The Chameleon


Today was it: the final hours of my BSN are complete. 1000 hours in and it is done. I am in utter shock and disbelief at how quickly it has gone by. Especially my hours here in the Netherlands. Buurtzorg made me a gift basket to say goodbye and all of my clients wished me well. So this final blog written in Nijmegen is for you all.

Now, I can’t list you all by name for your own privacy but I hope you can tell which one you are! Maikel, help them out here.

  • My dear! You have healed so well in the past few weeks and it always made me smile waking you up each morning. You manage to keep your head up, even with everything that has happened in the past two years. You are strong, inspiring, and I wish you well.
  • Beautiful! You may have children that are as old as my parents but your youthful smile hid any sense of age. I wish you and your son well and thank you so much for the chocolate bar. ALS is a difficult disease but I know you will find strength to help your loved ones through it all. But take care of yourself too ūüôā
  • My favourite couple! I adored listening to your stories, even if I heard some of them a couple times. It was such a relief each day having a conversation with you both in English and I know how hard that can be to translate, so thank you. I’m looking forward to sending cards to you and I wish all the best.
  • Oxygen! I swear I was just there to cheer you on, you did it all. I hope your appointment went well and that you can get a portable tank. Your beauty and kind heart made me feel so welcome, and I thank you for that.
  • With the flag in your front yard! I’m sorry we did not get a proper goodbye but I hope you receive the results and a treatment. You reminded me of my grandfather and I enjoyed the laughter you brought, even in some rocky times.

To my preceptor who deemed me the Chameleon, that is exactly why I included two pictures. I swear that’s still me in both! Your jokes and flexibility made me feel at ease in internship. You believed in me and allowed me to take care of my own clients after the first week and even though I didn’t think I was ready, you somehow knew deep down that I was. Thank you for instilling confidence into me and always greeting me with “Hello nurse!”. We are graduating at the same time and I wish you well in the future! Thank you for showing me what home care is holistically and translating Dutch to English for over 250 hours.

To Buurtzorg, thank you for allowing me to do my internship with you. I did not get to work with all of you but each of you were so unique in the way you took care of clients and it all worked well. I’ll make sure to bring the Flag back with me and hang it up! This is Rachel, signing off from the Netherlands. Next stop, America.

American Culture

This is it folks: the final countdown. The last 5 days, 18 hours and 5 minutes (or 5 days and some odd hours, depending on when you are reading this). But who is counting right? As I reflect back on my time here, I wanted to reflect back on what I learned about American culture and what other people think about the American culture. I know this sounds odd, trust me, but you learn two cultures when you go abroad: the host country’s and your own.

From the moment I stepped off that plane, I realised that even though my exterior appearance could pass me off as Dutch, the moment I open my mouth that facade disappears. And people become as interested in me as the lion exhibition at the zoo: “You’re from America?” “Ze komt uit¬†Amerika!”.¬†I can’t type out the way they say it but insert some fun jazz hands and you are pretty close.

The Dutch, in their nature, are very straight forward and I have found that every initial conversation when I meet someone new is about one of the three following subjects:

  1. Trump
  2. Obamacare
  3. Their travels/family travels to America

Typically if it begins with either of the first two, they always bring up both. This made me realise how little Americans talk about politics in public. It is always a “hush hush” conversation and is reserved for people who know you best. That went out the window here and I’ve talked more about politics here than I¬†ever did back home.

Once that person and I got past those unavoidable topics, we got to talk about how I’m doing here, what I think of the Dutch, what they think of America and so much more. It was eye opening to learn about their perception of my country and to hear how they learned it. ¬†Through these conversations and my courses, I feel like I am ready to answer the semester long question of:¬†What is the American culture?

I’ve realised that America is one big boiling pot of cultures. There is not any single “one culture fits all” that I can use to define everyone. The country is just too large with too many people that one over sweeping statement is simply not possible. With all of this being said, I learned that while there is no one culture, there is some common practices:

  • Bigger and more! Whether this be food portions, trucks, houses, we have this perception that the more we have of something, the better¬†it is perceived to be.
  • Customer service oriented. Whenever we shop somewhere or eat out, we feel this sense of “the customer is always right, even when they are not”. This means¬†that every action is important from the business side so we smile and consistently ask if we can get them anything or do anything better. The reasons can be debated all day (wages, competition) but compared to the Netherlands, this is¬†different.
  • Fast food. We thrive off of it. When I was asked what typical American foods are, I thought of fatty, fast and easily accessible meals first before I thought of anything homemade.
  • Hollywood and media. Popular social outings and conversation topics revolve around “this actor is starring in this movie” or “this artist just released this new song, have you heard it”? The world also listens and watches to what American’s produce so this isn’t anything uncommon but I now realise how integral it is to our culture.

These are just a few of the “ah-ha!” moments I had about what it means to be American. We are such a large country with so many ideas and people that, despite the frustration and complications this brings, is unlike anything else and is truly¬†remarkable. The Dutch grow up only with the Dutch. The French, only with the French and this goes on and on. We are integrated with cultures and viewpoints from all over the world and that is something incredible.