Saving money is a favourite Dutch pastime, but flash your worldly goods and you’ll be labelled as ostentatious.
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The pursuit of wealth
The pursuit of wealth is a favourite Dutch pastime, and accumulating money is a virtue. Spending it is a vice. The Dutch word schuld means both ‘debt’ and ‘guilt’. A healthy bank balance may be proof that you are shouldering your earthly burden of hard work, but it’s a private assurance.
Just as discussing one’s salary is frowned upon, the Dutch consider a flashy display of worldly goods as extreme bad taste. When one national magazine published a list of the Netherlands’ top ten richest people, they had to follow it the next week with an apology to one of the millionaires for placing him too high on the list.
No fans of showiness
Wariness of showy excess extends to many levels. A leading Dutch executive was quoted as saying that he found the catering in Business Class of the national airline disagreeably over-the-top. He would be quite satisfied with a cheese roll and a glass of buttermilk.
This is not to say that the Dutch deny themselves material comfort. It is perfectly acceptable to surround yourself with degelijke spullen – good, sound objects that work efficiently. They may even be stylish, but never ostentatious. A modest Mercedes might pass muster; a Rolls Royce would raise a disapproving eyebrow. Even the grandest Dutch homes present a narrow, low-key façade to the street, but, in private behind it, stretch out into spacious rooms and secluded gardens.