Where Are You From?

By Chad Bilyeu & Mieke Bleeker

 

“Where are you from?” Chad has lost count how many times he’s been asked that question. It inspired him to create The Dutch Inquisition, a recurring item in all four issues of the comic. The question seems pretty harmless, nothing more than an easy way to start a conversation. But to Chad, it is much more.

First of all, the infamous Dutch directness: “You’re having a drink, minding your own business, and from the other side of the bar, someone yells: ‘Where are you from?’ No pleasantries, no introduction. Before you know, this guy is in your face, fully convinced he knows more about the U.S. than you do.”

But the question also touches upon another Dutch trait according to Chad: compartmentalization, in this case probably best translated by the Dutch word ‘hokjesgeest’. “Once they find out you’re American, people seem to think they have you all figured out. Like labelling you a patriot. I wouldn’t describe myself that way. It’s stereotyping people. It makes me feel like I’m on display. Nothing good ever comes out of it. Certainly not a good conversation.”

An ‘Amsterdammertje Situation’

In Amsterdammertje we meet a different Chad. Well, actually it’s the same Chad. But since each story is drawn by a different artist, we get to see multiple representations of him (the four issues almost 20 ‘Chads’), and his different sides too.

When moving to another country, he finds it important to delve into its culture, its customs, and all the weird and interesting habits that come with it. “I wouldn’t call myself an expert on Amsterdam”, he says, “but a lot of expats or even Dutch people who are not originally from Amsterdam, think they know everything there is to know about the city just because they live there. For me, that’s not enough.”

In Amsterdammertje we clearly see he did his homework. How many of you had heard of an ‘Amsterdammertje situation’ before? According to tradition, if the last bit of ‘jenever’ (gin) in the bottle turns out to be too little to fill up the glass, the customer gets it for free, while the bartender opens a new bottle to pour a full one.

At the same time, Chad admits his handling of the situation also shows his American side: too polite, using too many words to explain himself, and, because of that, losing the stand-off with the bartender, twice. That would not have happened to a smart-mouthed Amsterdammer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit Chad’s website to get your copies of ‘Chad in Amsterdam’. They are also available in several bookstores in Amsterdam, like Athenaeum, The American Book Center and Zwart op Wit. Jared Bogges created the images for ‘The Dutch Inquisition’. Those of ‘Amsterdammertje’ were made by EKS Graphics. All content copyright © Chad Bilyeu.