December 18, 2018

Frisians blocking the motorway Dutch Word of the Year 2018

Filed under: General,Literature by Orangemaster @ 2:40 pm

‘Blokkeerfries’ has won the Dutch Word of the Year 2018, followed by ‘yogasnuiver’ (‘yoga sniffer’) and ‘mangomoment’ (‘mango moment’) in third place.

‘Blokkerfries’ is described by Dutch dictionary Van Dale (a collaboration between the Dutch in the Netherlands and the Flemish in Belgium) as one of the people who blocked a motorway in [the Dutch province of] Friesland in order to stop others from demonstrating against an aspect of the Sinterklaas tradition, considered by some as a defender of it. You’ll notice they are not explicitly mentioning the now controversial ‘blackface’ aspect of Zwarte Piet, but that’s what was generally meant at the time.

A ‘yoga sniffer’ is someone that usually has a healthy lifestyle, but then once in a while goes overboard with party drugs and cocaine when they go out. For the advance class, if you do encounter the Dutch word ‘cultuursnuiver’ (‘culture sniffer’), it means someone who takes in culture, which is a positive thing.

‘Mangomoment’ refers to a Flemish television moment where a patient experienced a moment of happiness when the presenter of the show brought them a mango. Van Dale says it means a moment of happiness experienced by a seriously ill patient due to a seemingly insignificant, non-medical act or comment from a doctor or healthcare provider during normal healthcare activities.

(Link: nu.nl)

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November 23, 2018

Why the Dutch are observing Black Friday

Filed under: General,Online,Weird by Orangemaster @ 3:19 pm

According to Wikipedia, Black Friday became a thing in the Netherlands about three years ago. Even as a Canadian, it was the first time I’d ever heard of it. In Canada, where Thanksgiving is celebrated in October and for very different reasons that in the United States, we’ve always had Boxing Day (26 December) as our shopping madness day, where shops want to get rid of their stock before the new year. In the Netherlands, 26 December is actually a holiday.

This year the Netherlands has a lot of shops big and small participating in Black Friday, acting like not doing so would be missing out. A lot of people think this ‘commercial appropriation’ is ridiculous, but mark my words, it will continue to grow here and in Europe because it remains a money maker, especially with Cyber Monday a few days later.

One person on Twitter captioned a picture of packages of American cranberries, saying sarcastically “The cranberries are already in the supermarket, so that we can celebrate Thanksgiving tonight and Black Friday tomorrow. But changing anything about Dutch traditions, well no.” The comment alludes to this year’s escalation of the Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) debate, which has turned to hate and violence, two things that do no pair well with gift giving and happy holidays.

And seriously, most Dutch kitchens do not have an oven and if they do, good luck fitting a turkey in there. I’m still bummed I can’t put two trays of 12 muffins in side by side.

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September 12, 2014

Entire stock of Sinterklaas toys sold in one day

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 11:53 am

There’s already Sinterklaas treats in the shops, we’ve spent the summer in controversy with ‘Zwarte Piet’ and now in Ede, Gelderland, there’s a run on toys featuring the soon to be phased out black festive helper.

Online webshop Lobbes.nl based in Ede has sold all its Fisher Price Sinterklaas sets in one day. We’re not talking millions of sets, but the run on the toys did not go unnoticed. ​Fisher Price has announced that it will stop producing its traditional sets following complaints related to the figure of Zwarte Piet deemed racist by the courts.

What I’m thinking is in the years to come when the Dutch will be getting used to the phasing out of Zwarte Piet, anyone who has Zwarte Piet toys or decorations will make some extra cash. For all we know, they’ll import stuff from China if they’re not already doing that. And one day, a bit like gollywogs they’ll be seen more ironically that as actual festive figures.

(Link: www.gelderlander.nl, Photo by Aloxe, some rights reserved)

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July 8, 2014

Shoot first, ask questions later or wait and see?

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 2:17 pm

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Here’s a lovely, fuzzy article about cultural differences in The Guardian, prompted by an organisational theory thought up by Dutchman Fons Trompenaar, which divides the world into peaches and coconuts. Peaches are what I call the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ people who are friendly to strangers and will withdraw if they have to over time, while coconuts are the ‘wait-and-see’ types who will seem distant at first and may eventually warm up to you over time.

The important point is that both sides are valid and have the power to offend the other, deliberately or not. Recently a Dutch acquaintance said if someone was offended by something he said, it was always the other person’s fault for being offended and that people get offended too quickly. Much like the clumsy KLM tweet about Mexico, where KLM tried to say they were sorry but actually suggested that other people just don’t get Dutch humour, this would mean that the entire Twittersphere would have to bow to a culture they probably don’t even know and that the person at KLM is not responsible for their mistake.

