Meet the Dutch: A look at Dutch stereotypes

22nd July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Meet the Dutch: A look at Dutch stereotypes

I read a survey recently that said only one percent of expats stay longer than ten years. I guess then for the first time in my life, I can tell my parents I’m in the top percentile. 


All that seniority should give me an insight or two into the Dutch — but only barely. Sometimes, I think they’re dead easy to figure out, but other times they are confounding in their ability to defy definition.

They fall into categories, to be sure, though even those are loosely defined. Imagine a room full of representatives from this little country. What would they look like? What are they all about?

I’ll tell you. But to be perfectly clear, this is a simplification of a very complex society, written with tongue firmly in cheek. Nevertheless, they say there is always a grain of truth in stereotypes. Decide for yourself.

The Ex-Student
This young man aspires to be director of ABN-AMRO, but is more likely to be an unemployed dot-commer. Wearing his signature expensive brown shoes, button-down shirt and Micky Mouse socks (to demonstrate “fun”), he can often be seen imbibing great quantities of beer in Amsterdam Zuid while subtly preening his hair. Don’t be fooled – that devil-may-coiffe is carefully constructed to give the correct impression of unrestrained bounty.

The Supermodel
Many Dutch women are convinced they’re beautiful, regardless of what the beholder thinks. This model of dubious pulchritude can often be spotted in her Anastasia outfit, bowling down anyone who gets in her way. Her trademark bicycle bell rings to warn you of her approach – better be fast, or you’ll get sideswiped by a dirty look. Often seen in KLM stewardess uniforms, their trademark expression is dat kan niet. Frequently the target of Ex-Students.

The Old Money Man
Calvinism has instilled in the Dutch a sense that it is gauche to flaunt it. So the wealthy have to settle for small, but by no means subtle, tokens of status. Note the model number removed from the Mercedes (as if we didn’t know it was a Mercedes), the coat-of-arms pinky ring or the carefully-frayed designer digs. Rarely seen in the Netherlands, because they’re usually in Switzerland or France where they can really show it off with the second wife. Not to be confused with the New Money Man.

The New Money Man
With Wesley Snipes as his role model, this guy can usually be found cruising Amsterdam's PC Hoofdstraat with an anorexic, tanned Barbie by his side. Fond of Porsches and BMW’s, this guy’s not ashamed to let you know he’s loaded, with money and who knows what else. Don’t ask him what he does for a living.

Sjonnie & Anita
Sjonnie is a pet name for Jan, worn by the guy who showed up three days late to fix your dishwasher, told you he’d be back but never returned. He and Anita like to take their trailer to the Dutch mountains to go “camping” with all their neighbours, where they eat Hagelslag and talk about how great it is to get away from it all. Fans of shag cigarettes and white pants, and in Anita’s case a good set of fake nails, these two met at the broodjesspeciaalzaak and dream of having a big, white boat.

The Socialist
Earns a decent living as part-time editor of an environmental magazine with revenues derived entirely from EU subsidies, and doesn’t tell anyone s/he pays only 200 per month for that “social housing” flat on the canal. The Socialist is an all-too-abundant leftover of the sixties and seventies, a slayer of cars, tourists and all things commercial. Except for their old crap, which they’ll sell you at inflated prices given the chance. Usually spotted wearing their trademark burlap sack (to carry groceries), these types are fond of city councils, and parking fines for people who work.

The Old Lady
Mevrouw de Bruin has seen it all. Better finish everything on your plate, or you’re likely to provoke a lecture on the hongerwinter, in 1944, when the Nazis took all the Dutch food and let them starve. She hasn’t forgiven them, nor does she forgive you for whatever you’ve done to incur her wrath. Stay clear of her shopping buggy as Mevrouw carefully counts out the coins from her purse to buy that senior’s tram ticket. Can’t trust the conductors to make the right change.

Kevin Lowe Canadian expatriate living in Amsterdam.

Subject: Dutch stereotypes

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