Yes folks, finally the day has come that I go Dutch. At quarter past three this afternoon I’ll be attending my naturalisation ceremony. I’ll walk into the City Hall a Brit and come out a Nederlander.
I’m not quite sure what it all entails, but we will be singing the Wilhelmus, and like most Dutch folk I don’t know all the words either. Something about having German blood – how very confusing for someone about to become Dutch. I also have to declare an oath of allegiance.
But the best thing is that my husband, Kees Diepeveen – who is alderman in North Amsterdam, will be conducting the ceremony. The city’s “wethouders” take turns in perfoming naturalisations. Last week, Green Left City Alderwoman Andrée van Es made a special request to lead the ceremony. This meant if I wanted Kees to do the naturalisation I had to postpone mine by a week.
So here we are. The council website has helpfully placed a video on its website so I now know what to expect. Every year, 3500 people decide to go Dutch in Amsterdam. That’s around 55 people every week. Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan city with 176 nationalities.
The ceremonies have been held since 2006, after The Hague decided taking the Dutch nationality should be marked by a special occasion rather than just picking up a piece of paper over the counter. The first time the city council hired the opera house and invited 3000 people who had become Dutch in the previous year. Only 300 new Nederlanders took up the invitation – they each received a Delft blue potato – why a potato? Was it Dutch humour, a reference to Holland’s culinary speciality ‘stampot’ or a nod to Van Gogh’s famous work The Potato Eaters. I don’t know. Nowadays the ceremony is obligatory.
On it’s website, the council says it has no budget for frivolities, such as musicians or a band. A strange thing to mention, don’t you think. “Hey I’m throwing a party – you’ve got to come – but I’ve got no money for music.” There will be snacks: bitterballen, cheese, maybe even raw herring – although I have to admit my inburgering stops short of swallowing headless raw fish whole.
I’ll be wearing my best frock and I’ve invited my family. That’s my four children and “aanhang” and my step-mother and mother-in-law. Afterwards we’ll pose next to the statue of Spinoza outside the City Hall, underneath the inscription reads : The purpose of the state is freedom. A week later I’ll be entitled to apply for a Dutch passport and in September I’ll be eligible to vote – That, my friends, is freedom.