With a couple tears streaming down my face, I boldly sang the Star Spangled Banner in a murmuring pub in the heart of The Hague. Having sung the Wilhelmus (the Dutch National Anthem) about ten seconds earlier, it definitely turned some heads toward me.
Unlike many dual-citizen military kids, I've actually gotten to live in my second-citizenship country, the Netherlands, for quite a number of years-- it was a duty station when I was younger, and I returned to go to university here a few months ago.
To be honest, I felt as if I had found my place in between all the internationals in The Hague. But as the orange-clad team walked onto the pitch, I felt my stomach sink. I couldn’t cheer for both teams.
There are many situations where I feel myself leaning closer to either passport. If you ask me what the best dipping sauce is, I will say ranch before I say mayo. But if you make me choose between Christmas in New York City and Christmas in Köln, then Germany would be my instinctive answer.
During the days leading up to the USA-NLD match, I told people that I would root for the winner. Call me brainwashed, but about three seconds after I stepped foot into the pub I was screaming, “hup, Holland, hup!” Maybe it was peer pressure, or maybe it was embarrassment of the US soccer track record… But I felt myself slip into Dutch-mode.
Funnily enough, a girl standing next to me asked me where I was from. I told her I was Dutch and American, and she responded with, “I’m Dutch-Iranian. If we had won, I would be in your position too. Better you than me, I’m sorry!” I am a Dutch and an American citizen, but this game made me so confused. In my heart, I was rooting for The Netherlands, but it felt like cheating. How could I not cheer on the team of the country that supported me and my family for my whole life?
But then I remembered the pride I felt when South Korea beat Portugal only the night before. This feeling isn’t isolated. I have pieces of me all over the world. People, places, and things I associate with on an emotional level. Soccer, the sport I learned how to play and love in my Dutch elementary school all those years ago, is something that I can’t separate from my memories and experiences. So I wasn’t cheating on the US; my connection to the Dutch team was stronger.
In the same way, so many dual-citizen and ex-OCONUS military brats find that they don’t *quite* connect with their civilian peers like they “should.” We’re constantly moving, readjusting, and partially assimilating every 2-3 years. So I’ll cheer for South Korea. I’ll cheer for Belgium. For Kuwait. My soul is with every country I’ve ever lived in. But tonight was different, tonight my heart was cheering for The Netherlands. And I honor that. I can’t deny myself the connection I have to fundamental experiences.
Neither should you. OCONUS and dual-citizen military brats: how many times have you guilted yourself into believing that supporting 'all things America' was the only way? I’m here to tell you it’s not. You are an expat, a diplomat, and a cosmopolitan cocktail of foreign encounters-- you are one whose heart holds many countries. That's okay. Feel welcome to sing the songs, eat the foods, drink the drinks, and support the teams of all your countries. You’ll find me doing the same.
“Nederland, o Nederland,
Jij bent een kampioen!
Wij houden van Oranje,
om zijn daden en zijn doen.
Wij houden van Oranje,
t’ Is de ware kampioen!”