Koninginnedag and Labour Day in a different context


(Photo credit: HereIsTom)

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, a fact I was vaguely aware of.  If you asked me about it before I moved here, I would have told you they have a queen, but would have been unable to elaborate any further than that. Had you asked me about the British though, I could have told you quite a bit. In my experience, the Dutch Royal family simply doesn't get the same coverage in Slovene media as the British do.

Nevertheless, news of the coronation of the new King has made it onto Slovene news portals. The reactions in the comments took me by complete surprise, though in retrospect I should have figured. They are calling for the Dutch royals’ heads on spikes and suggesting the queen should be given to the homeless for public use. I’m sure you know what sort of use. 

As untasteful as they are, I understand where the mentality is coming from. Slovenia comes from a former socialistic republic (communist, if you will) and there is still a fair amount of nostalgia for those days. In illustration, after I had my morning cup of Balkan style coffee I realised it’s Labour Day. In life’s own little sense of humor, the first clean shirt I got my hands on this morning, has an old portrait of Tito on a bright red background. It was a gift from my father this time last year.

I’m not old enough to remember life in Yugoslavia, I was still a toddler when Slovenia gained it’s independence. What I do remember however, is that in independent Slovenia, a decade ago, being a poor kid usually meant that you didn't get to go to the seaside on holiday, or that you used old skis and didn't get the latest model. Now it means that you might go hungry because there is simply no money for food.

One Facebook status today said that were we to be honest, we would rename 1st of May to the Day of Memory of Workers’ Rights and would celebrate it by laying down funeral wreaths. With unemployment growing by the day, you’re watching corrupt businessmen steal millions and drive the banks close to the ground while going unpunished. You’re watching the politicians attempt to solve the crisis by only further impoverishing the general population and not considering dipping into the pockets of those who won't go hungry as a consequence.

Then you go to a news portal and read about the coronation of the new Dutch king and see the photos. You don’t see it in the same context that a Dutch person would. You see it in the context of your own situation and that of your own country. You’re struggling to pay your electricity bills and wondering if you’ll be able to feed your children, while on the other side of Europe, a lady walks down a blue carpet with a sparkling diamond tiara. One has nothing to do with the other, but I understand how it can make people angry.

However, being here and watching the Queen's Day (King's Day from now on) festivities, from the Dutch point of view, isn't nearly as grim. I enjoyed watching the ceremony on television despite my still limited comprehension of Dutch. The day was a celebration and the majority of the Dutch (as far as I can tell) are proud of their royals.

Je Bent Een Koning (This link will take you to the song with the English translation.) is one of the songs welcoming the new king. It's very catchy, if you listen to it, the chorus might stick with you for a few days. Before I first heard it, but after the first few notes, I expected it to be a humorous song mocking the king. It's not. When I told my boyfriend, he explained that the sort of mocking I expected is reserved mostly for the politicians. Sure, the Dutch joke about the royal family, but not plain out mock, he said. The politicians chose that life, the royals are born into it and that is hard enough on them as it is, why make it more difficult.

(Photo credit: Judy **)
As far as I'm concerned, I like the Dutch Royals and I think they're an important part of the Netherlands and it's identity. It takes some effort to get used to all the orange though. In a very un-Dutch manner, the only orange thing I have is a Wuppie. My ginger cat thinks it's loads of fun.

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