I have previously lived abroad and have been exposed to multiple cultures for extended periods of time. I have been very lucky in that regard and believe that through this exposure I have learned about certain countries identities and how complex a country’s identity can be.
To know about a certain country or nation it is not just enough to visit it and take it in as you go. I believe that to understand how a country has come to be who they are it is important to look at its past and discover the past and how that has affected the future and present. Professor Van Der Meer’s talk was extremely interesting to me because of this and I think that I found it to be quite eye opening as well, just because Professor Van Der Meer came was more familiar and talked about a country that I did not know much about.
Professor Van Der Meer talked about the origins of national identity in Indonesia and how this country’s national identity origin was particularly interesting and hard to pinpoint. He suggested that we understand the origin of their national identity, and national identities from all over the world through understanding a certain theory he called the Onion Theory. This Onion Theory hypothesized that layers of cultural identity can be peeled away like the layers of a snake or onion. He also talked about how this theory could be applied to his country of origin, and how it has helped him understand more of the Dutch culture and national identity.
I wonder how effective this theory would be when trying to understand the American culture and origin of national identity. I believe that it would be very effective and would help understand how we, as a country, hold ourselves and have changed throughout time.
One thing I also found interesting was when he talked about how it is hard to keep an aspect of one’s previous nation’s national identity while living in another state, country etc. It can be confusing and he alluded to this confusion when talking about how his children were confused about why other kids were not celebrating Christmas the way they did, the Dutch way. I found this a funny anecdote as he said he ended up making up a story for them to believe to not spoil the secret of Santa Clause. Although this was just a simple anecdote it does show the differences in cultures and how it can be hard to keep one’s own while in another place.