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  • Frans Bijsterveld

The Dutch

Updated: Apr 4

(expected publication date: May 2021) .

Putting cheese vats over their heads to guard against police truncheons, rioting Dutchmen long ago gave rise to the term cheese-heads. No one riots any more (despite recent events!) – they just complain.

The Dutch like to defy the odds: despite a very generous welfare system and the fact that it’s almost impossible to fire anyone, the economy works like a well-oiled machine.

Does Dutch tolerance work? Everyone knows that drug laws here are lax, but deaths due to overdose are the lowest in Europe. There’s no taboo attached to swearing – but people generally don’t swear. There’s no death penalty either, but the state turns a blind eye to assisted suicide.

Because the Netherlands is so flat, speed bumps are exciting. It’s so tiny, the sex industry rubs shoulders with the likes of Rembrandt, and so packed, it’s the most densely populated nation in Europe. Everything is just a stone's throw away, which is rather ironic because there are no loose stones to find. There’s plenty of sand though, and farmers sifting through it find bits of seashell from time to time.

The Dutch love their expressions:

“The sun rises for free” – wise words from a Dutch spendthrift. The tax department disagrees, because it would like to tax the bloody thing to make our lives brighter.

“It could be worse” – a frequently used expression known as Dutch comfort.

“God created the world, but the Dutch created Holland” – typical Dutch modesty.

The Dutch love their neighbours:

If a ship sinks, call the Dutch, and when it sinks again, blame the Germans.

Need a dam? Call the Belgians, and when it bursts, call the Dutch, thank you very much.

And the Belgian response:

“If it sleeps and shits in a meadow, it must be a Dutchman on holiday.”

Such wonderful footballers - maybe they’ll qualify next time. Trains run on time, hospital waiting lists are small, fields are manicured and it’s all clean and neat. So neat in fact that people break down trying to maintain it - or as they say here - the cheese falls off their crackers.

Dutch discipline involves the power of persuasion. Children aren’t spanked - the little darlings are persuaded again and again and again and again. Violence begets violence, they say, but does sparing the rod spoil the child?

Areas of disagreement are always solved by consensus - the civilised way of doing things. But, although very liberal today, the Dutch were the last Europeans to abolish slavery yesterday. Discuss anything, sex, religion and politics, but say nothing sexist or racist. Emancipation is definitely in, just like equality. In the Netherlands, “Black Piet” is Santa’s Moorish helper. Every December 5th, kids paint themselves black in his honour, and the national debate begins; is it racist, or harmless tradition?

An intruder in a Dutch house? Offer him a cup of coffee. If he’s wielding a butcher’s knife and carrying a gun, don’t shoot him. If you do, you’re in deep trouble. Shooting an intruder in your home is impossibly American.

Dutch love is big business. Use the lonely hearts, but be specific. Don’t hold back - say what you like. A tickle here, a probe there. It’s got to vibrate, and give off sparks. I like it big, I prefer it small. Leather, the whip, or just a little cuddle. I like a walk on the beach and visits to foreign lands, trips to the theatre and a shoulder to cry on. Welcome to the undemanding Dutch, people of simple needs!

Both the windmill and tulip came from Turkey. So did Santa, but this Fokker, ho ho ho, he was a Dutchman. He sold the Germans his aircraft in the First World War and taught them to fly – maybe that’s why they were aces!

The Dutch East India Company was so vast that it used its own currency. The Company blazed a trail to the East and made it their back yard, full of pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace. Sugar and spice, and all things nice. It was a rich garden, but was there a price?

Such a tiny nation, but with the heart of a lion.

A Dutch lion. And there is so much to tell.

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