0202-Anwar’s columns

To greet

To greet in the Netherlands, that remains a bit uncomfortable. I want to adapt myself to Dutch by hand and kiss three times, while Dutch people want to adjust to me and give me a hand or give me a greeting from a distance. When I was just in the Netherlands and was in The Dome (De Koepel) in refugee care, it was much more uncomfortable. Women stormed down at me to give me a hand or kiss me, but I screamed and fell backwards. I’m used to the fact that it is very inappropriate to touch a woman at the first meeting. It could offend her husband. If Dutch women kiss me in the presence of their friend or husband, I still find it difficult. I always look nervous about her friend or husband. Is he all right? During that time, I also embarrassed the Dutch. I was taken home by the Dutch couple Gerda and Erik. When I met Erik, I gave him two kisses. I noticed that he did not like that. Now I understand that Dutch men do not kiss each other. If my father came to the Netherlands and he would meet Gerda and Erik, he would not give Gerda a hand at the first meeting. He would find it inappropriate in the presence of her husband. The Dutch might call it disrespectful, while my father would feel a brutal, respectless man if he would. Well, just culture difference. My dad and grandpa greet me for Syrian use with a handshake. After the kiss you touch your forehead with your hand. Then they said, “I’m happy about you”.  Children in Syria kiss but like the hand of their (big) father, because in most cases they get money back. My father did not rarely call me when I walked: “Kissing does not make sense Anwar, I do not have money in my pocket!”

Wedding equipment

I attended a Dutch wedding. The word ‘wedding’ does not really match with what I am used to, because it was not a big party. We went to the town hall. There someone of the municipality said a few things, like the names of the couple. The husband and wife said yes, gave each other a kiss, after which it was finished. Afterwards we went to dinner in a restaurant. A wedding in Syrie does not seem to be far from here. It is common for the man to take care of the new house. Those furniture is brought to the girl’s house the day before the wedding. By the day, when twenty cars and hundreds of people get to the bride, the groom brings out the furniture with other men. Then the whole neighborhood can see what kind of decor the man has provided for his wife. Meanwhile, music is made on the streets and everyone dances. By that time my mother has been busy for years now. She makes the most beautiful pillows and looks for the most beautiful crockery. I have said to her very often, I do not want to wear furniture to show them around and I do not want a street full of dancing people. But she says it has to be because it belongs. After this whole ritual in the street, the wedding couple leaves for the party location. There are at least 1,000 people. The bride couple sits on a stage and can not kiss each other. Visitors do not give gifts, but money. Sometimes there is a ‘presenter’ that counts how much money is given. ‘Family Manlasadoon, 30,000 Lira!’ When our house was bombarded a few years ago, my entire “wedding booth” has been lost. I do not doubt my mother has started again.


King’s Day, a day when the Dutch people do very differently than on other days. The municipality arranges free partying in the city, people are clothed in orange and are drinking a lot. Where the Dutch usually walk well to the trash bin to throw away waste, they throw it on King’s Day negligently over their shoulder. “Because that’s what the municipality will clean up,” I heard from my Dutch friends last year. That seems similar to the mentality in Syria, although the municipality does not get rid of it. We do not have a king in Syria and the president’s birthday we do not celebrate. No idea why, but no one knows when he’s born. Saudi Arabia has a king. King Salman. He is also the head of state. He has women, money and Lamborghini’s, nothing is too crazy. He is especially known in Syria as stupid. When he speaks on television, nobody understands him. If he is to read for it, it’s even worse. It seems like he can not read Arabic. He never has to study because he is the king. I have heard that our king in the Netherlands is smart, that he is even engineer in the field of water. What I do not know is whether the Dutch are so passionate celebrate celebrations because of their love for him or because they just like parties. Sometimes I think the latter. I was once in a show in the city theater in Arnhem, where a king’s aunt came to see. When she was announced, people clashed with flaws. Some did not hit at all. I shocked that reaction and wondered if we should not stand up to show respect. If you’re just going to party, I’d like to organize an Anwarday. Everyone drank the street in the colors of the Syrian flag, with a touch of orange.


I am sometimes worried about how it all should be if I had children in the Netherlands. I do not know much about babies, I would e.g. give them a coke because I like it myself too. And should my house mate Achmed help us? I do not see it for me. He also knows nothing about babies. In Syria it would be easy, my mother and mother in law would teach us everything in the first few weeks. They have the experience and would take over the entire household for weeks, including the care of the baby. Recently I learned at school how Dutch people do that. They get a maternity aid. What a good system again. We also learned about midwives. Those in Syria are only for poor people. And for jealous husbands. A gynecologist is often a man, which is not acceptable for any spouse . Also many women do not like that. Female obstetricians often have to treat ailments that have nothing to do with pregnancy or birth. But the patient dares or is not allowed to go to a male doctor with his illness. In the Netherlands this is all better regulated. You can not go to the midwife with a sore ankle. Because I have to choose a new profession in the Netherlands, Dutch people sometimes think about me. “Why do not you become a dentist?” said a friend. “Then you will earn much money.” I did not understand that comment. In Syria, your profession has nothing to do with the amount you deserve. You can be a dentist with patients in a poor neighborhood, or a stone rich in another neighborhood. It’s all about your descent, your environment and your clientele. Funny that does not matter in the Netherlands. Thus, a student can choose how rich he would like to study before he studies.


Patience, I have not always. Especially not when I feel that my neighbor is wronged. The last time I lost my patience, it ended not very well. My then girlfriend in Syria walked over the street. I saw her walking from a distance. A man came up, he started calling things to her. My girlfriend did not respond. The man walked towards her and began to pull at her. I ran over there and hit the man to the ground. Finish well, I thought. Later in the day, there came jeeps in our street, full with soldiers. They had big rifles in their hands and shouted in the street: where is “Anwar Manlasadoon? Where is Anwar Manlasadoon?”. What turned out, the man I had hit was a military. They found our house and took me apart. I was struck while my father was questioned. My mother had to cry and my father tried to explain that he had a stupid, stupid son. That of course has a lot of respect for soldiers and for Assad. In the end, I was not shot as we had expected. They were susceptible to the argument that I could not have known that he was a military because he was wearing civic clothes. I shall never have the tendency to hit a Dutchman . Because the Dutch do not do it themselves. If my Dutch girlfriend was to be bothered on the streets, I would (hopefully) be quiet and talk about it. Well, talk with noise then. So I make an impression. And if all of this does not help, well …. then it does not matter if there is a Syrian or Dutchman for me.

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