What I Hate About Holland
Now that I’m outta there I have a better perspective of all the things I dreaded about living in Holland. It’s over seven years since I repatriated back to America. You know, it feels as if I was never ever in Amsterdam, even though I spent eleven years of my life. How is that possible I wonder? So many struggles in daily life, so many frustrations and deep felt disappointments. Doing the simplest of chores was an effort. And yet, now, all those hundreds of days of loathing are gone. Poof, vanished. It’s good riddance I say. Well, not entirely. My son is half Dutch and he keeps up some traditions so as not to forget his old world roots.
Now the drum roll. The top ten things I Hate about Holland.
- Conformity. Disguised as individuality, the Dutch are a most slavish people. On a scale of group grope from one to ten, ten being the most conformist, the Dutch win hands down. They are the Borg of Star Trek. Everyone thinks alike, acts alike and responds alike. Yet on the outside they appear loutish with an unsolicited opinion for just about anything. This arrogance is what the Dutch confusingly define as individuality.
If you step one tiny inch outside of their preconceived and minutely defined square, you are bashed. Ask them to define the social “rules” and they will nonchalantly toss their head back with a shrug saying there are no rules because everyone does what they want. You know, they’re individuals. OK. Follow this.
Just like those heads in the arcade game who bop up and down, if you stick your neck out too far you will get bonked. In fact, there’s an expression to confirm this and loosely translated it means: a tall tree catches a lot of wind (flak). If a nail sticks out too far it gets hammered in. That’s the approach here and on the most ridiculous levels. Here’s what I mean. If you drink coffee with say, 3 sugars, a waiter (mind you a complete stranger) or your host will raise an eyebrow and in a word scoff at your gluttonous ways. If you have an altruistic bone and wish to share with someone your heartfelt sympathy, please don’t! You will be told off and perceived as weak or worse, opportunistic. As if you were trying to wreak something away from the poor soul. Don’t dare dress individualistically, you will stand out in a crowd, don’t wear jewelry or adorn yourself with any outward displays of beauty and please don’t say what you truly feel. You will be considered weird. Just plain weird.
2. Jealousy, Suspicion and Envy. Never in my fifty years on this planet in X amount of countries traveled to, worked and lived in have I met such ungrateful souls, mad with jealousy and envy. The Dutch harbor intense resentments against everyone, especially those who are achievers, positive thinkers and doers. In fact, an outgoing person with a bubbly personality can be considered “too much of a good thing”. Don’t share your generosity for heaven’s sake. You’ll be taken advantage of in ways that will leave you dumbstruck. For example, if you make a lavish dinner or throw a party, pay for someone at a restaurant or buy someone a birthday gift that is of a quality, standard and price considered pretty much normal everywhere else in the world, i.e.: over twenty five euro, your kindness will be rewarded with jealousy and suspicion. The person on the receiving end will doubt your motives and actually suspect you of “trying to get something” from them. Talk about an upside down cake!
3. Mistrustful. Point two naturally leads to point three. If people are suspicious they are extremely busy protecting their own territory. If they are concentrating so intensely on guarding themselves against future abuses such as kindness they erect walls around themselves. As they busily build these emotional fortresses their jealousy and envy seeps out which leads to number 3, untrustworthiness. How can you trust someone who is closed off and not giving of themselves’ while secretly harboring resentments yet smiling in your face? I’ve had enough of these experiences in my private and business life to last a lifetime. What’s the message Elise? Duh, I guess, get as far away as possible, say across the ocean.
4. Rudeness. Not EVERYONE of course. Just most. The Dutch win the contest, the world over of being the rudest people to walk the planet. This is historical. I’ve read accounts of same dating back to the Dutch Renaissance of the 17th century. Just because they are the tallest doesn’t mean they are the best. In fact, The Netherlands is one of the smallest nations on earth. It’s the size of a postage stamp. If everyone kept their egos in proportion to the land they inhabit we’d have a bunch of really nice folks. Men smash into women and kids on the street looking straight at you. Cyclists will strike down women with strollers. Men have absolutely no manners towards women and women have less towards each other. The words, “sorry”, “please” and “thank you” are scarcely used, if at all. People put their feet on seats in buses and trains and in summer if you’re at a cafe they’ll put their bare feet on chairs that you might want to sit on. Ick.
They’ll just grab things from your table at a restaurant or your own home for that matter without ever asking first “may I….?” When you see a cluster of people at the entrance or exit of a store or at the base of an escalator it is YOU who has to navigate around them. They will never move to make way for you. If you’re pregnant, in most other countries you get to sit down on a subway or move to the head of the restroom line. Not here though. Stand there and sweat it out babe, you’re no better than anyone else. Fainting from exhaustion? How dare you show your anguish!
