Sunday 12 July 2020

‘People see me and they see my name and they assume I am Dutch’

Photo: Nathalie Wesseling

Rachelle Meyer is an American illustrator who moved to Amsterdam with her British husband twelve years ago. She’s currently putting together an art collection of her Faces on the Ferry drawings, she would like to meet Jesse Klaver and she thoroughly recommends the Hoge Veluwe as a place to visit.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?
I’m originally from Texas but I was living in New York City when I met my British husband. He was living in LA but agreed to stay in New York for me, with the idea that we would eventually move to Europe. He had three cities in mind: Brighton, Amsterdam and Zurich. We visited all of them and I felt like Amsterdam was the most interesting and had the potential to take my life in unexpected ways. It has a rich history of art and design.

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international?
I veer between immigrant and international. I consider myself a global citizen. I think people should have freedom of movement.

How long do you plan to stay?
I’ve lived here now for 12 years. We’ve bought a home and I adore it. I love my neighborhood. Plus with the political situation in our home countries, we don’t have any interest in going back.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I have one more class before I plan to take the NT2 exam. I took my courses here in Amsterdam at a language school that was very relaxed and friendly. I’m hoping to take the next course next semester and then take the exam. Mostly, I just want to keep up with my son who is going to a Dutch school and does his homework in Dutch.

What’s your favorite Dutch food?
I would say stroopwafels. They are addictive. You can’t eat just one.

How Dutch have you become?
It’s funny. People see me and they see my name and they assume I am Dutch. Then I open my mouth and they are very confused. I am pretty integrated, I think. I love my house and my neighborhood in Amsterdam Noord. My son goes to a Dutch school and speaks Dutch like a native.

Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet?
Fiep Westendorp. She’s a Dutch illustrator who drew the Jip and Janneke series which started in Het Parool and are now famous children’s books. I would love to just know more about her and what it was like working at that newspaper during that period of time.

Duifje van den Brink. She hid out at the [Amsterdam Artis] zoo during the war. She sat on a bench in the zoo during the day, talking to people. It’s a really fascinating story and not as well known as other people who went into hiding.

Jesse Klaver. He seems like he has a realIy great energy. I personally would like to see the US move away from its two party system and I think he would be a great person to ask for advice on how to do that. Plus, I have to pick someone alive so maybe I have the chance of it actually happening.

What’s your top tourist tip?
Go to the Hoge Veluwe. You will feel like you’ve been transported to another world. It’s a natural park in Gelderland which also has a museum (the Kröller-Müller museum). You can only go in by bicycle so you get a white bicycle at the entrance. There’s also a really cool castle (the Jachthuis Sint Hubertus). Go for the whole weekend and visit the Apenheul as well.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands.
Just how much Dutch people value sitting and enjoying the small things in life. When I first moved here, I registered with an employment agency and they sent me to work on a project in Utrecht. I was very proud of myself for navigating the trains correctly and I arrived at this building twenty minutes early, so I went to a little bakery to get a cup of coffee to go. In New York City, any bakery would serve you a cup of coffee to go. The older lady running the place pointed me to a bench outside and gestured for me to sit. Then she went away and came back from the house next door with a mug of coffee. It was from her own kitchen, in this chipped mug. Dutch people don’t see coffee as a method to fuel up but as something to be enjoyed and I really love that about being here.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
I would stay in Amsterdam Noord. I love my little house here that I’ve fixed up. Perhaps my family and I would cycle to Het Twiske, maybe get a cup of coffee somewhere and then go to see a movie at The Eye. Then have drinks at Noorderlicht. Then I would go home and snuggle up with my family.

Rachelle Meyer is launching the Faces on the Ferry project in October, with silkscreen prints and postcards of the artwork also available for sale.

Rachelle Meyer was talking to Molly Quell.

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