I have a bit of a mixed view. I’ve spent a lot of time there and my best friends are Dutch. I also speak the language a bit and know the country well. I’d call it my second home and I’m very, very fond of the place. As a result I have a different feel for it than just that of the weekender off to Amsterdam.
Please bear in mind this is just an informed opinion. If you’re Dutch and offended…
The usual view of liberal and open minded is there but there is a bit of an underbelly. Holland is moving more to the right and there is a strong vein of racism that runs through the society. I have called out more people on their casually tacit acceptance of racist ideas there than anywhere. And don’t get me started on Black Pete! I’ve fallen out with so many Dutch people over the years on that score. It’s slowly changing now but people resent it.
In the many years I have been there, I see that rarely do you get invited around without an ‘appointment’. Then you take flowers or chocolates. Never ‘drop in’ on a Dutch person they’ll hate you for it.
Never ask people to come out to dinner with you unless you are prepared to pay for everyone. They don’t ‘Go Dutch’ and if it’s your birthday and you tell ten friends you are going to a restaurant, they will expect you to pay. I’ve been caught out on this early in my time there. Look out for the words ‘I invite you’ which means they are paying.
Everyone thinks everyone else is probably going to cheat them and there is quite a fixation around money and work. They’ve legalized soft drugs and prostitution, but only so that they can control it and make a buck out of it. They don’t approve of either for the most part.
One day every year the country turns into a giant car boot sale and everyone sells all their crap and home made cakes to everyone else, tax free. Then they all get drunk and have a massive fight. (That’s my view of Kings Day and I’m sticking to it!)
If you haven’t got candles lit, your house is not gezellig or ‘cosy’ and it’s the worst insult you can get. Gezellig drives me crazy! It’s a word that defines the Dutch and Dutch culture but basically means it’s always too dark to read the bloody menu.
Amsterdam is not Holland. Get out and see the country and the amazing beaches. Hire bikes from every main railway station in tube country (it’s flat) and feel safer than you ever have on a bike.
I could go on about the place. In conclusion Holland is an amazing country with people I love. They have a good reputation in Britain and everyone likes them. But they aren’t the open, liberals that you’d like to think.
Also they put chocolate sprinkles on bread. Just too weird.