'Yes you did!' - what the expats think
Expatica reports on how people abroad - in and around Amsterdam - reacted to Obama's election to the US presidency.
While living in a far-away time zone, Amsterdammers still had a few options for celebrating the 2008 US Presidential election. Democrats Abroad Netherlands hosted an all-night party at Boom Chicago on 4 November. American flags decorated tables and streamers hung along the walls while Americans drank beer and sang along to the National Anthem.
The crowd cheered hourly as CNN announced that Obama was likely the winner in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, New Hampshire and Virginia. By the time the states of Oregon, California, Idaho, and Arizona closed their polls at 5h00, Barack Obama was projected as the 44th US president. Party goers drank champagne in honour of the change.
Photo left: The night is young at AABC at the Hilton Hotel Amsterdam © Matt Shaw
The Amsterdam American Business Club also hosted an all-night event, complete with large-screen news coverage and entertainment. The bipartisan gathering provided American foods such as hot dogs, pizza and doughnuts, and an American-style breakfast in the morning. It seemed difficult for party goers, packed into the warm Hilton Amsterdam event room, to contain their anticipation and focus on panel discussions and planned entertainment. Most preferred to eat, chat and watch election results.
By 7am only a few dedicated participants remained, glued to the large screen projecting Obama’s acceptance speech. American, Dutch and international people said they were overjoyed at the results.
Irene Achiens, originally from Kenya, said that she expects Obama to bring change to the US and the world. “I hope he stays in power and that he delivers what he has preached for the last year. I hope the world will give him a chance,” she said.
Unsurprisingly, Robert Bragar, Chair of Democrats Abroad Netherlands, was also very happy on Wednesday morning. “We are overjoyed that the terrible period is over,” he said. “We want to be proud of being Americans abroad again.”
Photo right: Kevin Shoeshine proudly displays the American flag at the AABC event © Danielle Latman
Bragar also noted that Democrats Abroad witnessed many difficulties with absentee ballots during their voting registration drives. Roberta Enschede, former Chair of Democrats Abroad, was involved with voter registration this year. She said that certain states and counties did not handle absentee ballots in a timely or appropriate manner. “Some counties will return ballots if you don’t live there,” she said, “especially in rural areas where they’re not used to people living overseas.”
Not everyone in the Netherlands is thrilled at the Obama victory. Hermine Proctor, Secretary of the fledgling Republicans Abroad Netherlands, says that Obama will need strength to manage the many challenges America is experiencing now, in particular the wars and the failing economy. Proctor questions his limited experience and massive campaign spending, but admits, “Any party that’s been in power for eight years will have problems. It’s time for the Republican party to be shaken up a bit.”
Photo above: Yonina, an American living in Amsterdam, celebrates Obama's victory at the Hilton Hotel © Danielle Latman
Comedian, singer and musician Ken Parsons sees another side. "I am panicking as George Bush jokes were half my routine....comedians are Obama's first casualty!"
Proctor and Parsons seemed to be in the minority Wednesday morning in Amsterdam. The American Book Center on Spui painted a huge smiley face on their front window, along with a heart and Obama’s campaign slogan, “Yes We Can!!!” Stacks of books by and about Barack Obama filled the shop window. Book buyer and seller Pleun Schauemaker (33) said that this was the first time the bookstore ever celebrated a candidate. “We think it’s important to be open to everyone, we sell McCain and Obama books,” she said. “But this election we were just so overjoyed. Everyone in Europe is desperate for a change.”
Other American-cantered stores were affected by the election. Eef Voskuilen, owner of the US and British grocery Eichholtz Delicatessan in Amsterdam, noticed more American customers in his store this week due to both Halloween and election night. “If something big happens in the US, good or bad, people like to buy American products. They want to feel more at home here,” he said. Voskuilen said that the most popular products this week were party foods such as cake and brownie mixes, candy, marshmallows, and canned pumpkin for baking.
Doughnuts were a popular American food served at the AABC Election Night party © Matt Shaw
Beyond candy and smiley faces, many Amsterdammers expressed optimism and relief at the outcome. Steve Nesterovski, a Dutch resident originally from Macedonia, was pleased to learn, after working late at night, that Obama won. “Hopefully we’ll get some improvement,” he said. He noted that anti-Americanism increased since the Iraq War, and hoped it would lighten after the results. “Americans have power, they should do something good with it,” he said.
5 November 2008
Reporting for Expatica by Danielle Latman and Susan Tracy