Xenophobe's® Guides: The Dutch, from different perspectives
Ever wondered how the Dutch see themselves? What about how others see them? Take a look.
Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.
How the Dutch see themselves
From the comfort of their immaculate sitting rooms the Dutch may acknowledge that they are the cleanest people on earth, are thrifty, have a canny head for business, an unparalleled facility with languages, an unequalled ability to get along with one another and an inimitable charm. But they will be far too modest, unless pushed, to admit publicly that all this makes them somewhat superior to other nations.
Above all, the Dutch pride themselves on their tolerance and flexibility: qualities which, in addition to carrying moral kudos, are good for business. The blanket of benevolence is not a woolly liberal one, but is woven from the sound stuff of commerce. It is quite thick enough to cover niggling inconsistencies, such as a secret mistrust of Moroccans, distaste at alien cooking smells from the apartment downstairs, or fury at foreigners who wobble inexpertly on bicycles, blocking the way for others.
How others see them
Most nations regard the Dutch as organized and efficient – rather like the Germans, but not as awesome. One can hardly be frightened, the reasoning goes, of a nation of rosy-cheeked farmers who live in windmills and have clogs at the bottom of the wardrobe, tulips in the garden and piles of round cheese in the larder.
But the Dutch also have a reputation for being opinionated, stubborn, and incorrigibly mean. The Belgians go even further, and complain that their neighbours are downright devious in business affairs. Generally, though, other nations see them as forthright to a fault. Dutch frankness completely overwhelms more reticent peoples such as the Japanese who find the Dutch the rudest and most arrogant of the Europeans they do business with – though they are impressed by Dutch acumen as traders. ‘Where a Dutchman has passed, not even the grass grows any more,’ say the Japanese.
The English survey the Dutch with guarded approval, as the closest any Continentals come to the sacrosanct state of being English. Such chumminess has not always prevailed. In the 17th century these two seafaring nations were at each other’s throats. An English pamphlet raged: ‘A Dutchman is a Lusty, Fat, Two-legged Cheeseworm. A Creature that is so addicted to eating Butter, Drinking Fat and Sliding [skating] that all the world knows him for a slippery fellow.’ The English language gained a whole new list of pejoratives, including ‘Dutch courage’ (booze-induced bravery), ‘Dutch comfort’ (‘things could be worse’) and ‘Dutch gold’ (fake). Nowadays there is an echo of this attitude in the tendency of some people (especially customs officers) to see the Dutch as a nation of drug-dazed pornographers. But on the whole the Dutch score top marks for cabling BBC television to every home in the land and speaking English without flinching or causing much of a flinch.
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: rkramer62
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