I’ve recently been forced to discover the wonders of Uber. I was hesitant to use Uber as I’ve heard the horror stories from the US where the average Joe can drive a car and call it an Uber. As a lawyer, I had issues with the legality of using Uber as a means to avoid taxi regulations. Turns out that’s not an issue in the Netherlands. If you want to be an Uber driver here, you need to have a taxi license. That gave me the confidence to sign up for an Uber account. And thank goodness I did as I took a spectacular fall while running last weekend and ended up injuring my ankle. With the hubby flying in Turkey (or where ever he happened to be that day), I needed a taxi to take me to the hospital.
Now that I’m stumbling around on crutches, I’ve had to use Uber for a variety of trips in the past week. In addition to becoming a huge Uber fan, I’ve also unintentionally conducted a bit of a social experiment – on myself. It turns out Uber provides the name and a picture of the driver when you order the car. Each of my drivers have had foreign names. That doesn’t bother me. After all, I too have a foreign name, although I consider myself integrated into Dutch society. But it did give me a chance to observe a variety of ethnicities (and my response to them) while getting rides around The Hague.
What have I learned after having several not ethnic Dutch drivers? Once again, I’ve learned that no matter how much we try not to be prejudiced, we all carry with us preconceived ideas. For example, the driver who picked me up yesterday morning had the typical look of a devout Muslim complete with scraggly beard. I wasn’t excited with the idea of this man driving me. How wrong I was!
Although the man spoke with a bit of an accent, his Dutch was fluent. He was also helpful in getting me and my crutches in the car. Something I didn’t expect as I assumed he was a devout Muslim (because of his beard) and devout Muslims avoid touching women even in a non-sexual manner. Once we were situated in the taxi, we had an interesting discussion about integration and how learning the local language is paramount to such integration. It was a fascinating conversation with a virtual stranger who I had initially pegged as a person I wasn’t going to like just because of his name and his beard! *hangs head in shame*
The return journey yesterday was with another not ethnic Dutch man – a man of Turkish descent to be exact. He asked about my injury and I proceeded to fan girl over the awesome medical care in Holland. He agreed with me and went even further and said the Netherlands was well-organized and he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! Now, this may not sound shocking to those not living in the Netherlands, but there has been a lot of tension between the ethnic Dutch and those of Turkish descent. Many Dutch believe that those of Turkish descent have not integrated and are more Turkish than the Turks in Turkey! It was uplifting to find that this belief is not always true. *hands head even further in more shame*
So, what am I trying to say with my taxi tales? It’s simple. You may judge a book by its cover (I’m talking literally about a book here), but don’t judge a person by their appearance because appearances are deceiving. You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves. So here goes: I promise to try not to have any preconceived ideas about my Uber drivers with their foreign names and non-European looks. What about you?