How the world sees me
An Interview with Richard Nagel. Topic: “How the world sees me.” We met Richard on a wintery Saturday morning at his new work in Amsterdam. Surrounded by books, we talked about how the world sees him, the importance of adventure and why needing to explain yourself too much can be very tiring. A very open and often hilarious interview with a modern book nerd.
How do you think others perceive you and your personality?
I get the impression that people often perceive me as being grumpy at first. When I’m walking down the street or during lectures at uni in earlier days I mostly felt shy but my face would come across grumpy. In fact, I do often feel grumpy, which transmitted. Therefore I wasn’t very easy to approach. So often, at uni or in a new job, I had to make the first step when I wanted to make friends. People really thought I was very unfriendly.
What does it do to you when people tell you that you come across as grumpy and unapproachable?
People did say that to me. Sometimes friends told me things like: “At first when you were in my class, I thought ‘this guy must be super mean and unfriendly’.” And I can imagine that. That’s why sometimes I go through phases in which I will try and be more open and talk to every person whom I meet in the metro to not stay true to that image of mine.
Would you say about yourself that you are an interested person?
Oh yes. Yes. I just find the first step terrible. If people will ask me something first, that’s really no problem. But the worst that I can imagine is sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s and having to talk about random things like the weather for instance. I can never make that seem very natural. If I really know: “She studies French and I know her from my studies”, I can ask “How is it going with your studies?”. But if it’s really just out of the blue and I have to say things like: “Hey, you got nice glasses on!”…
Do people say things about you that you really don’t agree with?
Maybe a bit paradox but many friends see me as a cuddly bear and I hate cuddling (everybody laughing). You know those girlfriends that can literally lean on me for hours – I really don’t like that. “Such a cuddly bear!” they’d say. Absolutely not. Get off of me! This is the thing that I really don’t see as a part of myself even though I hear it very frequently.
Do you think that being perceived as sweet and kind or as you say a cuddly bear has to do with being gay?
Yes. Maybe actually. I never thought about it like that but maybe that’s a good explanation. Referring to the job world, I often worked in very hierarchical and old-fashioned environments. There were men and women. Until people knew that I was gay or had a boyfriend, I was just a guy and therefore placed on the side of the men and talks had no content mostly. Then, after knowing, you become some sort of in-between person. Not completely on the side of women but tendentially.
Don’t you find that offensive?
Yes, actually. I also find annoying that people often think that they have the right to know. I often experienced that in the work field. They’d start asking me those vague questions like “Where do you like to go out?” and “Do you have housemates?”. Do you actually know if I have a girlfriend or a boyfriend? Do you want to know if I’m gay? Just ask. Then I can still see whether I want to answer your question but that beating around the bush…And often, if I’ll then tell that I have a boyfriend, I can literally see the “Check, check, check…I knew it!” happening! What I find offensive about that is that it is a fact which I am somehow expected to share with colleagues or people who I just met. That it’s an important piece of information about me.
Is it important for people to know?
No. I don’t think it is. Not that I want to hide it or anything. I’d not pretend like I have a girlfriend or like I’m not in a relationship at all. If we happen to talk about the issue, I’d tell you of course. But there is somehow an expectation that I must share this information. However, for me, it’s not one of the first things I think of sharing when I work with new colleagues.
Are you afraid that you will be taken less seriously after people know?
Yes. Yes, not that I am afraid of concrete consequences. I don’t think people will right away say: “Hey, let’s go do some sales shopping at Shoebaloe* because you love that!” (everybody laughing again). I am not afraid necessarily, however, I find the issue very tiring.
*High-end shoe store in Amsterdam
In our pre-talk, you said that you’d choose adventure over stability. But you seem to live a very settled life as far as we can guess.
No, seriously. How do you search adventure?
It’s true. Many people say that to me. Even my own parents tell me: “You’re only 26. Why are you already all settled?” I started doing what I was really interested in at quite a young age. I moved out, started to live on my own, went abroad a few times. So I think that it’s more what I make of it. If tomorrow I suddenly feel like selling my house and moving to Antwerp or Paris, I’d just do it I think. I don’t feel like stability forces me to stay stuck anywhere.
Would you say that adventure is an attitude?
Yes. Yes. In the past, I used to be afraid of things that I didn’t know. But when I pushed and forced myself to get over it, I realized that I experience things which are much nicer. So in my case, it’s a learned attitude. Back then, it would have been my biggest nightmare to move to Paris without knowing anyone. But if you take those steps regardless of the difficulties, you have something to be proud of. And of course I am very stable with my boyfriend but he’s adventurous as well. So we’d just go to Paris together.
What do you take out of such an adventure?
I think I feel more individual then and responsible for myself. I come from a small town in Brabant. It can be very easy to just stay there because things just happen automatically if you let them. There you simply get a husband or a wife, you just get kids and you just will have a house. I think that I decided at quite a young age that this is not what I want for my life. That’s why I started forcing myself. Nobody comes to pick you out of your village to randomly place you in Amsterdam to study French literature. You have to do it yourself.
Would you say that books are something adventurous?
Yes. For me, they are the biggest adventure. I know that many people find that super boring. I lately had a fight about this with a guy on a party. He asked: “You have to travel much more!”. I answered: “I prefer to read a lot of books than traveling a lot.” “No, that’s not true. That’s not real adventure!” If I had no books, half of what I think is adventurous would disappear.
Place of Birth: Weert, Netherlands
Parents: Mother Mary (used to paint houses, now works at a Dutch city hall), father Emile (works in the catering business)
Siblings: Fenna (24, actress and singer)
Study/Profession: Master in French literature, now officially working as a book specialist
Relationship status: Married since today (12.12.2017)
Romantic or realistic? Romantic. Feels forced to be realistic at times but is naturally romantic.
How many Facebook friends do you have? Around 400
Adventure or Stability? Adventure
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
My favorite spot in Amsterdam: Café de Zwart
If I were a bitterbal, I’d be filled with… cheese
Sitting on a mangotree feels like… a vacation