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Dutch Culture

Dutch Culture [Going Dutch]

The word 'GOING DUTCH' must give you some hint that the Netherlands does have her own culture. Though describing others culture is not an easy task, we would like to highlight some tipical things about Dutch culture. We start from a simple question: How to distinguish a Dutch from others?

If you're Dutch...

You're familiar with Sesamstraat, Big Brother, Johnnie en Rijk, Youp van het Hek, Star Trek, Derrick, de Fabeltjeskrant, Baywatch, Goede tijden slechte tijden, Magnum P.I., Married with Children, and Tatort. In general, you watch Dutch soaps and sitcoms, German crime series, and all kinds of English and American series.
You know how soccer is played. Of coarse, you call this sport football. If you're male, you can argue intricate points about its rules. You've heard of American football but don't know how it works. The only sport that can equally arouse your passion is speed skating.
You consider four weeks of vacation a year normal, and in many professions count on a 36-hour working week.
Most likely you are not religious, or religious in a very loose way. There are people in your country who have very strict religions. You consider this either quaint or somewhat scary. Except for some Jehovah's witnesses or Mormons knocking on your door, nobody will ask you whether you believe in Heaven.
You think of McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. as cheap food.
You own a telephone and a TV. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom. You do your laundry in a machine. You don't kill your own food. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs.

Got herring?

You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food. Raw herring is a well-liked delicacy, though. <
New houses have bathrooms with a toilet, old houses have separate toilets and bathrooms. A bathtub is not uncommon, but certainly not standard.
Most utilities are in the process of changing from state-run or monopolies to privately run. While you welcome lower prices for phone calls, ou are suspicious whether private companies really look out for their customers.
You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will work. Getting a new phone is routine. The train system is good, although trains may be late. Trains are about as fast as cars. There are inland flights, but the chance you've ever used one is close to zero. If you are between the ages of four and eighty, you own at least one bicycle and use it, too.
You need to be 18 to get a drivers license. You have to take paid lessons and cannot practice on your own. This makes getting a drivers license very expensive.

Where the Brits go wrong

You find a multi-party system natural, and can hardly imagine another fair way to run a country. You expect your country to be ruled by a coalition of two or three major parties, not by a single party. It would scare you to give one point of view so much power. You think consensus is more important in politics than rhetoric. You expect politicians to be inefficient at times, and sometimes stupid, but you don't expect them to get into politics for self-enrichment. (A minister recently resigned because of faulty declarations made back when he was a city mayor.) You find two-party systems (like the UK's or the USA's) unfair and restricting.
You see no contradiction in having both a democratic government and a queen who is head of state.
Socialism is OK, if not taken to extremes. Undiluted capitalism scares you-- you expect the government to protect you from corporate greed.
Communists are 1) students in the sixties who wanted to change the world; 2) some old farmers in the north of your country who still vote for the minuscule communist party; 3) tough guys who did their patriotic duty against the Germans during the occupation.
Race is a complicated issue. Where people come from is about as important as their skin color. You consider people with Indonesian ancestors Dutch.
You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices and work together. You also think that the Dutch people are better at this than other people. You think EU, NATO, and the United Nations are a Good Thing. Sure, there might be some corruption and inefficiency involved, especially in the EU, but how are international problems ever going to be solved if nations don't work together?
You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court.

Why foreigners will never learn Dutch

You speak English, at least somewhat. After all, you are exposed to at least two hours of it daily if you listen to pop songs, TV and movies. You also know enough German to get by, and watch German television. If anybody starts talking in broken or accented Dutch to you, you will reply in English. Only the most determined English-speaking foreigner has a change of learning Dutch in your country.

You take it on faith that nobody abroad (except in Belgium) speaks your language, and are amazed if anybody has bothered to learn it.

An income tax rate of 60% is high, but you think that people who earn a lot of money should pay high taxes. You don't believe in a trickle-down effect. School is free through high school (at least, it's an option, even if you went to private school); university isn't. You expect the state to help you pay for university, if your parents can't.

University is (normally, and excluding graduate study) five years long.

Mustard comes in jars or glasses that can be reused as drinking glasses. Shaving cream comes in cans. Milk comes in cardboard boxes or (rarely) bottles.

The date comes first: 5/5/45. (And you know what happened on that date.)

The decimal point is a comma. Certainly not a dot.