If Trompenaar’s theory of both sides having equal value is true, then someone who causes offense cannot always blame it on other people. Conversely, someone who decides to be offended by everything they hear is of course equally at fault for blaming others. When I was learning Russian at university in Québec, I found out by reading Russian people’s reactions socially that calling myself ‘Natasha’ (my real name) was considered too friendly too fast because ‘Natasha’ is a friendly diminutive of ‘Natalia’ and you don’t let people call you that unless they know you. I then started introducing myself as ‘Natalia’. I could have said, ‘sod this, it’s my culture and my country and my name is Natasha’, but instead I told them they could call me ‘Natasha’ because that was my real name. Some stuck to Natalia, some switched to Natasha, but either way there was some cultural balance without outright blaming the other for not knowing any better.

A Dutch friend of mine visited my house once, which has carpeting that I can’t change for wooden floors, and I told him to please take off his shoes. He said, ‘what’s this, a mosque?’, and I told him that I didn’t want dirt from his shoes on my carpet. I explained that where I come from, a good part of the year it’s full of snow and mud outside, and walking into people’s homes with shoes on — unless you bring a pair of indoor shoes — is a no-no. Although it was my house, it was his cultural rules and I ended up vacuuming for 20 minutes after he visited me. He refused to accept that he had to change the way he did things for me because it wasn’t the Dutch way. All my friends take off their shoes at my place, but they do it because it’s my house and see compromise as a good thing rather than claim that their way is the only right way.

(Link: www.theguardian.com, Photo of Coconut by SingChan, some rights reserved)

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July 3, 2014

Court believes that ‘Zwarte Piet’ symbolises racism

Filed under: Dutch first,History by Orangemaster @ 12:54 pm
Zwarte Piet

The court of Amsterdam has handed down a ruling today that the entire Dutch media was waiting for about Zwarte Piet (‘Black Pete’, Saint Nicholas’ holiday time helper): it turns out he’s deemed “offensive to black people” and “racist” after all.

Although it was argued by many that Zwarte Piet is just some black figure and that he had nothing to do with slavery, a point that can surely be made, the blackface clown with exaggerated red lips and golden earrings apparently encourages a “negative stereotyping of black people”. In Dutch, when someone is made out to be the ‘bad guy’ in a situation, it is called to be the ‘Zwarte Piet’, which says a lot already about how he is viewed.

Today’s verdict only applies to Amsterdam and it remains to be seen what the rest of the country will make of such a strong and old tradition being struck down. Internet comments are not the nicest at the moment, blaming a few people for ruining it for everybody else and that sort of thing.

I wonder if Zwarte Piet is worth being the perpetual ‘bad guy’ and ‘whipping boy’ for a deeper discussion about racial stereotypes that needs to happen and will see where history will collectively take the Netherlands on this one.

(Link: www.nieuws.nl, Photo: tobysterling.net)

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November 18, 2013

Photo report of the Saint Nicholas parade in Amsterdam

Filed under: History by Branko Collin @ 8:02 pm

Yesterday I went to the Saint Nicholas parade in Amsterdam.

The bishop of Myra visits the Netherlands, Belgium and other parts of Europe each year to give gifts and candy on his birthday (6 December) to children that have been good and to take children that have been bad back to his palace in Spain.

Recently the appearance of Saint Nicholas’ helpers, the Black Petes, has drawn criticism for its uncanny resemblance to a black caricature.

As a response to the criticism, the city of Amsterdam promised to tone Black Pete down a bit. I did not see much evidence of that, the lips were caricaturally red as ever, although golden earrings seemed to have disappeared.

(more…)

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December 10, 2008

Blackfaced police officers in sting op

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 4:15 pm
Zwarte Piet

Last weekend the police in Utrecht used decoy men in blackface, so-called ‘Zwarte Pieten’ (Black Petes), to catch rowdy youths who had been taunting real Black Petes with their own candy.

Black Pete is Saint Nicholas’ helper in the Netherlands. His face is black because he is the one who has to climb down the chimney to deliver gifts and bring back up carrots for the horse and any naughty children that he might find. Over the years, the image of Black Pete has genericized, taking the blackface look from the deeply racist USA and multiplying the number of Petes so that they became more like huge Smurfs. We’ve even got the Smurf etymology down pat, naming individual Petes for a single outstanding quality: Fix it Pete, Gift Pete, Horse Pete, and now even Bait Pete.

Usually it’s Black Pete’s prerogative to give nice children candy and to put bad children “in the bag” and take them back to Spain with him (where, as you all know, Saint Nicholas comes from), but I guess the concept of good children turning bad after getting candy was a little too much for the Utrecht Petes, so they called in the cops. Methinks the arrested 10 and 11-year-olds should have an excellent line of defense in court.

(Link and photo: tobysterling.net, via trouw.nl)

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