, I don’t speak Dutch.
-Aw!, I understand. How many days have you been in Amsterdam? –the old man asked.
-5 years –I replied-. Actually, today is my last day.
Both of them looked at me very surprised.
-You have been here for 5 years and you are not able to speak Dutch?…, this is…
They took a moment, before they continue, probably because they were looking for the right word.
-Unacceptable-. The old man concluded.
I looked at him and with a smile on my face I replied
-Well, it must be acceptable, because I’ve been here for 5 years and nobody has kicked me out yet.
The couple didn’t reply and once the elevator door was open they wished me a good day and left.
This situation could exemplify and summarize my relationship with the Dutch community during my journey in Amsterdam. If you know anyone who has lived in the Netherlands for a while you’ll be already aware of the stereotypes. Most of them will tell you that Dutchies are very straight-forward people who are not mincing their words and that they are one of the most tolerant countries. Unfortunately, in my view, there is a thin line between being too straight and being impolite or offensive. I must say that this line is being trespassed on a regular basis. Regarding the tolerance mentioned before, we must understand that the only situation where tolerance exists is a situation where inequality is present, in other words, for tolerance to exist there must be two groups, one who is tolerant and another who is tolerated, therefore we have a group which is always in a superior position. A Dutch person will, in general, count on you, he will ask you, listen to you, but when it’s time to take the final decision, he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants. Don’t get me wrong, they also have good things to offer. The Netherlands has one of the best economies in the planet, the public spaces are in an excellent condition, welfare state works in a pretty good way or at least better than in most of other countries, there are almost no crimes and you have the feeling that your taxes are going to somewhere productive.
When it comes to the people I can’t deny their pragmatism, they adapt easily to all types of situations and they are pretty coherent with what they think and do.
But enough of the Netherlands, Bangkok was waiting and as I usually do in every trip I wait until the last moment to book my accommodation. This rush made me send two different requests to two different hosts in Airbnb. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that as soon as the host accept your request, the accommodation is officially booked and the payment is done. Just after I sent the requests I got on the plane and after I arrived in Moscow, where my transfer flight was scheduled, I realized that both requests had been accepted and the payments processed. There is no better way to start a trip than sharing with locals and giving away 130 euros seemed like a proper contribution. However, I sent a message to one of the hosts asking for a refund. They kindly told me to fuck myself in the same way I had done so many times in the past when I was working for the hotel and I received calls from customers who had made a mistake with their non-refundable reservations. Karma I suppose, and a dose of stupidity.
During the flight to Moscow, chartered by a Russian airline called Aeroflot, I was seated between a Russian woman who looked like an aristocrat and a Dutch man who looked like… Dutch. Just in front of me, there was a couple, I’m not sure of the origin of the man but the woman was Thai and she seemed to be pretty sick. Since the beginning of the flight, this woman was puking in one of these doggie bags you feel dizzy during landing or take-off. She puked, coughed and sneezed several times and was continuously moving in her seat. In this exact moment I was witness of the kindness and courtesy of the Russian people, every person who passes through the aisle of the plane started to look at her with disdain, the flight attendants asked her numerous times if she got infected somewhere else or if it was only flu and to round off the Russian aristocrat became hysterical yelling at one of the flight attendants. My proficiency in the Russian language is similar to Dutch but based on her gestures and expressions I think the woman considered “unacceptable” (in this moment I recalled my Dutch neighbor) that she had to share the flight with a sick person and that she didn’t want to get infected from her so basically she was requesting to move to another seat. After few minutes one of the flight attendants came and the Russian aristocrat left showing the same disdain as she showed during the flight take-off. To be honest I felt relief because even if that Thai woman was contagious, the middle seat of a plan sucks. Furthermore, I can get rid of the flu in 3 or 4 days but human stupidity has no cure and I was concerned that I could get infected.
The flight was delayed and the transfer which was scheduled to last 1 hour lasted barely 10 minutes. The second flight had no major problems. In the plane, I met Rodrigo, a Spanish guy who was seated next to me. I had few talks with him during the 9 hours flight. The funny part is that we spoke in English the whole time and just before landing he turned to me and asked me:
-You are Spanish, aren’t you?
Actually, I kind of guessed that he was Spanish in the first place but didn’t say a word in the whole flight. I don’t know the reason, I do a huge amount of stupid things during the day if I had to find an explanation for all of them I would go crazy.
Finally, the plane stopped, the airport shuttle picked us up and Bangkok opened her legs to welcome this bastard.