Welcome to the Curious Dutchman blog!
Allow me to make one thing clear from the start: this is not a travel blog! At least…not in the traditional sense of the word.
For more than 3 years I am living and working in this little big country called Slovakia. I made it my home and, for now, my future. So far, it has been a great experience. I have met great people, travelled around the country, eaten what Slovaks eat (and loved it…), drank what they drink (and loved it…mostly) and, most importantly, married my beautiful Slovak wife. All is well on the eastern front. But, slowly, something started to nag at me. Whether my wife and I took a walk through the old town of Bratislava on a beautiful spring Saturday or we were sitting for hours on end in the train to my in-laws, more than once I found myself wondering: ‘do I actually understand the country I live in, the people that adopted me, the culture and history that shaped them? Would my life in Slovakia not be a far greater experience and more meaningful if I knew what makes the Slovaks tick, understood why they do what they do (or don’t do what they perhaps should do) and say what they say (or, perhaps more importantly, don’t say)?’
People close to me know I am naturally curious. I have always had the need to ‘understand’ and ‘to make sense of things’. I need to see the ‘meaning’ behind decisions, words, choices and behaviours (be it my own or someone else’s). So too when it comes to my life here. How can I live among people or in a country I don’t fully understand? Without this understanding, I would feel like an alien in a foreign world, missing out on the opportunity to fit in and be part of something greater. I fully believe in the importance to understand one other’s culture, habits and believes, once you choose to build your life within it. Having made that choice 3 years ago, it is now time to build that understanding and realize that I should be as much part of this community as any other Slovak…I can only imagine how much more meaningful my life will become.
Therefore, I decided, that I will indeed embark on a journey. A journey to get answers to the questions above. A journey to ‘understand’. A Journey Into the Heart of Slovakia.
The point at which I made this decision came when I was asked for the so-manieth time with surprise and disbelief, “WHY are you in Slovakia?”. Such question I would expect from people in my home country, the Netherlands, or any Western other country, where a decent knowledge of countries east of Germany is seriously lacking. However, to my constant surprise, this question always and only comes out of the mouths of Slovaks.
Slovak people, especially the younger generations, are sincerely surprised when a foreigner says he honestly likes being in Slovakia and has no plans of moving back to his home country in the “oh-so-awesome” West. They don’t seem to appreciate the country they live in, its past, present and future, its amazing potential, its beauty, its people. The only thing they seem to appreciate is their undeniable capacity to complain about it. Perhaps the Slovak nation would as well merit from asking similar questions as I did a few paragraphs ago?
This brings me to the aim of writing this blog.
First and foremost, this is my own journey. I will write about my experiences, my thoughts, my opinions, my pleasures as well as disappointments while living in Slovakia. That makes this blog my personal journal. The beauty of writing a blog is that I can basically write whatever I like, whenever I like and how much I like. And that is what I will do (within its proper context of course). It will be opinionated at times (everyone has one, in the end), but mostly it will be me reporting to whoever cares to read about the weal and woe of living life in this country. Whether it will be a snippet of information, a picture or a longer essay, I decide what gets published in this blog. That is a beautiful feeling of freedom and opportunity.
In doing so, I sincerely hope that, reading about an “outside” view on all things Slovak, may actually lead some Slovak readers to start to appreciate their country again, see its beauty, perhaps at times question the way things are done, and to realize that complains don’t make change. Slovaks have so much to be proud of, but so many seem to be blind to it. Perhaps my blog could open some eyes.
Lastly, this blog is for non-Slovaks who are interested in this country and its habits, who may live here themselves and have their own opinion about it, and for my family and friends back in the Netherlands, who don’t hear from me as much as they deserve.
As a non-Slovak writing about Slovak matters, having my own values, expectations and heritage, I promise to try and stay as objective as possible, although everyone who ever dabbled in the art of writing knows that objectivity is like becoming rich while sleeping or communism…wishful thinking.
I hope you will enjoy what is to come.
Dakujem vel’mi pekne.
The Curious Dutchman