People tend to talk about culture and countries as a one to one proposition, but anyone who takes a moment to think about it will realize that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Think of the differences between Northern and Southern culture in the US (separated by a huge distances as well as distinctive histories). Or even the linguistic differences between Boston and New York (which are only a few hours apart). It’s easy to see the cultural variations within your own country, but outside of that? It’s a harder task.
One of the things I’ve been told by Dutch people is that Maastricht (and Limburg in general) is extremely different from the rest of the Netherlands. In fact, they say, people living here only think of themselves as “really” part of the rest of the country during major holidays (Queen’s Day) or sporting events (World Cup). The rest of the time they regard themselves as separate.
Massive generalizations aside, I find this thought intriguing, and not just because I come from a very nationalist country (Americans are suppose to be Americans first). I can recognize distinctions on a surface level, such as preferred foods and architecture, but as an outsider it is harder to understand what makes Limburg, Limburg or Maastricht, Maastricht on more of a core identity level.
So this is a call out to anyone who might have thoughts on the subject. Can you explain to me what aspects makes Limburg so different from what the rest of the world sees as “Holland” or “The Netherlands”? If windmills and wooden shoes are emblematic (or stereotypical) of Holland, what symbolizes Limburg? Maastricht? One of the other towns in the region?
And for bonus points, what makes this region in the Netherlands different from Flemish Belgium just over the border? I’m told that the distinction is so great that you can tell the moment you cross the border, but as an expat it’s hard to see.
Update: Read the response post, Typically Limburgish.
I’ll be compiling the best responses and explanations in a future post. Thank you for helping out this ignorant, but curious expat.