Donning yourself with the Dutch flag as an expat feels kind of weird for Kristina. She contemplates why.
On Koningsdag I didn’t dare to paint the Dutch flag on my face. I had the paint stick ready and all, but still spent the day flagless. Orange decorations are one thing. But tricolour is somehow more special.
On the one hand, I can’t help but think: is it appropriate for me as a foreigner to wear it? Or why, as a non-Dutch person, would I even want to wear it?
I want to answer yes to the first question, mostly because I would be very happy to see foreigners living in Lithuania adorned in our flag on the national holidays or during basketball championships. But it’s the second question that’s more important, I think. And it’s all about the sincerity of your intentions. It might sound funny when you think about all those tipsy loud teens at the train stations, who still have their faces painted. But they are Dutch and I am not, and so I don’t want to make it weird. Even though it is important to me.
On the other hand, what makes it weirder is the fact that I don’t remember ever putting Lithuanian tricolour on my face. I probably did for some school thing ages ago, but never in the more recent years, intentionally. Of course, living abroad the opportunities are rather limited. But still, it makes me think how quick we are sometimes to take up bits and pieces of the foreign cultures, but would never think of doing these things at home.
For example, a year ago my friend, who’s Dutch, and I visited Volendam in North Holland. Very cute, very touristy little place. Everywhere there were shops offering photoshoots with you dressed up in traditional Dutch costumes. It was expensive and we didn’t do it, but I did think it would’ve been fun. Then a few months later, at a yearly gathering of our extended family, my grandma asked me to wear her traditional costume – and I said no, because well, it’s embarrassing! Maybe it’s not the same thing, and maybe there is a situation where I would wear that long skirt and all those colourful layers and amber bead necklaces. But again, it’s all about the sincerity of your intentions.
With the refugee crisis, there’s so much talk about integration. On the other channels, there’s so much talk about cultural appropriation. So what is it – am I integrating, faking it or offending? I’ll just keep fiddling with that little paint stick, figuring it out before the fifth of May.