Does it exist? There is Double Dutch, going Dutch, Dutch treat, what about Dutch diplomacy? You might have missed it but we just celebrated the abdication of our queen Beatrix and the coronation or her son Willem-Alexander. Huge in the Netherlands as you can imagine and got a fair bit of coverage internationally too. The world loves royalty. And we offered our best. Including a preparatory soap around the official “king’s” song, desperate attempts of self-styled republicans to get media attention, and a ceremonial day choreographed to perfection. I thought it lacked smiles, throughout the new king looked like he would burst into tears (his media trainer’s idea of dignified composure I guess), and the local and international elite who was invited to take part in it all mostly succeeded in turning on their bored and sad face too. But I guess that goes with the territory, in our part of the world that is. Before pondering my question, let’s first enjoy our real national song (forget about the king’s song), written for a commercial, typical.
OK, does it exist? This question bothered me at the reception hosted by the Dutch ambassador in the garden of his regal Cairo residence. I have a tendency to turn into an awkward adolescent when surrounded by important looking men in suits and uniforms and women dressed to impress, and it’s certain I do when I lack a proper role. Unfortunately, as a dependent partner that’s my current state of being. Sometimes my closet anthropologist manages to create the emotional distance required to engage with the theater surrounding me, without mask he normally doesn’t. This time he certainly didn’t. I felt seriously misplaced. A bit of our national drug would probably have helped to turn me social again but coffee was not available. Diplomatic events are greased with alcohol, not my drug of choice. It obviously was for many present: lots of pear-shaped bodies (if you think this is impolite: for some of the male beer bellies in sight that would have been an euphemism) and barely noticeable slurs and slightly uncoördinated gestures of habitual drinkers trained to keep up appearances. Anyway, time for our best coffee song ever.
Anyway, however all of this may be, I was present at what must have been one of the most important Embassy organized events since the visit of our royal family in 1997 (check out the emblematic photo of Beatrix that was shot during that visit). I mean how often does one present a new king to the rest of the world? And what did we do? We had Dutch business in Egypt promoting themselves. Farm Frites served fries, TNT went around handing out pens, Heineken gave away head phones (?)….I think it exists, Dutch diplomacy.
In case you think that I disapprove, far from it. It may be naïve, but it’s honest. And what else could our diplomats have offered Egypt on this occasion? Our real face is difficult to understand. I’ll share a glimpse of it by one of our great poets Drs. P.
In case you’re Dutch savor the beautiful text:
Het land is moe, de hemel grijs
De wind is koud, zo koud als ijs
Mijn jas is dun, de kleur is vaal
De weg is lang, de boom is kaal
Mijn rug is krom, en macht is recht
De lucht is vuil, het brood is slecht
De vloer is rot, het dak is lek
De ruit is stuk, het kind is gek
La la la la, la la la la
La la la la, et cetera
De muur is klam, het licht is zwak
De hond is vals, de stoel is wrak
Het geld is krap, het brood is slecht
Of had ik dat al eens gezegd
Het oog is dof, het bloed is rood
Het haar is grijs, het paard is dood
Het vlees is taai, het werk is zwaar
Het bier is duur, het lied is klaar
Cannot be translated, better to hand out fries and pens.