I like to think my identity is not particularly defined by country borders. Sure, I live in the Netherlands, and I was born and raised here. But on average the English network of my bilingual brain is activated far more often than its Dutch counterpart, and I spend so much time online that the words ‘Walmart’ and ‘Pop-Tarts’ look as familiar to me as ‘Albert Heijn’ and ‘bitterballen’. I mean, I even know who Tim Tebow is, for God’s sake.
The internet is slowly turning the world into a giant pop culture melting pot. The fact that I’m from the Netherlands often seems negligible to me—a detail, rather than a defining part of who I am. And yet sometimes I am reminded of how unbelievably Dutch I am.
You know you are Dutch when:
1. You’re painfully straight-forward.
In Dutch, it’s perfectly acceptable to say to someone, “Can you pass me that book?” or just “Pass me that book.” We might tack on the word eens (which functions much like ‘would you’ in this context) to take out the sting, but even without this hedging adverb the sentence is considered polite enough. In English, hedging – which is more or less a fancy linguistic term for ‘sugarcoating’ – is much more conventional. I spent years can-ing at my British friends when really, I should’ve been could-ing. It’s a wonder they still feel comfortable speaking to me.
The Dutch bluntness is not limited to linguistic conventions. We don’t beat around the bush. We’re honest. We’re direct. We’re not rude, per se; it’s just that we speak our minds if needs be. Then again, we can also be pretty coarse in our language use. (Confession: when I said ‘for God’s sake’ up there in the introduction, what I actually wanted to say was ‘for fuck’s sake’. But I didn’t. For your sake.)
2. You worship your bike.
My bicycle recently passed away. Yeah, it’s been a pretty tough week. Take away a Dutchie’s bike and their level of Dutchness instantly drops to an all-time-low. Current bikeless me probably doesn’t even really have the credentials to write this post.
Some of the reasons why bikes are the best:
- Faster than walking;
- Cheaper than cars;
- Not bound to public transport times;
- They can get you virtually anywhere;
- You can park them virtually anywhere;
- Extra exercise.
Oh, my dear bike. I miss you so.
3. You hog your money the way a dragon hogs its treasure.
A while ago, my friend invited me along to a theater performance of an acquaintance of his. When he posted on my Facebook wall that he wasn’t entirely sure we were on the guest list, I replied, in true Dutch fashion: “WE BETTER BE GUEST-LISTED, ‘CAUSE I AIN’T PAYING FOR IT. /DUTCH AND PROUD”.
The capitals were supposed to convey that I was kidding, but you know they say— there’s a grain of truth in every joke. I’m pretty cautious with my money and get disproportionally excited about free things. This is a very student-y attitude, of course, but it also fits the Dutch stereotype perfectly. Why else would the term ‘going Dutch’ exist?
(Just for the record, I would’ve paid.) (No, really.) (Okay, maybe.)
4. You’re not even slightly offended when a non-Dutchie has no clue where this Holland of yours is situated.
You grow used to it.
And, let’s face it—in the grand scheme of things, the Netherlands is but a tiny speck of sub-sea level flatness. Dutch people can get from one end of the country to the other in a matter of two or three hours (one and a half if you drive like my dad). That’s a laughable distance to someone who lives in Australia, for example. It’s not all that strange that people from reasonably-sized countries are unable to locate us on a map.
It can be quite amusing, too. Things I’ve heard in response to “I’m from Holland/the Netherlands”:
- “That’s, like, Europe, right?”
- “Oh, you mean Amsterdam!”
- “But… isn’t that all underwater?” (my personal favorite)
Seriously, don’t worry if you mistake us for Atlantis or a city-state, or even if you are plainly unaware of our existence. And please don’t worry about not knowing the difference between Holland and the Netherlands—none of this matters. It’s only when you try to equate us with Germany that heads will start to roll.
5. You’re open-minded.
I like to believe my compatriots are generally pretty tolerant and laid-back. I mean, we were the first country in the world to embrace same-sex marriage, after all. Things such as weed, prostitutes, and alcohol also don’t really faze us. Really, things may not be half as good as they should be, but at least they’re not as bad as they could’ve been. All things considered, Holland is not the worst place to call home.