Culture of The Netherlands - history, people, clothing, women, beliefs, food, customs, family, social
Netherlands culture, Hollandic culture. The Dutch use Nederlandse cultuur and Hollandse cultuur to describe their culture.
Identification. The English word "Dutch" derives from the German deutsch ("German"). "Dutch" referred originally to both Germany and the Netherlands but came to be restricted to the people and language of the Netherlands when that country became independent in the seventeenth century. "Holland" and "the Netherlands" often are used as synonyms even though "Holland" refers only to the provinces North and South Holland.
The Dutch distinguish between two major cultural subdivisions in their nation.
The most important distinction is between the Randstad (Rim City) and non-Randstad cultures.
Dutch painters, especially in the northern provinces, tried to evoke emotions in the spectator by letting him/her be a bystander to a scene of profound intimacy. Portrait painting thrived in the Netherlands in the 17th century. A great many portraits were
commissioned by wealthy individuals. Group portraits similarly were often ordered by prominent members of a city's civilian guard
, by boards of trustees and regents, and the like. Often group portraits were paid for by each portrayed person individually. The amount paid determined each person's place in the picture, either head to toe in full regalia in the foreground or face only in the back of the group. Sometimes all group members paid an equal sum, which was likely to lead to quarrels when some members gained a more prominent place in the picture than others. Allegories, in which painted objects conveyed symbolic meaning about the subject, were often applied. Many genre paintings, which seemingly only depicted everyday life, actually illustrated Dutch proverbs and sayings, or conveyed a moralistic message, the meaning of which is not always easy to
decipher nowadays. Favourite topics in Dutch
landscapes were the dunes along the western sea coast, rivers with their broad adjoining meadows where cattle grazed, often a silhouette of a city in the distance.
Randstad culture is distinctly urban, located in the provinces of North Holland, South Holland, and Utrecht. The non-Randstad culture corresponds to the historical divide between the predominantly Protestant north and the Catholic south, separated by the Rhine River.
Christianity is currently the largest religion in the Netherlands. The provinces of North Brabant and Limburg have historically been strongly Roman Catholic, and some of their people might still consider the Catholic Church as a base for
their cultural identity
. Protestantism in the Netherlands consists of a number of churches within various traditions
Significant local variations of Dutch culture include the Friesian culture in the extreme north and the Brabant and Limburg cultures in the south. The southern culture was subject to discriminatory policies until the nineteenth century.
The predominant religion in the Netherlands was Christianity until late into the 20th century. Although religious diversity remains, there has been a decline in religious adherence. In 2006, 34% of the Dutch population identified as
Christian, decreasing till in 2015 almost 25% of the population adhered to one of the Christian faiths (11.7% Roman Catholic, 8.6% PKN, 4.2% other small Christian denominations), 5% is Muslim and 2% adheres to Hinduism or Buddhism, based on independent in-depth interviewing by Radboud University and Vrije
Universiteit Amsterdam. Approximately 67.8% of the population in 2015 has no religious affiliation, up from 61% in 2006, 53% in 1996, 43% 1979 and 33% in 1966. The Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (Social and Cultural Planning Agency, SCP) expects the number of non-affiliated Dutch to be at 72% in 2020.
The Friesians prize their language and descent from the ancient Friesian people, while the Limburgers and Brabantines emphasize their southern culture and Catholic heritage.
The Netherlands has for centuries provided a safe haven for ethnic minorities fleeing from discrimination and persecution, with each minority influencing Dutch culture in its own way.
Other religions account for some 6% of the Dutch people. Hinduism is a minority religion in the Netherlands, with around 215,000 adherents (slightly over 1% of the population). Most of these are Indo-Surinamese. There are also sizable populations of Hindu
immigrants from India and Sri Lanka, and some Western adherents of Hinduism-oriented new religious movements such as Hare Krishnas.
