So, here’s a little inside information. I’m born from a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother. That makes me a half-blood. I come from a family where my father’s side of the family is Dutch, with all their habits and food traditions. The same goes for my mother’s side of the family. They, however, have moved to the Netherlands.
An Indonesian Family In The Netherlands
A few decades ago, Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands, fighting to be independent. When my mother was 14 years old, she moved with her parents (my grandparents), her sister and 3 brothers to the Netherlands. Into a tiny rental house in Utrecht, the middle of the Netherlands. In Indonesia, my family was considered to be rich. My granddad was an architect and my grandma had several servants to help her with the children and the household.
Moving to the Netherlands was a shocker. Especially for my grandma. My grandpa’s degree wasn’t acknowledged in their new home country and he was forced to change profession. My grandmother was used to a luxury lifestyle and had difficulty adapting to her new surroundings. She wasn’t used to doing everything herself and she wasn’t used to Dutch customs.
From Rice to Kentang
Despite my mother and her siblings were born in Indonesia, they grew up to Dutch standards. Adapting was easier for them. My mother was a great cook (Indonesian food, of course) and my grandmother an even better one. However, my mother wasn’t used to fully practicing the Indonesian art of cooking and my grandmother never thought her everything. So with my grandmother’s death, a little part of the Indonesian culture died too. At her funeral, I even recited a poem called (and translated) ‘From rice to kentang’, rice referring to Indonesia and kentang (Indonesian for potato) referring to the Netherlands. About how our culture is slowly disappearing.
My mother and her siblings were growing up in another country than their own. And my grandparents didn’t give my mother enough heritage or my mother didn’t give enough of her heritage to me, I don’t know. As a result, all the grandchildren know little of their Indonesian heritage.
Guess who I am, hihi
The full story of my family is a long and complicated one, I’ll maybe tell it someday, so I will cut this short. With each generation, the Indonesian culture disappears in our family. Luckily my grandparents didn’t leave me completely clueless. My grandma taught me how to cook (a bit) and my grandfather told me stories of our still existing family in Indonesia (!!!). They are both not with us anymore but realizing I know so little about my heritage, makes me curious to where they, my family, me, are coming from.
My Dutch Family in The Netherlands
And then we have my Dutch family. I was born in the Netherlands, so I didn’t know any better. I did found it strange, my old neighbor was always avoiding me and my brother (and my mother) and was giving me weird looks. But hell, what did I know. Later in time, I found out, that the city we lived in wasn’t familiar with “foreigners”.
My Dutch family was amazing! Unfortunately, there is no one left from that side of my family. But my Dutch grandma taught me a lot of cool things about the Dutch culture, while I was growing up. I often spend time there, having sleepovers. So I got to know about Dutch customs like serving a single cookie while having tea or coffee. And the dish of veggies and potatoes all mixed together with a lot of gravy. My dear, I loved that! These were things my mother only learned to do later in during my childhood.
Boy, I look unhappy here
How I Grew Up With 2 Cultures
Growing up in my own mixed household, and the two households of my grandparents were nothing more than normal to me. I was grateful both sides of my family were teaching me customs and how to cook. When I had hit my teenage years, I’ve come to realize that my mother wasn’t like other mothers. And my Indonesian grandparents had different behaviors than my Dutch grandparents. Some things are to blame on character or past experiences, but still, I noticed slight differences. Later I even noticed I was different from others. I noticed the cultural differences between being Indonesian and being Dutch.
One Plate, Three Courses
To give a stupid, small example, I find it weird to give only one cookie from the cookie jar to go with your coffee or tea. Are you having another coffee? Then you get another cookie. Or having a 3-course-meal from the same plate. Yes, I’ve seen it! You get one plate, which will be yours for the rest of the evening. They serve you soup, then mains and then custard or flavored yogurt. For the record, I am making a *this-is-disgusting*-face, while writing this.
On the other hand, you will rarely see Indonesians do something alone. They’re often in company. I have to say, I love doing things alone. I travel alone, go to the movies alone and I love it. Another thing is that I am highly emotional at times, and I tend to show it. The directness and showing my emotions are things uncommon to Indonesian customs.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to every household. I see especially the Dutch culture changing. If I think back at the one-plate-3-courses-incident, I have to say, I rarely see these things anymore. I could be wrong, though.
Oh, and another thing, some people know, some not, do not touch my head. I don’t like it. In addition, Indonesians think the spirit resides in the head and is, therefore, sacred. Just saying.
What Does This Mean?
That’s exactly what I am going to figure out. I find myself in the middle of Dutch culture and Indonesian influences. While there is no direct family left who can teach me more about both cultures, it means I have to figure it out on my own. During university, I specialized in cultural differences, which help me understand certain things now. But still, I feel this hunger for information of where I come from, what it all means and how it affects my life. I want to get to know my family that still lives in Indonesia. I want to get to know my own heritage even better. So I can learn to grow into the best of both cultures. Or something like that.
Bottom line is, I need to know more of where I came from, in order to understand myself and my family better. So that can only mean one thing… Back to Indonesia!