Last week I was in Netherlands on my wedding party and I met a friend of mine. I had joined him at age 16 to a holiday to his home country – China. Suddenly I remember why I took the initative to come to China.
I remember that day in preliminary school when my teacher said that a Chinese family was moving into our small Dutch village to start a Chinese restaurant. Their eldest son Jing would be placed in my class. I already knew about the Chinese but had never met one, meeting this boy from far away intrigued me and soon we started to become good friends.
10 years forward, I believe I had experienced unique Chinese culture at a young age for a Dutch boy; I learned to eat real Chinese food with Chopsticks, was influenced by Chinese culture by observing them and their tv and had been thought my first Chinese words.
My parents took pride in their son opening up to new cultures and had gained an interesting role in this sino dutch/chinese relationship as well. My dad learned my Chinese friend to cycle on his bike, play soccer etc. and my mom was unofficially involved as a private junior high school counselor, reading teacher’s notes to my Chinese friends parents. This shows that my parents were also intrigued with this family and soon they were also invited to intimate family gatherings like Chinese new years and also received help from time to time.
One day when I was 14 years old, the parents of my Chinese friend asked me if I wanted to come to China with them for a holiday some day. My enthusiasm was soon calmed when I reported this to my parents at home, China being far away and dangerous and all. However, two years later I was allowed, I had saved enough money and got my parent’s agreement since the two families had become trustable friends.
I got my visa and joined the Chinese family to China. This was in 1999. We spent a two weeks in Beijing visiting the forbidden city, the peace palace, Great Hall of the People. Then we moved on to Hangzhou for another week, we also visit Qiandaohu. A trip that I will never forget. Such a rich history in China, kindness on the street and the heavy development all around breathed an energy I had never experienced in the Netherlands. 11 years later I find myself living in Shanghai for these exact same reasons.