Opinion: Charming (Insights of visiting foreign journalists)

POSTED: 11/4/11 12:10 PM

When foreign journalists come to your country they usually offer some insights that do not easily occur to the journaille that has been living here for a longer period of time. It’s a bit like being married to a beautiful woman: you get used to her, until someone points out to you how beautiful she is (in a worst case scenario, you won’t be informed at all, but you find out when it’s too late that someone has charmed your spouse.
The media train that follows the royal visit to the Caribbean is not especially politically interested. That is nice because they focus on other aspect of the life in our island community. One of the things that did not escape the Dutch journalists was the prevailing language in St. Maarten.
Standing in front of the courthouse with a reporter for the NOS we got the opportunity to shed some light on this phenomenon. We explained that, yes, people mostly speak English, but that for instance court rulings and legislation are all written in Dutch.
The reporter looked around and pointed to two street-name signs. We are standing here looking at the Hendrikstraat and the Wilhelminastraat, he said.
We answered that the main shopping street that runs past these two side streets would be called the Voorstraat in the Netherlands. But in St. Maarten we have named it Front Street, the way we have mentioned the Achterstraat Back Street.
The reporter found this rather charming and now that we think about it, so do we. This blend of languages is something we also encounter on the French side where some street names are even half French and half English.
The reporter then walked down Front Street with us. The street was crowded with cruise tourists. Nevertheless, the reporter asked if we could find anyone there who spoke Dutch.
Ah, we said, discovering another charming aspect of our community. The language they speak is not written on people’s forehead. But you know what? We are often surprised to discover that someone of whom we least expect it, appears to master the Dutch language.
We also discussed the miracle repairs that materialized in the period leading up to the queen’s visit. The government administration building got a fresh lick of paint, even the weeds were removed from in between the paving bricks around the Clem Labega parking lot, and potholes were repaired at breakneck speed. The Dutch reporter understood this without missing a beat: the same thing happens when the Queen visits a place like Dalfsen in the Netherlands, he said.
Later yesterday, in the press bus, we heard quite some complaints from local photographers about their Dutch brethren, and how these picture animals had a tendency to push the locals out of the way.
The first thought that came to mind was, now you understand why some people leave that country. But afterwards another idea crept up: are local photographers not pushy enough? It’s a tough world out there and if you want something you have to fight for it – even if the fight is about the best spot to take a picture of princess Maxima.

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