How they see themselves & how others see them

Xenophobe's® Guides: The Dutch, from different perspectives

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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

Xenophobe's® Guides: How they see themselves & how others see themMost 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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3 Comments To This Article

  • GntherBauer

    on 22nd December 2012, 08:17:04 - Reply

    The Dutch are always right but seldom relevant
  • Richard posted:

    on 20th December 2012, 04:25:12 - Reply

    As a Dutch living in the States I think I can answer that question. The Dutch are the same when they're on their own turf. Maybe a little more shallow and withholding at first but that would be because we would think that you visit us and not the other way around. The socialistic culture definitely helps in us evolving faster than maybe in less socialistic cultures, but unfortunately we are also our own worst enemy with our hard-headed characters. Social security is one thing why we get along so well. Everybody watches each other whether you like it or not, no matter how big the city might be. That is definitely what defines us from others. Sometimes a pain, sometimes an advantage.
  • Dennis posted:

    on 17th December 2012, 19:20:43 - Reply

    Bizarrely the nicest Dutch seem to be those who live outside the Netherlands. They are warm, welcoming, empathetic, charitable, even-handed, humble, open-minded and altruistic. Are the Dutch like this at home? Sometimes, but perhaps the fact that they are all watching each other to ensure that the rules are always obeyed mitigates against displays of goodwill and reciprocity.