Sinterklaas is an Expat
03 december 2020 
10 min. read

Sinterklaas is an Expat

Sinterklaas is the best known Expat 

And you probably know this Sinterklaas is a national beloved figure (and Expat) here in the Netherlands. The Holy Man Sinterklaas is adored especially by kids under the age of 10. This bishop who is originally from Myra-Turkey (now that’s Diversity) is believed to live in Spain. He doesn’t speak Spanish, nor Turkish, but is fluent in Dutch. This old white-bearded man in a red robe, named Sint (Saint) travels every year on a steam-boat to the Netherlands. And on his annual arrival, somewhere mid November, with his support crew of Pieten (Peters), to carry all the presents.

This childrens’ hero, Sinterklaas, has a large book in which he records who has been good. Or bad. Parents tell their children: “Only children who behaved well over the past year will receive presents on December 5th on “Pakjes-avond’(present-night)”. Sinterklaas, the old and respected man, on a white horse, is always accompanied by his athletic support crew of Pieten.  They climb the Dutch roofs and throw all presents into the chimney. As you can see, a lot of details are quite similar to Santa, but in a different way.

Dutch Culture in celebrating Sinterklaas

Most presents from the Sint come with small poems. And in these poems you can find sometimes some sarcasm and irony. Which is allowed and even appreciated. There  might be even a lesson in this accompanying poem. And the Dutch just love to do that to one another, tease each other a little bit. Maybe this is even the most indirect way they communicate within families, their Sinterklaas is the channel!
After kids understand Sinterklaas is a myth, families change the tradition into a family night with ‘surprises’. They pick random names and for this specific name, surprises are crafted to symbolise something. The surprise is a throw-away thing, may times made out of cardboard boxes or other (free) materials. Sometimes a high quality object made with skill and effort. But also sometimes a real nasty one with sticky elements. The present is mostly hidden in the surprise and all the fun is around the present.

Diversity and it’s impact on Dutch traditions

Dutch Culture has had many influences throughout the last decades, and the discussion of Sinterklaas’s  Pieten crew has been one of Diversity in relation to slavery & discrimination.  This explains why we now have all sorts of people in Sinterklaas’ crew, their faces painted in all different colors of the rainbow.

Diversity is enriching

I remember visiting an American family in New York once; after having lived in Holland for about 4 years, they still celebrated Sinterklaas back home in the US. They just loved the tradition’, they said. And it’s a fun way to express deep and warm feelings, with some critical and edgy remarks here and there. This made Sinterklaas, the best known Expat in the Netherlands, a form of Diversity in this family.
So our question today: Do you celebrate Sinterklaas? Or Santa? Or both (maybe your kids are cheering now).
And how do you do it? Let us know how Diversity is integrating some Dutch traditions into your family life for you.

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About the author
Marian (Hilversum, the Netherlands) is an experienced Training Expert & L&D Manager since 2004. "My biggest passion is to develop people, getting the highest results on all professional levels". Her drive for Excellence has led to her own company Xellens (2004) which delivers Consultancy, Program Management and Training on several journeys that Lead to Customer Excellence. Her most recent customers vary from Unilever, Johnson Controls International, MSD, NIKE, KLM-Air France, Johnson & Johnson and several other Multinationals. Her areas of expertise focus on Communication with Impact, Negotiation & Selling Skills, Customer Experience, Servant & Courageous Leadership, Cultural Change, Diversity, Innovation and Personal Development. All these factors contribute to new ways and possibilities for her customers to stay sharp and in poleposition in their current competitive markets. She has been at the start of worlwide Academies for multinationals like Johnson & Johnson. Marian has high energy and passion for Learning & Development, which was part of her professional career of 26 years. During those years she was responsible for different Business Units (IT), Sales & Marketing or General Management leading positions, set-up of new Innovation oriented Project departments in several sectors like IT, Technical Services, Pharma and Industrial markets. She loves to get people to their next level, creating constructif growth in Companies based on Talent Development. Circulair learning as in Circular Building. She has done multiple projects where she constructed several Learning Academies and Talent Models that are still used and have proven their Effectiveness and Value. She is frequently asked as keynote speaker, mediator and presenter and recommend for her speed in connecting different aspects of issues, constructive thinking with Humor or Moderator during Challenging times. With a Masters in a technical area (Phonetics, Speech Automation), she finished Business School during her first job, and has currently two additional post Masters’ degrees on Customer Experience and Multi Channel Marketing. Also she is a certified MBTI Consultant, NLP Master Practicioner, DISC certified consultant, Ned Herrmann Whole Brain Dominance Instrument consultant, WorkPlaceBig 5 certified consultant, and an experienced Public Speaker, with several certifications (a.o. Black Belt Power Presenter). Recently (2020) she graduated from Robbins Madanes Training her Core100 BCCoach Program. Speaking several foreign languages fluently (Dutch, English, French and German), she is able to adapt easily to different cultures and work environments worldwide. Also Diversity is the spice of life and the foundation under any form of succes. She lived in different countries and is a passionate traveler-explorer. Privateley Marian contributes to the Soroptimists with Passion, doing all kind of world wide project to achieve equal rights on safety, development & education, and rights for Women. Walking, running, a healthy Lifestyle, Sustainablity are Big Interests for her; making the world and people better every day might sumarize it all best. Her son Koen (18) once described her: “ My mum just loves Learning & People so much, I just wished I had her during my High School. She makes Learning just a better Experience!”.
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