A billion is a million times a million. A thousand times a million is a miljard.

Still sore about the bikes

World War II was the biggest thing that happened to your country in the 20th century. Your poor, neutral country was quickly overrun by the Nazis, who behaved badly, deported the Jews and stole all the bicycles. It was a time when the country came together and did what was right, except for some collaborators who are still shunned. You were liberated by the Canadians. The war showed that neutrality didn't work, so now you depend on NATO for your security. Anybody born before 1940 may be asked whether he or she was 'right' or 'wrong' during the occupation. If you were 'wrong' (i.e. a Nazi collaborator), chances for a political career are zero.

You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. You marry at city hall, with a nice ceremony and speech from the civil servant who marries you. After that, you may also have a church wedding, but this has no legal status. You have two to four witnesses at your wedding-- friends or siblings. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time, and vice versa. Homosexual weddings are still forbidden, but homosexual couples can enter a contract that gives them all the legal duties and rights of a wedded couple, except for the right of adoption. Often, you have already lived together for a longer time before marriage, but you usually wed before you have kids.

If a man has sex with another man, that's his own business. He is still a homosexual, though.

With most people you know, you use the informal je form; the honorific u is used in more formal situations, like speaking to older people or to businesspeople from another company.

My face is up here, sir

If you're a woman, going topless at the beach is an option, but usually restricted to the young and small-breasted. There are nude beaches, and while you may not visit them, you don't think it unusual for people to take their children to one.

A pricy hotel room has a private bath, a cheap one has a bathroom in the corridor. Dubbing is for kids. All movies and TV series are subtitled, except for the Dutch ones.

You are shocked if anyone offers you a bribe, or asks for one.

If a politician has been cheating on his wife, you consider this bad form, but no reason for him to resign, unless he's from some conservative religious party.

For a politician to show off his wife or kids during an election campaign is ridiculous, since you don't understand what do they have to do with his work. You don't even know whetehr most party leaders are married, divorced, single or whatever.

Credit cards are accepted in many shops except for groceries, though, but they are mostly for yuppies and snobs, and you don't have one. You pay cash in shops, or use a debit card.

A company can't fire just anybody it wants. For this reason, many companies hire temporary workers through an employment agency.

You don't eat very much bacon, and if you do, it's as part of an omelet.

Labor Day is the first of May, but it is not a holiday.

There's no surf music like Dutch surf music

You've probably seen Turks Fruit, Flodder, All Stars, De Lift and Soldaat van Oranje. If you're under forty, add Lang Leve de Koningin and most Disney movies. Otherwise, add Fanfare, Ciske de Rat en De Aanslag.

You know Andre Hazes, Doe Maar, Volumia, Rene Froger, De Dijk en Golden Earring. If not, you know the Dutch Swing College Band, the Blue Diamonds, the Kilima Hawaiians, and Liesbeth List.

You count on excellent medical treatment. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies or people in their eighties. You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy. You take it for granted that health care insurance is universal, and even grant illegal immigrants the right to basic medical assistance.

You went over Dutch and European history in school, not much Russian, Chinese, or American. You couldn't name the last four wars that your country was involved in. You expect the military to contribute to peacekeeping operations, not get involved in politics. Having successfully led a military operation is not an advantage in a political career. You used to have conscription, but now it's an all-volunteer force. You have never heard of the names of the heads of the services.

Your country came into being by liberating itself from the Spanish, and has been occupied by the French (no hard feelings) and the Germans (lots of hard feelings).

You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy.

You use the metric system. The only exception is that a pond (pound) is half a kilogram, and an ons (ounce) is 100 grams.

You are not a farmer.

What? They give Joost Swarte to kids?

Comics typically appear as hardbound books (albums). Comics sometimes but not always appear first in specialized comics magazines. All newspapers and most magazines carry at least one comic, too. Comics are mainly Dutch, Belgian and French in origin. Unless you are a fan, you consider comics something for children, or akin to watching TV soaps, except for Olivier B. Bommel, which is regarded as High Literature.

The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers and politicians. Authors are seen on TV too, to promote their books.

You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights even if nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them.

You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a small to medium sized car.

The police are armed, but not with submachine guns.

If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks.

The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.

The nationality people most often make jokes about is the Belgians.

There's parts of the city you where you walk carefully at night.

You feel that the government is a bit out of touch with the citizens, sometimes.