Many Jews from Spain and Portugal and Protestant merchants from the Spanish-ruled southern Netherlands sought refuge in the Dutch Republic in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The twentieth century was characterized by the
influx of guest workers from the Mediterranean, migrants from the former Dutch colonies, and refugees from war-torn countries
Dutch cuisine is characterized by its somewhat limited diversity; however, it varies greatly from region to region. The southern regions of the Netherlands for example share dishes with Flanders and vice versa. The Southern Dutch cuisine is the only
Dutch culinary region which developed an haute
cuisine, as it is influenced by both German cuisine and
French cuisine, and it forms the base of most traditional Dutch restaurants. Dutch food is traditionally characterized by the high consumption of vegetables when compared to the consumption of meat. Dairy products are also
eaten to great extent, Dutch cheeses are world-renowned with famous cheeses such as
Gouda, Edam and Leiden. Dutch pastry is extremely rich and is eaten in great quantities. When it comes to alcoholic beverages wine has long been absent in Dutch cuisine
(but this is changing during the last decades); traditionally there
are many brands of beer and strong alcoholic spirits such as jenever and brandewijn. The Dutch have all sorts of pastry and cookies, many of them filled with marzipan, almond and chocolate. A truly huge amount of different pies and
cakes can be found, most notably in the southern provinces, especially the so-called Limburgish vlaai.
The Netherlands does not have a strong uniform national culture. Most Dutch people reject the notion and consider it to be tainted with an unacceptable form of nationalism. Instead, they emphasize the country's cultural diversity, tolerance of difference, and receptiveness to foreign influences.
The Netherlands is a democracy with a tolerant, open society. Although up to 40 percent of the Dutch say they have no religion, Calvinism still strongly influences their values and beliefs. This Protestant Christian religion, introduced in the
16th century, dictates individual responsibility for moral salvage from the sinful world through introspection
, total honesty, soberness, rejection of pleasure and the enjoyment of wealth.
Nevertheless, the Randstad culture has been hegemonic in the Netherlands because of the concentration of political, economic, and cultural power in that densely populated region.
Location and Geography. The Netherlands is situated in northwestern Europe and borders on Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North sea to the west and north.
A typical Dutch sport is "korfball", a mixed sport played by girls and boys. It's invented in the Netherlands, but now it's also played in countries such as Belgium, Germany and Japan. At the IKF Korfball World Championship the Dutch team has won in all cases except once.
The name "Netherlands" means "Low Lands" in reference to the nation's topography as an alluvial plain. Differences in altitude are minimal. Almost one-quarter of the landmass is below sea level, protected from the encroaching sea by dikes and dunes.
With almost 17 million inhabitants - 16 829 289 - the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Everyday life is structured down to the smallest detail. Private life and work are carefully planned and nothing is left to the unexpected. Ad hoc changes are not
The Netherlands is also a relatively small country (13,297 square miles [34,425 square kilometers]) without surface water.
The Netherlands is divided in twelve provinces. Amsterdam (730,000 inhabitants) is the capital, but the government meets in The Hague (440,000 inhabitants).
The Hague School were around at the start of the nineteenth century. They showed all that is gravest or brightest in the landscape of Holland, all that is heaviest or clearest in its atmosphere. Amsterdam Impressionism was current during the middle of the Nineteenth century at about the same time as French Impressionism
. The painters put their impressions onto canvas with rapid, visible strokes of the brush. They focused on depicting the everyday life of the city. Late nineteenth-century Amsterdam was a bustling centre of art and literature. Vincent van Gogh was a post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on
20th-century art. In the 20th century, the Netherlands produced many fine painters and artists. Around 1905-1910 pointillism was flourishing. Between
1911 and 1914 all the latest art movements arrived in the Netherlands one after another including cubism, futurism and expressionism. After World War I, De Stijl (the style) was led by Piet Mondrian and promoted a pure art, consisting only of vertical and horizontal lines, and the use of primary colors.
