The Netherlands is struggling with loutish behaviour

The Netherlands is struggling with loutish behaviour

25th October 2010, Comments 10 comments

Loutish behaviour and degeneration are commonplace in the Netherlands today, according to sociologist and philosopher Bas van Stokkom, who has written a book on the topic.

I had hardly taken out my microphone and recorder, before we saw a man urinating against a hedge on the square, next to his car. When he sees the radio equipment he quickly zips up his trousers. Dr Van Stokkom just laughs, especially as a policeman on motorbike comes around the corner just too late.

But isn’t urinating in public a form of loutish behaviour? Dr Van Stokkom:

“It is certainly a form of thoughtlessness, why should I care, what does it matter. It is definitely egoistic.”

Freedom mentality

Photo © branox The philosopher from Nijmegen’s Radboud University, is the author of the book What a lout! Irritation, quick-temperedness and social degeneration. In it he argues that the 1960s ‘freedom’ mentality has gone too far. Of course, it was necessary to break away from the oppressive social codes which dominated the 1950s.

But now this laissez-faire attitude has become outright permissiveness. “People no longer take the needs of others into account. They refuse to take responsibility for their behaviour. If you confront people, they just say: mind your own business.”


We go a little further and meet a born and bred Amsterdammer at a tram stop. He says he doesn’t see much loutishness, except when he is in certain neighbourhoods, where large groups of youths hang around in the street. He already has a solution to the problem: “There should be more police and we need more repressive measures.”

According to Dr Van Stokkom, police presence in certain areas could help combat degeneration and loutishness. But people could resolve many forms of loutishness themselves:

“Conflicts and nuisance are a part of everyday life, certainly in large cities. People should communicate more to prevent it. That is something we have to rediscover.”


Further along on the edge of Vondelpark is another example of degeneration. A cargo bike is locked to a lamppost. The bike, designed to carry small children, is full of rubbish, the wheels have been stolen.

It looks a mess, but is this really an example of loutishness? “Not in the sense of: I’ll get you,” says Mr Van Stokkom. It is a strange sight in this otherwise upmarket area. But it fits in with Van Stokkom’s theory that social degeneration has penetrated into all layers of society: “Apparently people in this neighbourhood don’t think the street belongs to anyone.”

In Vondelpark, we come across a homeless man. He tells us he is often confronted by loutishness. People tell him to go find a job. Dr Van Stokkom: “The homeless often have comments thrown at them. They are easy prey, but sometimes there is a lout among the homeless themselves.”

Photo © johnnyberg

Take others into account

Bas van Stokkom doesn’t want to be classified as a pessimist who thinks the Netherlands is going down the plughole:

“There are things that are good. There is very little loutishness at schools and in businesses. But in the public domain, in politics, in public opinion, on the internet, anywhere people can hide behind their anonymity, you see loutishness. Politicians and entertainment programmes on television often set a bad example.”

The philosopher does not have a ready solution to the problem: “That is very difficult. Take others into account. That is the starting point of being civilised. In some senses, we seem to have forgotten that.”

Marcel Decraene

Photo credits: sofamonkez; PMOS; branox ; johnnyberg

10 Comments To This Article

  • Steve posted:

    on 29th October 2010, 16:12:47 - Reply

    Yeah I don't know what hobos are supposed to do, or other people with no cash in their pocket, if they can't pee on the street. And men might be able to use those free public urinals, but how about women? Someone should prosecute for discrimination.
  • Cris posted:

    on 29th October 2010, 13:26:25 - Reply

    Steve with the peeing part I have to admit you do have a point. I was thinking about it while i was doing a bit mental math when in V
  • Steve posted:

    on 29th October 2010, 10:30:29 - Reply

    He just had a bad experience with one or 2 people and generalises to the whole 18 million. Typical brute mentality.
  • Dave posted:

    on 29th October 2010, 01:39:16 - Reply

    @nevercomeback2holland, sucker we do not want you back overhere
  • Steve posted:

    on 29th October 2010, 00:58:01 - Reply

    I was thinking today as I urinated in the bushes outside a petrol station on the A12 coming back from Luxembourg that it is fair enough doing it on the street or in the canals in Holland when they charge you up to a euro for the simple act of peeing in the rain.
    What is the world coming to when you have to pay for such a natural act?
    Holland is much more civilised than most countries as far as loutishness is concerned, but paying to use a toilet just encourages outside relief.

  • Cris posted:

    on 28th October 2010, 09:58:51 - Reply

    @Why - I smile :-). Do you? :D

    @nevercomingbacktoholland....maybe is better that you don't. I am no Dutch, neither American but from a country which although is in Europe doesn't have that much in common with it. I don't know where you come from but please check the definition of narrow and then look in the mirror because until the day you live in place more than a year you will not know its in's and out's.

    For a starter there are 17.5mill people living here. That makes it the most densly populated country in Europe. Do you know what it means that? means that if every other person would use the "i couldn't find a toilet excuse every time he/she pees on the street" this place would stink like a toilet. If you have a car there are enough petrol stations where you can pee....and on the street you have public toilets free of charge.....

    As for the bike, you do have a point. It could have been stollen anywhere and the municipality is responsible for cleaning it up. Even if there are 2 bikes per citizen in this country that is no excuse for the municipality. On the other hand people should do their "job" and just report it there.

    I didn't pay much attention to the author's attitude, that was not the point here but for some reason i tend to agree with him when i see persons my age literally destroying a bus stop, a tram, fences, spitting and throwing cans and bottles at authorities, when i see a group of no older than 8 y.o. attacking a homeless person, when girls spray a whole compartiment with a deo because they want to be fresh while the person next to them gets a bleeding nose from the fumes.

    Truth is rude people are everywhere. Holland or not, Europe or not and is up to us as people first of all to take a measure and that was their final point and despite all attitude and such they (the author and the writer) do have a point.

    Cesar, I agree with you. Older people are somehow nicer and smile more :-)
  • why posted:

    on 27th October 2010, 16:52:55 - Reply

    Does anyone smile in this country? They all look like the need some anti depressants.
  • nevercomingback2holland posted:

    on 27th October 2010, 16:50:18 - Reply

    My friend and I were on a holiday around Europe and spent a week in Holland and never have I encountered such a group of low class people. The women were the biggest drunks and snobs and they walked around like they were god and you wonder if the men are out beating them up, I mean they all acted strange. A real rude bunch.
  • NiaTrue posted:

    on 27th October 2010, 15:29:44 - Reply

    I'm not sure which is worse, the behaviors in question or the self-important, judgemental attitude of Van Stokkom and the "article" author. Seeing a disgarded/stolen bicycle on the street and making a generalization about the residents of an entire neighborhood based on that is just stupid and judgmental. Van Stokkom assumes the bicycle was left there by its owner. Perhaps it was stolen from another neighborhood and left there by the thief. And why not lay blame on the governmental authorities charged with keeping the city clean? Why aren't they doing their jobs? He makes no generalizations about them. And the manurin ating: How do they know he wasn't sick or unable to make it to a restroom? A real reporter would have confronted him and questioned him about his behavior instead of making assumptions about his motivation and the circumstances.

    This is just another example of Europeans "otherizing" peopkle that don't fit their narrow, outdated definition of what is appropriate.
  • Cesar posted:

    on 27th October 2010, 13:15:38 - Reply

    No kidding. Saying that Dutch people are rude, is an understatement. However, I noticed that this is indeed more frequent on young people. Older people at least say 'Good morning' and things like that...glad I left NL for good!