Before I started this blog, I had other blogs as well. I always noticed that blog posts about my country, or any other country than their own in general, were read quite often. Because of this I made a little article about the Dutch. I have a lot of things to tell you, so I won´t write it all in once. That´d be a shame of my article. 😛
The Netherlands is one country, even though it has got a plural name. The Netherlands and Holland are definitely not the same. Many Dutch people don’t even know this, I didn’t either until last year. The Netherlands is divided by provinces. These small areas have their own customs and one of them even has its own language. I’m talking about Friesland here (Fryslân in Frysian). The Netherlands have twelve provinces: Friesland, Drenthe, Flevoland, Gelderland, Groningen, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, Limburg, North Brabant, North Holland and South Holland. North and South Holland are the only provinces that form Holland, and I can proudly say I’m from Holland.
Dutch people are very proud people. We are distant and maybe even emotionless to many, but we definitely are proud of our country. The thing many are most proud of around my place happened a long time ago. Around the 1560s the Spanish ruled in the Netherlands. They took over our country and killed many. Dutch people don’t let someone take their freedom that easily. On April 1, 1972 the “Geuzen” took back Den Briel (called Brielle nowadays). This is what “Op 1 april verloor Alva zijn bril” comes from. This is the start of many other liberations, we fought to be free and we got it.
Of course there are things we should NOT be proud about. Many Dutch people are proud of especially Amsterdam in the Golden Age. It’s called this way because the Netherlands was extremely wealthy. Amsterdam was the main point of trade in the area. Everything seemed to went well for us, we earned a lot of money, for example the microscope got invented, we got the chance to travel and trade with other countries, we were doing extremely well! There’s one thing we should be ashamed of though: the slaves. The way we done things was not fair. We took slaves from Africa and sent them to work at plantations.
During this time a few things were extremely expensive, I’ll name two. Pepper and Tulips.
When a Dutchman finds something very expensive, we tend to call it “Peperduur”, as expensive as pepper. Pepper had such a high value, we actually still got a saying about it.
The tulips are another story. Everybody who doesn’t live in the Netherlands will think of tulips when they think of the Netherlands. That’s true, but to a certain point. We didn’t officially “invent” the tulips. Tulips originated in Turkey, a Turkish salesman took a few tulips with him as a gift for the salesmen in here. This soon became an extremely wanted flower. This flower symbolized wealth, who had a tulip was wealthy.
Farmers started to grow tulips. Most tulips were sold before they were fully grown. After a while it got so bad, that the tulips that would be ready two years later were already sold. Due to this high demand for tulips the price has increased too. At the worst point, the price of one tulip would be as high as a house in Amsterdam.
Now something recent:
When you move to the Netherlands for a while, you should know the basics of our culture. The Dutch are, as I said before, cold and distant. Don’t EVER come by uninvited, especially around dinner time. Dutch people like to plan things, so don’t do something unexpected.
When greeting a Dutchman:
When you don’t know someone very well you shake their hands. Use your right hand. It’s firm but not so firm you’ll break someone’s hand, and when you meet someone for the first time you’ll tell them your name. You also do this with children.
Men usually shake each other’s hands, even when they know each other well. When a man greets a woman, or the other way around, or when two women greet each other they’ll greet differently. They will give each other THREE air kisses, starting with the left cheek. This does not mean you have to forcefully bump into the other’s cheekbone, just a soft touch.
If you are invited for dinner, it’s wise to bring something with you. We usually give women flowers and men chocolate. Good quality chocolate it is. When you give someone flowers then you should avoid lilies, chrysanthemums and white roses. These are associated with funerals, and thus it’s rude to give it to Dutch people.
Unlike some other countries, it’s rude to not open your present. When you get a present, you open it immediately and be happy about it, even if you don’t like it.
Manners are a must in the Netherlands. Fork is held left, the knife is held right and when you have more than one knife and one fork, you will eat from the outside to the inside. You will wait with eating until everyone is seated and the host starts eating. If you are not sure how to eat something, just look at how the others do it. For many Dutch people it’s rude not to finish what’s on your plate, especially with old people who have been through times of extreme hunger (Hunger winter, world war 2).
But.. How do I address them?
There are two forms of “you” in Dutch: jij/je and u. When you talk to anybody that’s not a child or a teenager anymore, you address that person with “u”. When you are not sure, you also address that person with “u”. Do this until they tell you to stop it.
That’ll be it for now!