“The Dutch immediately start thinking of drama with my full name,” said Mo.
Every country has its own famous names. In Syria that is Muhammad, Ahmed or Abdullah, because the majority of the population consists of Sunni Muslims. In Iraq, the most common name is “Ali,” because most people there are Shiite Muslims. If you walk in the street and you want to ask the way, you call the name that is most common in that country. In Syria, you say, “Muhammad!”, That’s nicer than “Hey!” Even if he happens to be called Abdullah, he will turn around and help you further.
It doesn’t work that way in the Netherlands. Calling “Jesus” on the street probably causes reactions, but not the desired ones.
“What is a typical Dutch name that I can call if I don’t know someone?” I asked my friend Gijs. “Barrie,” he said. All right. So if I mail a teacher whose name I can’t, I just write “Dear Barrie”? Gijs laughed. “Then you get an insufficient answer.”
I have Syrian friends in the Netherlands who want to change their name or have already done so. From Abdullah to Rony or from Abdul Wahab to Adam. “It is easier now that we are in the Netherlands, so you are less likely to be discriminated against,” one of the two told me. For example, many Syrians named Mohammed prefer to call themselves “Mo” here. “You know Dutch people,” said a friend of “Mo”. “They immediately start thinking drama with my full name.”
I already had that idea myself. Not to change my own name, but to give my future children a modern name.
Barrie Manlasadoon. Sounds nice.
My graduation is anything but a beautiful memory.
Now that students and students have passed and celebrate that with flags, gala parties and beautiful clothes, I feel gloomy. I wish it to everyone, but I think back to my own graduation in Aleppo. It is anything but a beautiful memory. One day before my last exam in Syria, my father was injured in a bombing raid. There were elections that day, and because the rebels did not want people to vote, they fired rockets in every street. My father was injured on the way to work.
While I was learning for my final exam, I had to go to the hospital. My father was completely covered with blood. He was not approachable. The next day, while answering the eighty questions in my exam, I became stressed. What if I make it? Then I am a graduate lawyer and I have to go into the army. But I don’t want to go into the army. And I don’t want to leave my family either. Isn’t it better to just go down? The same day I got the result. I passed. I took the paper and went back to the hospital. Nobody was in the party mood there. Me neither. Shortly afterwards I fled from Syria. A long, harsh journey eventually brought me to the Netherlands, where I am now studying again. When I’m ready for my bachelor degree in Industrial Product Design I am 31. No matter how childish, I still put on nice clothes, hang the flag and let everyone congratulate me. I’m already excited.
Always thinking of others is still a good Syrian trait.
I’m calling a Dutch friend. Can I come to see you tonight? The friend thinks: do I have time for visitors? Do I want to visit? Am I ready for a visit? Then the answer follows. A Dutchman has learned to think of himself.
In Syria you learn the other way around. You must first think of the other person. Why is he calling me? Would he feel lonely? Would he like to discuss something with me? If you’re used to it, life in the Netherlands sometimes feels pretty hard.
Many of my Dutch friends have divorced parents. I hear from school: “I’m going to see my mother today.” They don’t look sad. They are also used to fathers and mothers in the Netherlands thinking of themselves. A good reason to leave your family is here: “I no longer feel good at this marriage.” The consequences for everyone around them only come second.
“I have to be happy, it’s my life,” one of my friends said when I asked her about her divorce. It made me quiet. “What about your children?” I asked. “They can never be happy between two parents who are not happy with each other,” she said. She might be right. I don’t know if I could do it. Making a decision for yourself is very difficult if you are brought up with shame, honor, family, neighbors and the future. Rather, I thought I’d rather not have a girlfriend whose parents divorced her. She may have been raised poorly and has received little attention. Now I am friends with a girl with divorced parents. At that time she was very small. She is smart, kind, sweet and independent of her parents. I see in her that children of divorced parents can also end up well.
Always thinking of others is still a good Syrian trait. I take over from the Dutch that you can set limits on that. Destroying your own life to keep others happy is not necessary.
We are not afraid of food waste in Syria, you cook as if a herd of dinosaurs is coming for dinner.
I was invited by a Dutch acquaintance to come and eat. Once there, there was no food. Bags with sliced vegetables lay on the counter. Even pre-cut garlic. After a while my acquaintance started to “cook”. He peered into his cupboards. ,, I need an eggplant. Mmh, do I actually have one? “” No, nothing indicated that he had prepared for my arrival. It took ten minutes, then we could sit at the table.
The situation could not be more different than from a Syrian asking someone to eat. An invitation is something special. Even now in the Netherlands, I am free. You go shopping, cut vegetables for a day and prepare different dishes. A bag of pre-cut vegetables would be an insult. As if you don’t want to bother anyone.
“Do you want a dessert?” My knowledge asked. I chuckled. Just the question already. Always continue! As much as possible! Then your guest will choose whether or not to eat from it. Yes, we are not afraid of food waste in Syria. You cook as if a herd of dinosaurs is coming to eat. In the Arabic culture, food is simply a way to express anything and everything, such as socializing, comforting or respecting. Like my Turkish neighbor in Arnheim Presikhaaf. He regularly knocks with a bowl of food at my fence door. “Hey Anwar, my wife has made something for you!”
That feels like home. In Syria we also bring food together at the door. And then you fully return the container. With your own dish, or in a lazy mood, with fruit. I already know what the Dutch choose.