Here is a guide that will both answer nagging questions about the Dutch people and pique your interest in the multifaceted Nederlanders.
Frank, irreverent and funny, and covering topics from royalty to stamppot, The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Dutch is almost guaranteed to cure xenophobia.
“There is no one more likely to rouse the Dutch from their customary cheerfully benign state than a German. The Dutch see the Germans as arrogant, noisy, rigid and intolerant – everything in fact that the Dutch are not. They are wary of a nation that shows such a passion for living in forests. But usually they don’t even bother to try and explain. They simply do not like Germans. Telling a Dutch person that their language seems very similar to German is unlikely to benefit your relationship. Remarking that the two nations seem rather alike in many ways will probably get you thrown out of the house.”
“Literature is the one area where Dutch culture has remained an island, made inaccessible by a language incomprehensible to most other Europeans. Paradoxically, it is on this island that the Dutch cultural climate is at its healthiest. Everyone is writing a novel. Producers of television chat shows seem able to tap into an endless supply of writers.
Old stalwarts of the genre, such as Frederick Hermans, manage first edition print runs of over 500,000, and even newcomers sell books in the tens of thousands.”
“Living on top of each other as they do, the Dutch have discovered that the best way to get on is by making sure that everything is always gezellig. Life runs according to a subtle decorum. The Dutch don’t say ‘What will the neighbours think?’, but ‘Think of the neighbours!'”
The wagging finger
“The spirit of tolerance does constant battle with the ghost of Calvin for control of the Dutch psyche. Few Dutch people go to church any more, but they don’t need to. Inside every Hollander’s head is a little pulpit containing a preacher with a vermanende vinger, a wagging finger.”
Gestures and insults
“Verbally, the Dutch express their disgust by damning things on behalf of God, and they insult each other with liberal reference to genitalia and bodily functions. This abuse is sometimes hard to distinguish from affection. Scheetje (little fart) or drolletje (little turd) are both terms of tender endearment.”
Photo credit: ComùnicaTI