Make America Sane Again: How an American in Holland deals with watching and participating in a crazy election season

Watching the US presidential debates, one might think that a 21st century Genghis Kahn is amassing an army in Mexico ready to invade, every single email is a top secret document that will bring down the United States, and discussing actual policy is political suicide.

Posted by Michael Anderson at Nov 06, 2016 06:10 PM

In short, it has been a really embarrassing time to be an American citizen living abroad.

Our debates are more reality television than two intelligent (in an ideal world) experts debating policy. Our political rallies, both right and left, are often vain, and focused on political rhetoric and spewing catch phrases in attempt to whip the crowd into a nationalistic fervor.

When I was at home, I was of course annoyed by the ludicrousy of our politics. When I moved to Amsterdam though, all of this stood out even more. It just seems utterly ridiculous looking from the outside in.

What my fellow students think

I’ve spoken with friends from Germany, England, Portugal, and Holland about US elections. All are fascinated, sometimes in a slightly horrified manner, by US politics. To them, election cycles seem more focused on providing entertainment than providing information about candidates running for arguably the most powerful position in the world.

All of them are slightly alarmed because the US has such big impact on world diplomacy and the global economy. All have, at one point or another, said to me:

Vote! Please, please vote!

Saying I’ve heard “please, please vote” from a couple people would be the biggest understatement of the century. Voting has always been important to me. Back in the US, we have really low voter turnout, and among people my age it’s horrible.

Even though I’ve fallen in love with Amsterdam and would love to stay here after my graduation if possible, I still think it’s important to help represent the voice of younger people, especially because American elections have very global implications.

Voting while living in the Netherlands is not super easy but it’s definitely achievable. I had my ballot emailed to me by my state. After filling it out, I had a hassle free experience at a Dutch post office to mail my ballot back to my voting district. 

It gave me an excuse to wander down this beautiful street!

Amsterdam Post Office Street
If the post office in my home town was on this street, like it is in Amsterdam, I would go everyday!


If any Americans living abroad are reading this, don’t wait to mail your absentee ballot! Your vote counts too!

Now all I can do is sit back and wait with the rest of my country for the results on November 8th.

What I’ve learned from living abroad during this election season

Coming from a country where major politicians talk about building walls an uncomfortable amount, it was quite nice to see how much people in the Netherlands know about the US and our politics. Here in Holland people know not only the main figures, but even lesser known politicians.

As a foreign student, this Dutch (and european in general) knowledge has been good and bad. It's always easy to start a conversation, because people are always curious about our strange politics and it’s been a good way to learn about other countries and their political systems.

The bad side is I have to answer question about a certain blonde guy who loves walls and convince people that not all Americans are for his “brand” of politics. Everyone, EVERYONE, asks me about him.

People here are very informed, usually by fairly unbiased media sources. I think the US could learn a thing or two by watching how Europeans consume information related to elections. The coverage seems more policy related with less rhetoric.

Having said this, I know every country has some crazy people in their political systems, and many have very big problems. The difference is most of the time these characters don’t get global attention, and thankfully are usually marginal players in their domestic politics.

Also, I would like to say that the opinions in this article are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the Study in Holland website or anyone but me.

If any foreign students living in the Netherlands have taken part in the elections of their home countries while living in the Netherlands, I’d love to hear about your experience and how it differed from mine!

Posted by Michael Anderson at Nov 06, 2016 06:10 PM
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