You wouldn't expect both inflation and unemployment to be very high (say, over 15%) at the same time. High unemployment may occur, high inflation never.

You don't care very much what family someone comes from.

The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children.

You think of opera and ballet as somewhat elite entertainments. It's likely you don't see that many plays, either.

Peace on Earth, let's just try it / And shouldn't you be on a diet?

Christmas is in the winter. Unless you're Muslim or Jewish, you spend it with your family, and put up a tree. Presents are given at December 5th, St. Nicolas day, and you include satirical rhymes where you gently point out people's bad habits.

Although there are traces of the major religious divisions that your country had in the past, the church has no power to speak of. There is a state church where the coronation takes place, but this has no practical consequences.

You know the capitals of Europe, but you know the leaders only for the larger countries. The only US state you can pinpoint is probably California.

You are familiar with Lucky Luke, Asterix, Guust Flater (Gaston Lagaffe) and Kuifje (Tintin), but you aren't familiar with Spiderman, Sailor Moon, Mafalda, Ralph König or Judge Dredd, although all these comics have been translated into Dutch.

You've left a message at the beep.

Taxis are generally operated by locals, who tend to drive a bit too fast.

Unemployment benefits are your right, you've paid for them after all, and of course people who don't have any money should get welfare-- should they starve or what? But you also think that there are a lot of people cheating the system.

If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a doctoraal (masters) degree first. Bachelors degrees don't exist.

There aren't that many lawyers, and you will need them only if you go to court, not for a business deal.

The trouble with the neighbors

You don't really know what to think about your neighbors the Belgians. In general you think they are happier, less intelligent, more corrupt, and simultaneously more formal and informal than the Dutch. They speak Dutch, but in a funny way, unless they speak French. Their beer is the best. You get along well with them. A good thing about Belgians is that they are not arrogant. (They think the Dutch are arrogant and stingy, and make jokes about them).

Germany and the Germans are overbearing neighbors. You get along well with them, but Germans are known to be arrogant, which you are always alert to point out them. The war is not forgotten, and most people have elderly family members who were killed, deported or otherwise mistreated by the Nazis. Germany never returned the bicycles it stole, either. Even the most politically correct can make jokes or disparaging remarks about Germans and get away with it. Your greatest dream is beating Germans in the World Cup finals.

France is a country that doesn't understand your soft drugs policy. This is arrogant. It is a great place for summer vacation, and you like their cheese and wine.

The USA provides most of your entertainment, as well as technical innovation. If a non-American explains to you that something is better in the US than in the Netherlands, you will explain that American ideas will not work in the Dutch context. If an American tells you things are better in the US, you just think that he's arrogant. Apart from always telling you that things are better in the US, Americans are nice people. Your country has more money invested in the US than any other country in the world.

Japan is a faraway country that produces cars and video recorders. If Japan is on the news, it is probably because they still haven't apologized for the mistreatment of Dutch citizens during World War II. You have never seen or heard a Japanese comic, pop song or movie.

You don't think much about the UK. They produce pop music and football hooligans. Our Royal House shows how things should be done. Their Royal House shows how things shouldn't be done.

Your Highness, I want to be called Kuifje Kilima

You think it ridiculous that any private person would want to have a firearm. The government should protect you against such people.

You think it normal that any woman who wants to can get an abortion, a nd that sex education and contraceptives are freely available. It's nothing out of the ordinary to see naked breasts on TV and in advertisements.

You have never heard of Creationism.

Your country used to have colonies but you rarely think about this.

You think development aid is a Good Thing. Sending money for arms isn't. You think human rights should be most important in foreign aid decisions.

Journalists may write about everything but usually avoid the private life of public people. They only talk about private life (I'm not talking about the gutter press here) when people choose to make their private life public.

You think people shouldn't make themselves more important than they are, we are all normal people after all.

Having a Royal House and a Queen is a Good Thing. Why, you're not sure.

Changing your name is very difficult. It takes a lot of paperwork, you need to convince the authorities that you have a good reason to change your name, and you need the Queen's permission (yes, really!)

You can drink alcohol at age 16. IDs are not often asked for.

If male, you are uncircumcised, unless you are Muslim or Jewish.

You were born in a hospital or at home (these are about equally likely) and were delivered by a midwife, general practitioner or gynecologist. Unless she had a cesarean, your mother did not take anesthesia during the delivery. Your father was most likely present at your birth.



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