By Valeria Nazzi
I asked a Dutch guy to tell me what he thinks about King’s Day. It turns out that the central theme and goal of this celebration is a simple one, yet difficult to achieve: unity. King’s Day is about bringing people together: locals, expats and tourists.
The city of Amsterdam is where one can experience King’s Day in all its glory. People walk around the small streets and canals of the city with a beer in their hand and an orange hat or a crown on their head. What stands out though is the prominence of the orange props that decorate streets, bars and cafes, as well as the stages playing dance music at every corner. Expats and tourists join the locals in this celebration by desperately trying to find in their closets something orange to wear, to blend in better with the masses.
But what do expats think about King’s Day? How do they really celebrate it? I stopped some of them in the streets of Amsterdam to ask these questions. I noticed that everyone mentions always the same word: integration. How does King’s Day promote integration? For expats, “It is fun to be part of a tradition that is so important to local people, it is interesting to see how different cultures celebrate their national day”. So how do expats celebrate King’s Day? “Meeting up with friends and walking around Amsterdam. We just eat, listen to music, do some shopping at the “flee market” that every Dutch man and woman sets up in front of their house, look at people and try to take part in what the Dutchies are doing.”
An Italian student who lives in Rotterdam said something really interesting: “it is a day to celebrate the Dutch culture that we don’t see every day since we live and study in an international environment”. But is it true? The only thing I see is orange, alcohol, and orange again. Orange is their national colour, but how many of us expats really know what it stands for? How many of the foreigners know that the name of the Royal Family is House of Orange-Nassau, a name taken from their founding father, William of Orange (Dutch: Willem van Oranje), who was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs that set off the Eighty Years’ War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1581?
This is my second year walking around the streets of Amsterdam with no clear destination, since I cannot find any music stage, restaurant or place to go to that distinctly stands out from the average standard.
Yes, it is an occasion that promotes unity, as everyone plans to celebrate King’s Day with their friends and family, on a boat or on the streets; however, it might end up to be a bit chaotic to foreigners as they do not have specific plans or guidelines on how to spend the day and so they do not take full advantage of this occasion to learn more about the culture that surrounds them. Tips? Don’t do what I did the last two years I spent King’s Day here. Don’t just walk around with the expectation to randomly find something exciting, check out this website, and this one too, to prepare and plan your next King’s Day successfully.
Valeria Nazzi is an Italian second year student of International Communication Management at the Haagse Hogeschool. She is doing her internship on Hellas Pindakaas, as part of the Radio Journalism Certificate of the ICM/Haagse Hoheschool.