The book Beneden de zeespiegel (literally translated: Underneath the sea level) tells us the story of Steven Stupp. He moved to the Netherlands immediately after finishing University in the US, and in this book he tells us about the cultural shock which he experienced. He also tells us about what he got to know about this small country and her inhabitants.
Every chapter in the book tackles a new side of his findings, multiple times supported by one or more of his experiences. The story tells us about how he got accustomed to his new life overseas. He both criticizes and admires the Dutch community. Also, he compares the US and the Netherlands a lot, concluding that both countries could learn from one another.
Being Dutch myself, I find it striking how accurate his description of the Dutch people is. Although I sometimes don't like to admit it, especially when he criticizes our society (I consider myself to be somewhat of a patriot from time to time), I think it's amazing that this man, who was born and raised on an entirely different continent and who had to get accustomed to everyday life, has found his way into the Dutch system, and has actually understood it, even the strange habits that sometimes come with living in the Netherlands.
It's interesting to read how someone struggles to adjust himself to a community you know so well (or like to think you know well), and how things you find to be very normal, are so unusual for people like the author of this book. He takes the time to really figure out everything there is behind Dutch culture and he explains everything really well, even seemingly unimportant things, like the definition of the word "gezellig" which apparently doesn't really exist in the USA (there are multiple English synonyms, none of which mean exactly the same).
This book has actually taught me a few things about my own country, although I thought I already knew everything about it. Steven Stupp's approach has more than once brought a smile on my face, and his life experiences are definitely worth reading, not only for people who think of moving to the Netherlands, but also for anyone who has ever experienced a culture shock, is about to experience one, or just for someone who has time on their hands and who likes a fun read.
Book review by Albert Kalkman. Albert is a 16-year old student, born and raised in The Hague. On summer break, he decided to volunteer for the Expatriate Archive Centre for 3 days.