I already was slightly unnerved stepping into the plane in Trinidad. It somehow had the feeling of stepping into the tram in Rotterdam. Not only was everyone speaking Dutch but there was also plenty of in-your-face assertiveness. People who were sitting in the wrong seat (mine, of course) but refused to acknowledge their mistake and people who had a “fragile” package in the overhead locker which prevented anyone else from storing any luggage there. Fair enough, you might think until you learned that the package was simply a big bag of crisps. We are supposed to be in the laid-back and super-friendly Caribbean but somehow the Dutch spirit is alive and kicking. Of course, the flight originated in Surinam, only touching down in Trinidad before heading for Curaçao. Dutch is widely spoken in both Surinam and in Curaçao, they are even still using guilders – admittedly Dutch Antillean Guilders which are pegged to the US Dollar. It is still the Caribbean – just a very Dutch version.
Now, you would be mistaken if you think I lack appreciation for the Dutch. After all, I married one and some of my very best friends are Dutch. I have worked for most of my career with great Dutch colleagues. It is just that living in Trinidad, I had began to view things through the prism of the Handsome Dutchman where all things are a kind of perfection. Hence, the literally rude awakening when entering the plane. It did not stop there, of course. Arriving at the hotel was a full-frontal assault of Dutchness. Dutch guests, Dutch staff and my goodness, bitterballen on the bar menu. Would you like a beer? Amstel or Heineken? Some French toast at breakfast? Why not have some ghastly over-sweetened wentelteefjes rather than the real thing? Miraculously, there also seems to be a constant flow of dairy products. Fresh, not canned or powdered. There is even a rumour of an Albert Heijn. It is all a bit overwhelming for this Scottish Castaway. What else can I do but chill out and take in the view?