My first birthday in Holland. The Dutch love celebrating birthdays. Something that most Americans don’t understand is how obsessive Dutch people are at inquiring about ones age. You are allowed to ask age during interviews and it is completely normal for everyone in a room to ask you at once how old you are. In two different interviews they felt it necessary to ask my age as well as tell me they were 52. The best part is once you’ve disclosed your age there seems to be very little judgement. Friends just want to know for information purposes. It’s like a reassuring detail for them to file away age info. I started a new job 3 weeks ago. Of course the age question came up followed by birthdate. All eyes lit up when they realized it was only 3 weeks away. I didn’t understand the glee until the beginning of my birthday week. There was talk about birthday cake. How excited they were for cake and finally ‘Jenna don’t forget to bring cake!!’ I explained that in America the birthday girl doesn’t have to bring her own cake to the party. Their response ‘Jenna, you’re now in Holland…remember to buy cake!!’ The day of my birthday people couldn’t wait to shout ‘Congratulations!’ I didn’t know how to respond. I thought there was some English translation error when the first girl gave me a congrats on my birthday. I thought a Congratulations for making it to 29? Odd, I didn’t do much except stay alive another year. But then everyone started saying congratulations (not happy birthday) so I responded with a thank ya very much!!! My coworkers seemed more excited about my birthday than I did. They couldn’t stop smiling and asking me about gifts and plans. At the end of the day I whipped out the American cheesecake (which I bought at the store…shameful) and served up my birthday cake while all my colleagues surrounded me, presented me with a gift, and sang a slightly Dutch accented English rendition of happy birthday. I was more than happy to supply the cake.
Sam also received ‘congratulations’ on it being MY birthday. Dutch tradition requires that husbands and parents of the birthday recipient receive heartfelt congratulations as well.