Home About the Netherlands Culture & History Xenophobe’s® Guides: The Dutch approach to health and hygiene
Last update on November 14, 2019
Written by The Xenophobe's Guide to the Dutch

Expect a Dutch doctor to advise you to wait and see how things turn out, and ‘let nature take its course’; you’ll encounter a similar reluctance to drugs even when giving birth in the Netherlands.

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

Endless cups of coffee, frequent nibbles on biscuits and slices of fatty cheese can take their toll on arteries and veins. Yet, although heart disease is the Netherlands’ number one killer, the Dutch are a sturdy bunch.

A Dutch doctor’s invariable advice on a first visit is for the patient to wait and see how things turn out, to ‘Let nature take its course’ and allow the body to heal itself (seemingly incognisant of the fact that the general course of nature is towards death, and that a doctor’s job is to intervene).

Babies born at home

If their doctors believe in the inherently hardy constitutions of their patients, Dutch women take a similarly natural approach to childbirth. It’s not uncommon for babies to be born at home, and few Dutch mothers use any sort of anaesthetic or painkiller during the delivery. Even mothers who have their babies in hospital are packed off home after a day or two, sometimes within hours.

The fear of dentists

Teeth, on the other hand, are a subject of great concern. Dentists drill and fill, but each practice also has a ‘Mouth Hygienist’, whose task it is to carry on the time-honoured Dutch activities of scrubbing, scraping, buffing and polishing. Costs pile up, and the health insurance won’t always foot the bill. All this trouble and expense does not leave the Dutch with straight, glistening, American-style grins. As in their battle against the ocean, all the hard work simply serves to keep things functional and intact.

A speedy start to the day

Though they will spend hours cleaning their houses, the Dutch prefer to get their personal ablutions out of the way as speedily as possible. Showers win out over baths as they are quicker and cheaper to operate. Bathrooms are small. Sometimes there isn’t even room for a basin, forcing people to shave and clean their teeth over the kitchen sink. This is not a problem in a Dutch household, as there are never any dirty dishes lying around.

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