Generational Reflections

Lately I’ve been noticing I’m getting older. Just yesterday Daan asked me: how long ago do you think 1997 was? It felt like it has been three years, while in fact it’s been twelve! My generation is growing up and it’s time for some generational reflections. We’ve been labelled generation Y, a generation that has been analysed and defined. Yet the latest research by the UN about child well-being might throw these definitions out of balance.

One of the most interesting characteristics of generation Y is the fact that we want our work to be meaningful. I can absolutely identify with this. We want to have a job that we enjoy, yet also one that doesn’t take over our lives. Living is more important than working. We’re extremely flexible and can easily deal with change. I wonder if our attitude will lead to some generation gaps. For instance, we view everyone as equal. We don’t make a difference between older and younger people and we don’t assume that older people know better. Everyone starts of with the same amount of respect and authority. This was very different for previous generations. Also generation Y are sometimes viewed as trophy kids. We’re supposed to be very competitive and we’ve been raised with the idea that we can accomplish anything. The research conducted by the UN supports this statement in some ways and contradicts it when it comes to the Dutch generation Y, whom I belong to.

According to this article Dutch children are the most fortunate children in Europe and the Netherlands has a child-centred society. I recognise a lot of the statements. For instance, we’ve been raised very liberal. In theory, Dutch kids can do anything without getting in trouble and they don’t even have to hide it from their parents. This causes a very distinct sense of self from an early age. We don’t have to do anything to rebel against our parents, since we’re allowed to do so much. For instance, we can use (soft) drugs if we wanted, this causes a lot of kids to say no to drugs, since it’s not exciting anymore. It has been taken out of a forbidden zone and it has been made normal, which makes it boring and uninteresting. If you’ve got teachers who smoke a joint during recess (like I had), you don’t think it’s cool to do drugs!

This also offers a lot of room for self expression. Kids are motivated to express themselves through many different ways, find out what their passions are and are left free to make a lot of their own decisions. In many ways this causes kids to rule families. Parents in the Netherlands put their kids first and that has been my experience as well. Although I come from a divorced family, my parents have always collaborated to raise us (me and my brother) in the best possible way. According to the UN’s research a lot of Dutch moms stay at home to raise their kids, but during my childhood I noticed that most moms work, even if it’s part-time. My mom went through university when I was tiny and has had a fulltime job since I was about five years old. My grandparents helped her out a lot and took care of me and my brother after school. This wasn’t exceptional, there were loads of kids with divorced parents who’s moms were working. Yet in the Netherlands people don’t seem to mind exceptional situation, as long as you’re cool with it and don’t bother anyone else with your behaviour, it’s basically allowed.

Compared to other countries, Dutch kids can be considered quite cheeky. From an early age we’ve learned to express ourselves and be heard. I’ve found that German kids, for example, are overly shy and English kids seem to be overly polite. This way, every country really has their own generation Y to deal with. The small cultural differences between countries causes children to be raised differently and though some of the characteristics described above do tend to show in everyone of generation Y, we’re all different. Maybe that’s the biggest and most important feature of generation Y: we’re all quirky little individuals.

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