Returned from the trip to Belgium, flying in an out of Amsterdam rather than Brussels . . .
Spent a little time among the Dutch in Amsterdam visiting one of the host families from my semester in college. Then went on to Ghent, which is in the part of Belgium that considers itself Dutch.
There were a few times–watching the moms and kids in a tearoom in Uithoorn in Holland–
–where my brain flicked on and off as it alternated between reading a situation as “foreign” and reading it as “down the street in Newton.” There are just so many similarities in mannerisms, manners and dress. No wooden shoes. The kids were running around in jeans and t-shirts that could have come from The Gap, and maybe did.
One thing I noted was what seemed to be a strong English connection. Usually when you travel if you look like an American people ask you if you are an American. Or, in Vietnam, maybe an Australian. But not English. In the Low Countries when people realized (from my language not my appearance) that I was not a local they would universally ask “are you English?”
In a conversation with a member of the Amsterdam host family I mentioned John Cleese. I asked the daughter, Hanneke, if she knew Monty Python. Of course, she replied, they’re English! As if she would be the one more likely to know them! And there is a strong British connection going back to the Great War (the first one) with British cemeteries dotting the Flanders landscape.
I checked the travel stats and sure enough Brits visit Belgium in three times the numbers of Americans. In Germany that ratio is more like 1:1 and Americans outnumber Brits in most other tourist destinations, too.
All of this is a lead in to a blog post I read online today (courtesy of hbd chick) which I include here only for those intrepid and interested enough to work through a bunch of issues on European history, genetics and culture. It has to do with the so-called Hajnal Line, which separates Western Europe from the East relative to matters of family formation, culture, politics, and host of other related issues. Basically: “The West”.
About two thirds of the way through this (long) post you’ll see that the author draws a circle around the Low Countries and southeastern England, dubbing the area “core Europe”, and describing it as the place that gave rise to most of the political, cultural and economic habits that we associate now with the West. Western ideas radiated out from that, pushing back against the default family formations and inheritance patterns that had prevailed pretty much everywhere else forever. It pushed as far as the Hajnal Line, which still separates two basic patterns.
I am wondering if Trump will call for a wall at the Hajnal Line, paid for by the East . . .