Getting on board with the Dutch ‘agenda’

Zoologists call it the ephemeris batavicus – the untamed continental cousin of the relatively benign Anglo-Saxon ‘planner’. I happen to be its latest victim.

Everybody who moves here is bound to stub a toe or two against the dreaded Dutch agenda. No, it’s not some conspiracy to export liberalism and hagelslag to the entire world, rather, it’s a deceptively unassuming device that wields incredible yet invisible power over the lives of millions of ordinary Jan and Janneke’s, and you too, if you’re not careful. 

To get a taste of the sheer depth and breadth of its influence, all you need to do is try and set up a coffee with a random sampling of your nearest orange-clad acquaintances. No sooner do you ask, than lo! It appears – either as a small notebook, or if more evolved, an app, that’ll determine if and when the coffee in question will occur. 

Being from a place where appointment times are rough and usually highly inaccurate estimates, I couldn’t help but take a dim view of it all at first. The thought of knowing more or less where I ought to be for the next month would have led me to despair. Why would anyone willingly give up the free gift of spontaneity? (And yes, planning time for it defeats the purpose). 

The thought of knowing more or less where I ought to be for the next month would have led me to despair once

Yet, just last week, during yet another episode of ‘let’s-check-our-agenda’s’, it turned out to be mine that kept the group from any date short of three weeks later.  The little devil had caught up to me, and cost me my pride. 

It isn’t too surprising though. Moving abroad has the bizarre effect of pushing your nationality to the forefront of your identity, while also giving you a strong dose of the ‘other’ culture. Dealing with that often feels like you’re walking a tightrope of authenticity, with the danger of deracination on one side and hyper-identification with the homeland on the other. 

Perhaps there’s another way, though – a broader via media of cultural cross-pollination that I’m missing. Maybe there’s room for organic change that gives you the best of both worlds. I sure hope so. Truth be told, it hasn’t been half bad. Of late, I’ve been finding myself less often in a last minute blind panic, which is nice. 

A wise friend once told me that our job was to ‘simply look to the good’. A fine question to ponder over pepernoten and a warm cup of chocomel if you ask me… well, in three weeks anyway. 

HRYDAI SAMPALLY

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