The Dutch are not a food country: the motto here is food as fuel, like the hearty cheese sandwiches I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. However, like most humans, they love tasty food and as of late, are flexing their great trading skills by trying to combine junk foods and also trying to counter food waste.
I just read a letter sent in to newspaper Trouw in which a couple actually believe that ‘normal’ food is poisonous and expensive organic and bio-organic food is the dog’s bollocks. I’m thinking they did not grow up with organic and bio-organic food because it’s not been readily available for that long, and read something somewhere about it and now act as if they are in a higher social class. I’m picturing a white Dutch couple with some education, 30s, where the woman cuts off the man when he’s talking, especially since he’s the only one making sense, as you’ll see. And he’s going along with it because he can’t be arsed to find another partner at the moment and I bet eats dirty poisonous food when she’s away at her mother’s.
The couple wanted to know if it is OK to ask their friends to cook them organic food at dinner parties and wonder if it’s not too annoying for them to ask for ‘non-poisonous food’. The man thinks it’s inappropriate, while the woman has asked friends before and it has gone well, but still they get invited less. I hope they realise their friends fed them normal food and are going to avoid them like poison in the future until the guy splits up with his girlfriend and finds a new shiny one who eats everything under the sun.
The answer the couple got starts with: “it is quite arrogant to ask your friends to serve you expensive organic/bio-organic food. […] Your menu demands are very different than those of vegetarians or from people with a specific allergy because normal supermarket food is not poisonous.” It goes on to say there’s no scientific proof whatsoever that normal food is poisonous and called the couple ‘bonkers’ to conclude that their friends serve them ‘poisonous meals’, which is horribly arrogant and incorrect. The author would invite them over, serve them normal food and never invite them again, too, with a smile.
The man of the couple believes that being with friends is more important than the food they eat, but his partner isn’t getting the message. I think food and dinner party etiquette isn’t this couple’s biggest problem.
(Link: www.trouw.nl, Photo by FotoosVanRobin, some rights reserved)
Tags: manners, organic food
Why are the Dutch so impolite? The German-born historian Christoph Driessen proposes a couple of hypotheses in yesterday’s NRC (Dutch).
The Calvinist is interested in the essence of things. Everything else is unnecessary. In that view politeness is quickly seen as hypocrisy in the Netherlands.
The republican form of government of the Netherlands [from 1581 – 1795, Branko] may also have led to a very direct and uncomplicated form of contact. In other countries, manners were largely determined by the aristocracy—hence the word courteous. […] One of the leaders of the republic, Johan de Witt, was mighty enough to oppose the Sun King [Louis XIV, Branko], but when he tried to wear a gold and silver garment to underline that position, instead of the simple black every other Dutchman wore, the troops he tried to inspect jeered and laughed at him.
Considering the Dutch saw themselves as burghers before they became Protestants, I am guessing the second hypothesis may carry the larger weight. Unfortunately, Driessen does not expand on why the republic was such a successful idea in the Netherlands long before it became popular in other Western states.
The historian also points out that since other countries like Germany are letting go of class-based societies, the Dutch head start may actually turn into a disadvantage. Unlike people from other countries who now also learn how to talk straight when needed, the Dutch cannot easily reverse gear and use politeness to sugar coat unpleasant messages, as they have not been brought up in a culture of politeness. Driessen suggests that children could be taught manners in school to remedy this.
(Drawing of a Goop by Gelett Burgess, from a 1903 children’s book on manners.)
Tags: calvinism, culture, Dutch Republic, manners
Radio Netherlands Worldwide asked a thousand Dutchmen living abroad as expats for their views on politeness in their home country. The same questions were put to 300 expats in the Netherlands in a poll carried out by Expatica.com, a website targeting foreign residents. They were also asked whether they found certain groups in the Netherlands polite or impolite.
The poll held in the Netherlands itself showed that people who work in the Dutch service industry, like waiters and shop employees, did not get high marks when it comes to politeness. Civil servants – with whom expats have a lot of contact especially when they first move to the country – also get low marks. One respondent observes that the Dutch are more polite in their homes than in public:
“I think that is due to their Calvinist background. They believe everyone is equal and thus are not comfortable serving others.”
Groups of people that are considered polite in the Netherlands are receptionists, doctors, nurses and policemen. Even though these groups are thought to be polite, the expats indicated that all the types of people mentioned in the poll are actually more polite in their homelands than in the Netherlands. The only group they find to be really rude back home are teenagers.
The usual argument, which I am not 100% sold on, is that the Dutch (not everyone!) are not impolite, but make people uncomfortable with their direct attitude. Making someone you do not know feel uncomfortable can be considered impolite very quickly and so this is a touchy subject.
I have also heard that this comes off extremely poorly in European countries in a foreign job, as the boss freaks out when he/she gets talked to that way by a Dutch person. I’m again not sure being straight is the best strategy. If trying to fit in means always being straight forward, it is not going to work in the Netherlands simply because foreigners are not expected to act that way.
I can say as a foreigner living in the Netherlands for almost 10 years that I had to get used to that ‘verbal jolt’ you can get in a lot of in the big cities, especially Amsterdam. I have also noticed that anyone older than 50 is very polite in any city.
There is a huge difference betweem telling things like they are and not saying please or thank you. I think Radio Netherlands has it mixed up.
Tags: cultural differences, expats, manners, politeness