Thursday, December 2, 2010


I'm sitting here enjoying a morning cup of coffee and the weather report dutifully reports that here in Amsterdam it is -7C (19 degrees Fahrenheit) and snowing. The former is probably true, but the latter is what we might politely refer to as a "misstatement," though perhaps a bit more snow fell in the night.  Amsterdam generally has a mild climate, but winters can get cold. This morning, I'll be taking the tram rather than walking to work. Brrrrr!

This is what a black, French atheist
 conservative looks like
I haven't wanted this blog to be a political one because it's just about trying to help people see the opportunities in moving to another country. However, part of that is knowing what you're in for. For example, while my wife is a black French atheist conservative, something guaranteed to make many Republican heads explode, "conservative" in France is not the same thing as it is in the US. At its furthest right, they might be on par with US Democrats, but even that's a bit of a stretch. For many capitalist democracies around the world, you'll find that their dominant right-wing party is aligned with US Democrats and with the US Republicans being much further to the right. In fact, I've been disturbed to realize that much US Republican rhetoric seems to be echoing the far-right nationalist parties here in Europe. Those parties will rarely gain power, but here they're usually seen as being thin façades for neo-fascism.  It pains me to hear that from the US.

Just to give you a a flavor of politics over in Europe, consider that the UK is the European country most closely aligned with the US in both culture and politics.  Here are some highlights of David Cameron's 2006 speech to his Conservative party. Keep in mind that he was leading that party then and he's prime minister of the UK now:
  • Full support for the National Health Care system (NHS)
  • Better childcare and flexible working hours for mothers
  • Tax cuts aren't the answer
  • Increase the minimum wage 
  • Fighting manmade climate change
  • Building a greener Britain
  • Foreign policy should not be an unquestioned acceptance of what America does
  • Support for gay marriage
Got that? That's the leader of their conservative party.  Mind you, plenty of his other policies such as deregulating business, tough on crime, support the Afghanistan war and other issues would be right at home with US Republicans, but conservative politics over here is often a variant of "government shouldn't be messing with business or people."

In another example of how things are different, both in actual culture and perception, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and some guests referred to Amsterdam as a "disaster" and suggested we were awash in drugs, prostitutes and assorted criminals.  Nothing is further from the truth. This is my second time living here and it's safe, clean, and the people are friendly.

It's also worth noting that even a quick search of quality of life studies show that most European citizens are happier than their US counterparts.  Mind you, I'm not saying that the US is bad or that they've done something wrong, but at the end of the day, life over here is pleasant, the economies are strong, crime tends to be lower and people are happy.

On a side note: I've lived in Europe for years and in my entire time here, I think I've met only two expats who've identified themselves as Republican and both of them are upset with what the US Republican party is doing back home. The vast majority of other expats are a mish-mash of other political beliefs, but Republicans are pretty thin on the ground here.


  1. I've been enjoying your posts, Curtis. Really interesting to hear POV's on the US from an expat. I'm continuously challenged to see things from another POV myself because I am lucky enough to married to a French woman as well ;)

    I was recently able to take my first trip to Amsterdam and had done a lot of research beforehand on the life there for possible relocation ( actually. That's how I came across your blog). Based on what I learned, I couldn't agree more with that video you posted. Good old Fox News being as fair and balanced as ever. I found Amsterdam to be a real first class city and it seems that one would be able to live a genuinely comfortable/happy life there. It was really very different from all of the stereotypes I had always heard about it. And, as a beer lover, damn the beer was good! (Brouwerij 't IJ)

    - Dave

  2. As a political junky (anyone reading my public posts on LJ can see that), I find this sort of dialogue to be a necessary component of the overseas enquiry. As a green-party member, I am refreshed and relieved to know I'm not alone except for in America. As a general policy-hater of the Republican party (that and their brash tactics), I do find it odd that they are a product of the nation and anyone who can afford to leave the nation (who isn't rich) who does so wouldn't align as Republican. That seems significant to me. It seems that only via ignorance of the world-at-large can one be a part of a nationalistic party.

    I scan my view of the world and that tenet pretty much follows my experience. The most ignorant, inexperienced people have a phobia or an intolerance of people-who-aren't-just-like-them. They can't get outside of their own projection of their perfection.

    And with thos people running around making We-are-awesome-but-you-suck policy at everyone else, it is no wonder that the world's wars seem no more informed or intelligent than a mom-he's-on-my-side-of-the-car! bickering match in the back seat during a family vacation. (Or in the US's case, it is a simple "GIMME! [smack!]")

  3. @Dave: if you take the position, I look forward to meeting you. I've traveled quite a bit and Amsterdam really is one of the loveliest cities around. Nothing quite matches the loveliness of walking with my wife down the Prinsengracht at sunset.

    And yes, great beer too. This makes me happy :)