The Dutch sense of humor can seem direct, sometimes even crass, to a newcomer. What makes people laugh in the Netherlands?
While doing my weekend shopping in the Oudegracht in Utrecht, I came across this garish stall peddling different sorts of World Cup paraphernalia. The loud “Hup Holland” texts scribbled on the kitschy items were not what caught my attention. What did was the controversial orange plastic Nazi helmets, which I believe are an attempt by the Dutch to have a giggle about the Germans, the hosts of the competition.
Since the helmets market introduction last January, the colourful head accessory enjoyed immense media attention, both locally and internationally, and incited a much needed squabble within the football world — should or should not fans be allowed to wear such helmet during the games?
Considering the football history between Holland and Germany, I am not surprised about this fuss at all. So much has been said and done; the helmet plainly cements the acrimonious football saga between both countries, although in a different light – as a joke.
A week from now begins the World Cup in Germany and I am quite curious how far and hard the Dutch will thrust their sense of humour down the throats of the Germans. Are we then going to witness sacrilege; a sea of orange Nazi helmets flooding the German football stadiums?
One thing I have learned; being politically correct doesn’t mean anything in the Flatlands.
I am quite aware that the typical Dutch attempt at humour notoriously borders on insult, not only at the expense of others but even towards themselves. Making a fool of themselves is supposed to be funny.
When I first listened to Hans Teeuwen, a famous Dutch stand-up comedian, his exaggerated pumping adrenalin-rush sexual monologues left me in a bemused state. One of his exceptionally popular stage parodies was about women. In general, he said, all women are “kuthoeren” (cunt whores). I felt, in the most literal sense, like I was in a tug-of-war; part of me wanted to laugh out loud while the other part was totally appalled.
Hilarious, definitely, but the insults and sexually explicit rant were way below the belt.
To add abnormality to the insult, the reaction of our Dutch women friends was a huge surprise; they laughed their hearts out and didn’t feel put out at all.
Well, well, the aggressive and provocative Dutch sense of humour does give an accurate insight into Dutch culture and the self image of its people.
There is also a mine of practical jokes that can be found on Dutch TV.
A TV ad’s goal is to sell the concept of “buy me”. However, the Dutch way of exercising the “buy me” concept, is by making a fool of the product, the service and in most cases, the actors involved in the advertisement. Satirical to the core; reverse psychology is an inducement tool for the Dutch.
I have my own little theory and it goes like this…
The Dutch are not the most gifted communicators; they do not possess the apt propriety, finesse and linguistic prudence. They do not really care much about it anyway. To the foreign eye and unknown to them, their direct and nonchalant ways are perceived as brutal rudeness, case. A case in point was the outrageous behaviour of Paul de Leeuw during the Eurovision Song Festival. It is no wonder that insults, commonly materialising in the form of humour to stress a point, has become a Dutch euphemism in action.
Lesson: Don’t take Dutch humour seriously
If a Dutch person pulls your leg, don’t be a crybaby and a spoilsport. Learn to laugh and pull the person’s leg in return, then afterwards, get over it. You wouldn’t really want to celebrate a pity party all day as your Dutch counterpart has probably moved on, without a thought about you.