This week saw the end of the ‘TET’ course and the final goodbyes for many of our class and of course with our tutors. For some of our classes we were split into smaller groups and as a final goodbye our group had the privilege of being invited to Will, our tutors for dinner. We all accepted his invitation gratefully and I think we were all taken back by his kindness in welcoming 10 of us into his home for dinner.
With his directions in hand telling us what bus to get and the stop to get off at we set off on Wednesday evening to Wijchen, a small town outside Nijmegen where he lives. We arrived at his house to be greeted by his wife and family who were ever so welcoming and intrigued to know where we all came from.I was pleasantly surprised as it was evident these people had gone to great lengths to prepare for us coming and enable us to embrace the real Dutch experience. I wondered whether this would be the case if I were to come into contact with people from other countries back home.
In many ways I think we are closed people only welcoming people we are familiar with into our homes. Personally I would say this is also reflected in our style of housing with small windows and separate rooms each with a different function. In contrast to this after seeing the interior of Will’s house and having seen many exteriors of Dutch houses on my travels, they have large windows which are hardly ever blacked out with curtains and inside there are large open spaces. It has also been remarkable to see that most Dutch houses are around the same size. People do not show their wealth by the houses they build which is certainly the case in Ireland with one house outdoing the next. As it has been said, a house is where you hang your hat; home is where you hang your heart. I feel that the Dutch people are more concerned in cultivating this ‘home’ attitude.
In all it was a really great evening being welcomed into Will’s home, getting to know his family and tasting typically Dutch foods. Personally I feel it has been the ‘icing on the cake’ of my Dutch cultural experience. I have realised how much can be gained from opening the door of your home. Will and his family were proud to exhibit many aspects of their culture and so this should be the case for us all. I feel there is no better place to showcase one’s own culture than in their home as this is the place where much can be learned about foods, ways of life, values and much more. With this attitude I hope I will be able to welcome people from other countries into my home and enable them to have a rich cultural learning experience just as I have had here in The Netherlands. I feel Marcel Proust sums up very well what my experiences have been so far. He says, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.” I most certainly have a new outlook.