Debunking Dutch Stereotypes

I’ll be the first to admit: I love a good stereotype (especially when it suits me)! But a lot of them (sadly) just aren’t true! From writing this blog I have discovered that most Dutch people can laugh at themselves, in fact, they actively encourage it. From time to time though, the Dutch do get a lot of flack – and often for the wrong reasons. So, I’m here to debunk some myths about the Netherlands and its wonderful inhabitants.

Dutch Stereotypes

(“Typical Dutch” credit unknown.)

1. Dutch people live in windmills, grow tulips, wear clogs and eat lots of cheese. 

I wish! It would be so cool and quaint, wouldn’t it! But nope, it’s a load of rubbish. There are about 1,200 windmills in Holland and nearly 17 million people, so…

Yes, some people grow tulips, but most leave it to the professionals. (And by the way, although the Dutch are synonymous with tulips, they actually originate from Turkey.)

The only person I know who wears clogs is my brother-in-law, when he’s gardening. If you see a Dutch person wearing clogs: they’re in the minority.

Ok… the eating lots of cheese thing could be true… it’s estimated that the Dutch eat 21 kilograms of cheese per year per person. (Source: Amsterdam Tourist Info) Some Dutch people even call themselves ‘kaaskop’ (cheese heads).

2. Everyone is stoned, constantly. 

Absolute nonsense. It is true that the Dutch have a fairly relaxed policy on “soft” drugs compared with some other countries, but that doesn’t mean everyone is smoking weed. Despite its reputation, The Netherlands isn’t even in the Top 10 weed-consuming countries. (Source: LeafScience.com)

The percentage of the population ‘who have consumed the herb at least once in the past survey year’ is said to be as little as 5% in the Netherlands. (Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.)

And from personal experience – I know a handful of Dutch people who speak weed. About the same amount of English people I know who smoke it.

3. Dutch Tolerance

Euthanasia, gay marriage, prostitution. Alles kan, toch?

Holland was the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia in 2002. They have allowed same-sex marriage since 2001 (and were the first country to do so). Prostitution is also legal in the Netherlands.

BUT… Are the Dutch really that progressive?

“First and foremost, they are pragmatic.

Take prostitution. The Dutch tend to think that it will happen anyway, whether they prohibit it or not.

So they legalise it – to prevent prostitution from going underground, to have access to the prostitutes, promote condoms and hygiene and to prevent mistreatment of women forced to work as prostitutes.

The logic is simple – tolerate it, rather than prohibit it and subsequently lose control.

The same line of reasoning applies to soft drugs and euthanasia: people will smoke soft drugs, so it might be better to educate them about it openly; doctors will be faced with requests from people who would prefer to end their suffering, so perhaps better be realistic about it.”

– Source: Yashe Lange, BBC News

The tricky bit is when you get to tolerance vs acceptance. I’ll let you debate amongst yourselves on that subject!

4. Going Dutch

‘Going Dutch’ = when you split the bill 50/50 (on a date, for example). Or in groups when parties pay for their own bills.

Dutch people have a reputation of being tight. Stingy, mean… whatever you want to call it.

But is it true? From my experience – certainly not! Frugal might be a better word. Dutch people tend to live within their means and only buy what they can afford. Credit cards are rare here, many supermarkets, garages and shops don’t accept them.

True, Dutch people like things that are goedkoop (cheap) but then again, who doesn’t like a bargain? They also like to maximise on their spending, for example ‘all you can eat’ deals in restaurants or making sure they get every last drop out of a jam jar with a clever contraption called a flessenlikker (bottle scraper). But cheap? No. Just sensible, thrifty and economical. Clever clogs, eh?

Still not convinced? I have two more facts for you: The Dutch are the most charitable country in Europe, with two-thirds of people in the Netherlands contributing money to charity every year. (Source: Daily Dutch News)

Dutch people also blow around 65 million euros on fireworks every New Year’s Eve (ok, they’re not frugal with everything!!)

5. Dutch people are rude 

I really want to say that this one is true and be done with it… but even I have to admit to myself that the Dutch are not ‘rude’… or at least they don’t mean to be anyway. Dutch people are direct. So direct that often it comes across as rude to other cultures… even though that’s not (always) the intention. Example of a text conversation with a Dutch friend:

Me: Hoi, ben je vrij op zaterdag? Wil je koffiedrinken? (Hey, are you free on Saturday? Wanna do coffee?)

Dutch friend: Nee, kan niet. (No, I can’t.)

Comparable response from an English/American/Canadian friend: Hey! How are you? I have plans on Saturday, shame! But I’d love to meet up, how about Thursday? xxxx

(Side note: Dutch people don’t do kisses in text messages.)

So it’s isn’t that the Dutch are rude per say… they just don’t mince their words. If you ask a colleague if they like your new top/haircut/shoes, don’t be offended if they reply “no”. You did ask… and all they did is give you an honest answer!

6. Dutch Courage

Dutch people are a bunch of drunks, right? Well, I’m from England so it’s hard for me to judge… 😉 But the main difference I find is that English people drink *to* get drunk.

Dutch people drink *and* get drunk. Mostly by “accident”… they blame it on gezelligheid.

I was listening to the radio (100% NL – in case you’re interested) just this week and I heard a segment about the most popular emojis for different countries around the world. Guess what Holland’s were? Party and red wine glass. I’m just gonna leave that there and move on…

7. Crazy Dutch Bastards

Crazy Dutch Bastard

Other cultures seem to think that Dutch people are crazy… and why on earth would they think that?? 😉

This reputation around the world mostly comes from their drinking, ahem, I mean gezelligheid and sports games.

Dutch supporters are EXTREME. You only have to Google “Tour de France Dutch Mountain” to see what I mean. A sea of orange. Football matches, same thing. The Dutch are proud and they looooove wearing orange! It’s all a show of pride for the Dutch Royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau.

Orange has become the nation’s symbolic colour, their national pride. You just have to look at King’s Day to see that.

So crazy? Nope. Orange-wearing, Dutch and proud!!

What did I miss? What other (false) Dutch stereotypes have you got for me?

Hayley

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14 comments

  1. I’ve only seen Dutch people wear clogs when there is a danger of dropping something sharp or heavy on their toes. In other words gardening or building.

    I’ve never had a problem with Dutch directness but as an Englishman on the other end of the spectrum who apologises for any and everything, even if I’m not responsible, I know I frustrate them 🙂

    It’s funny that you used the Doctor Evil image. I saw that movie in a Dutch cinema and when he said that line a Dutch man in the audience stood up and shouted at the screen, “Shut the hell up!” I don’t think he liked it much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would’ve guessed that the States had the biggest pot consumption. Definitely surprised that there were a few African countries on there!

    Maybe we should look into a flessenlikker…

    Liked by 1 person

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