Xenophobe's® Guides: Sense of humour

Xenophobe's® Guides: Dutch sense of humour

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The Dutch delight in mishap and mayhem - feel free to join in!

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour. 

The Dutch sense of humour relishes mishap and mayhem, rather than verbal acrobatics. Someone falling through his chair on to the floor will get a bigger laugh than the bravest pun. Uncle Theo disappearing and coming back in Aunt Miep’s frock goes down a great deal better than attempts at witty banter around the dinner table. Running through all this knockabout jollity is a tough, cruel streak. A good dollop of suffering and humiliation will have a Dutch audience on its knees with mirth. Despite their disdain for most things German, the Dutch revel in Schadenfreude.

A whiff of naughtiness and the violation of the odd taboo are also common ingredients for a good laugh. If they weren’t so wary of being politically incorrect, the Dutch would adore Benny Hill. Many secretly do.

Xenophobe's® Guides: Sense of humour

The more refined brands of Dutch humour are dry, and delight in absurdity and in turning social values topsy turvy. At times this becomes a gentle national whimsy, of the sort that results in city councils havingtrams covered in cartoons and bright designs, but there are strains of this humour that can leave the foreigner nonplussed: ‘Good God!’ cries a nouveau riche, eyeing his hostess’s cocktail frock and bringing party conversation to a halt: ‘What a fine fabric. It would make a wonderful dress!’

Dutch people are too frank to dabble in irony. They will take what you say at face value and interpret your carefully honed ironies as error, insult or sarcasm. But they do share with the English an ability to laugh at themselves – ‘How was copper wire invented?’ ‘By two Dutchmen fighting over a stuiver [a copper 5c piece]’. 


For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Dutch. 



Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Dutch by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

Photo credit: || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL ||


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2 Comments To This Article

  • elvis posted:

    on 13th November 2014, 07:56:18 - Reply

    dutch sense of humor is about insulting and being rude. They call this sense of humor. If they insult an expat, and they all laugh, they say we are being funny. If you do the same, they no longer talk to you. [Edited by moderator]

  • carrico posted:

    on 4th July 2013, 13:40:59 - Reply

    Hah! I have finally had my interpretation of 'irony' delicately redirected. Like the ad at the bottom of this page suggesting I stay in some Parisian hotel? Hah!