5. The weather. The climate has to be at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to weather. Dismal most of the year. Cold in summer, if summer ever arrives and tepid in winter. There are no seasons, just schizophrenia every day all day long. From a bit of sun to a downpour, whipping winds and a cloud burst to nary a speck in the sky. You never know how to dress and the dampness seeps into your bones all year round. Just when you think you’ve got it down, the weather does a double take and you are ill prepared.
A journalist from the New York Times recently attributed the friendliness of the Icelandic people to the harshness of their climate. That just doesn’t cut it in Holland. The harshness of the wind, the torrential never ending rainfall, the clouds and continuous grayness didn’t make the Dutch friendly.
6. The Smallness of Everything. I don’t really recall when quaint became stifling but it did. After some years the crushing miniature sized streets, buildings, tram seats, roads, parking spots, restaurants, supermarket items just about drove me crazy. I couldn’t wait to cross a border, any border. Belgian highways illicited in me a feeling of throwing caution to the wind in their width. German hills adorned with pat houses or industrial sites allowed me some breathing room. American skies and landscaped vistas embraced the soulfulness of the abstract meaning of freedom. The worst was the smallness of mind of the inhabitants.
7. Calvinism. That ball wrecker has created a nation of stingy scrooges who do not know how to enjoy anything! Guilt, guilt and a double dose of more of the same have resulted in a people sorely lacking imagination, spontaneity and joy in everyday living. Calvin was a brutal realist of the kind that takes each page of the Christian bible literally. He was a dogged pragmatist whose rigid teachings not only created the basis for hypocritical moralism, it left a deep seated superiority complex amongst the populace resulting in finger pointing and knowing better than everyone else. Even adults like to play child schoolyard games that devolve into nah na na nah nah. Calvinism has penetrated the heart of the nation so thoroughly that even the Catholics who believe they have avoided Calvin’s wrath and influence have to head south of the border to Belgium for a little more hedonistic fun. Now that’s saying a mouthful, isn’t it?
8. Lack of Safety Measures for Children and just about Everyone Else
I never understood the purpose of the governing bodies that enacted safety laws because frankly there are none that are truly enforced. For example, you can take your toddler to an amusement park and he/she would be allowed to go on the adult bumper cars, albeit with an adult. Still, a four year old can have their heads knocked off or severely damaged if they fell out of the car. I guess it’s because there’s no one to sue? Crazy cyclists and moped drivers have the right of way vis-a-vis pedestrians. If a mother is walking her kids, or pushing a stroller with a babe, those on wheels completely run them over without blinking an eye or batting an eyelash. What’s that all about?
9. The Food. While improving it’s image and quality Dutch food can still be referred to as slop on a plate. On the other hand if you think that a sandwich means two slices of spongy Wonder like bread dipped in brown color and called “whole wheat”, I suggest you go back to the future of the 1950s. Now add just one, not two, of the thinnest, falling apart slices of cold cut to the two slices of bread with nothing on it except an almost invisible smear of industrial margarine and viola! you’ve got yourself a Dutch sandwich. The weight of the meat (or cheese for that matter) is less than 0.02 ounces. Catch my drift? Then again why would the populace know about cuisine when what they call supermarkets are merely glorified grocery stores.
10. Customer Service. It’s an anomaly. There isn’t any. It doesn’t exist. Just like in the former Communist block, service workers have an attitude so lame and mean that it can be cut with a knife. Because labor laws protect the inept, people cannot be fired without penalties to the employer. Tips are not given as service workers earn monthly salaries and a sense of urgency is non-existent. Most stores do not even take credit cards nor do they take returns or pay you back cash. You are hijacked to purchase something at the shop. Retailers have shown total disinterest when customer’s complain. One even physically threw me out of his shop because he was through listening to my woes.
“What I felt when I lived in Holland” by Slauerhoff, (1898-1936)
I don’t want to live in Holland,
Where ones passions need to be constrained,
because of the neighbors,
I prefer living in the steppes,
where nobody bothers me,
No bird minds,
No fox rushes away,
Because of my passionate screaming
I don’t want to die in Holland,
and rot in the damp soil,
That was never lived on.
No, I prefer longingly roaming,
ending up with nomads.
The Dutch say ‘he is doomed’
Yes, not being able to damage them,
after I was free saddened me!
I can’t live in Holland,
They’re always striving,
thinking about the others
Opinionated in silence,
But never hit someone in the face
Only think – I don’t like your smirk.
Hitting without a reason,
Is a sign of bad morals.
I don’t want to live in small houses,
thousands of them creating,
The ugliness of cities and villages.
The stiff boarded live there,
not because of style, just to show,
that they know how it’s supposed to be.
Greeting each other on Sundays,
going through the streets in black parades.
I don’t want to stay in Holland,
I would grow closed and stifled,
It’s too calm, to uptight,
People speak slow, never emoting,
Never dancing, only slacking.
We’ll torture the innocent,
But never a fat farmers head cut off,
And never, ever a crime of passion is committed!