Koningsdag and Slovenian national pride

*Za slovensko verzijo tega teksta kliknite tukaj*

Slovenians don’t have it. National pride, that is. Before anyone attacks me, let me make it clear that I don’t mean it personally: there are individuals, many of us in fact, who are proud of where we come from. But there are also many people who would prefer to hide when someone asks them about their country; who turn their noses up at Slovenian and worship English as their God; who complain about the country – the bureaucracy, mistakes – and don’t see a single good thing. 

Why was I thinking about that today? The Netherlands celebrates King’s Day on 27. 4. and it is simultaneously the biggest national holiday and biggest party of the year. It’s impossible to miss, truly. Everyone goes out on the streets, dressed in orange* and with Dutch flags drawn on their cheeks. Even if you’re an international student you can’t avoid it, because it is expected of you to embrace tradition open-handed and, if nothing else, put an orange flower in your hair. The streets are crowded, open-air concerts are organized, and certain spots host lively flea markets full of knick-knacks, because this is the only day that people can sell their things without regulations. And all this despite the weather, which is sad and windy and on the brink of rain.

*Quick history fact: Orange is the Dutch colour because of the Oranje-Nassau House, which has been ruling in the Netherlands for centuries.

Orange shirts, orange hats (with space for cups), orange sunglasses, orange dresses …

Putting this in contrast to Slovenia is … sad. Not only would tourists not be able to tell, on the 25th of June, that it is our national holiday, even Slovenians don’t know when to celebrate our country. Most schoolchildren (or at least me) remembered the date because it usually came a day after classes were finished for the summer. The most we do is fly the Slovenian flag. In this, there are two scenarios:

a) We leave the flag to hang for the next half a year, because we forget about it

b) We wake up on our national day, see the flag of our neighbours in the middle of the day, then run to the attic, hang it real quick and feel remorse because … we forgot about it.

Where are the parties? Where’s our national pride? We boast with good wine, but we don’t even take advantage of the best opportunity to drink it in large quantities. Why don’t we dress in violet (colour of my town, don’t judge) or the colours of the Counts of Celje*?

*Don’t ask me how that would work, considering that the coat-of-arms of the Counts is half blue-with-yellow-stars and half white-with-red-lines. We’d be colourful, so what.

June even has perfect weather, not like the one in April. Open-air concerts where you don’t need your jacket! Being able to eat ice cream without freezing! Cold beer that actually cools you down, not change you into an ice cube! So many missed opportunities.


Clouds, wind, a bit of rain … Where else than in the Netherlands.

My point is this: today when I was looking at Dutch people (for the second year in a row) and how they happily celebrate their national holiday, it stung a bit. Slovenia deserves more national pride than what we currently show.

We have mountains, the sea, wonderful nature, caves, lakes … how many countries can boast with skiing and swimming at the same time?

We get free education and cheap food. Slovenia has an unparalleled system for student coupons.

Our language, Slovenian, is wonderful and has the dual, which offers us the power to express what happens to two people, rather than just one and many.

Free doctors, dentists, medicine.

World-class athletes and scientists.

Freedom of press (37th place on the ranking of 180 countries, source: Reporters without borders)

9th place on the gender equality ranking (9th out of 144 surveyed countries, source: World Economic Forum)

So what?

Nothing. I can write an entire campaign and there will still be Slovenians who will mumble when someone asks them where they are from. Don’t confuse pride with blindness. I am not naive and convinced we are living in a fairy-tale land. But I think that sometimes this gives us even more opportunities that we need to learn how to exploit. National pride with a healthy level of self-criticism is a formula that works for the Netherlands. Why couldn’t it work for us?

This year, when the 25th of June comes, I will go for a celebratory drink with my friends and be proud of Slovenia. Or I’ll remind my family to fly the flag on time. After all, we could have it on our balcony before our neighbours at least once …