Utrecht (235,000 inhabitants) is the transportation hub, while the port city of Rotterdam (590,000 inhabitants) constitutes the economic heartland. These four cities together with a string of interconnected towns, form the Randstad, which has a population of
The Dutch Golden Age roughly spanned the 17th century. Due to the thriving economy, cities expanded greatly. New town halls and storehouses were built, and many new canals were dug out in and around various cities such as Delft
, Leiden and Amsterdam for defence and transport purposes. Many wealthy merchants had a new house built along these canals. These houses were generally very narrow
and had ornamented façades that befitted their new status.
Demography. The Netherlands had a population of 15,898,331 in 2000. It is the most densely populated country in Europe (1,196 inhabitants per square mile [462 per square kilometer] in 1996).
From a December 2014 survey by the VU University Amsterdam it was concluded that for the first time there are more atheists (25%) than theists (17%) in the Netherlands. The majority of the population being agnostic (31%) or ietsistic (27%). Atheism, agnosticism and Christian atheism are on the rise and are widely accepted and considered to be non-controversial. Among those who adhere to Christianity there are high percentages of atheists, agnostics and ietsists, since affiliation with a Christian denomination is also used in a way of cultural identification in the different parts of the
Netherlands. In 2015, a vast majority of the inhabitants of the Netherlands (82%) said they had never or almost never visited a church, and 59% stated that they had never been to a church of any kind. Of all the people questioned
, 24% saw themselves as atheist, an increase of 11% compared to the
previous study done in 2006. The expected rise of spirituality (ietsism) has come to a halt according to research in
2015. In 2006 40% of respondents considered themselves spiritual, in 2015 this has dropped to 31%. The number who believed in the existence of a higher power fell from 36% to 28% over the same period.
There are 2,700,000 foreign residents. The majority, approximately 780,000, originate from the European Union, including 432,000 Germans. Other sizable groups are Surinamese (297,000), Turks (300,000), Moroccans (252,000), and Antilleans (99,000).
Two of the biggest annual Dutch radio events are 3FM Serious Request and the Top 2000 — both multi-day round-the-clock national broadcasting events in the month of December, supported by other media. They both have over half of the population of the
Netherlands listening to the broadcasts each year.
The average life expectancy in 1996 was 75.2 years for men and 80.7 years for women, while the infant mortality rate was 5.1 per 1,000.
Linguistic Affiliation. The official language of the Netherlands is Standard Dutch.
As a Brazilian general manager living in the Netherlands remarked, "I am happy that my Dutch personnel did not throw me out of my office the first week I worked in Amsterdam. As top manager in Rio, I barely spoke to my lower personnel
. I was used to giving orders and being served.
This language is used in all official matters, by the media, and at schools and universities. Dutch closely resembles German in both syntax and spelling. It freely borrows words and technical terms from French and especially
Dutch Golden Age painting was among the most acclaimed in the world at the time, during the seventeenth century. There was an enormous output of painting, so much so that prices declined seriously during the period. From the 1620s, Dutch painting broke decisively from the Baroque style typified by Rubens in neighboring Flanders into a more realistic style of depiction, very much concerned with the real world. Types of paintings included historical paintings, portraiture
, landscapes and cityscapes, still lifes and genre paintings. In the last four of these categories, Dutch painters established styles upon which art in Europe depended for the next two centuries. Paintings often had a moralistic subtext. The Golden Age never really recovered from the French invasion of
1672, although there was a twilight period lasting until about 1710.
Dutch is also the official language in Flandres, Belgium, where it is called Flemish. Creole languages are increasingly replacing Dutch in Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles as decolonization progresses.
The Dutch love time off to spend with their partner, kids and friends, for vacation or to study. Therefore they will prefer to reduce working hours instead of having an increase in salary.
Afrikaans, which is widely spoken in South Africa, is related to Dutch. Friesian is the second official language of the Netherlands; it is spoken by a half million Friesians. In addition, there are about twenty-five major dialects of Dutch.
A large majority of the Dutch population believes that religion should not have a determining role to play in politics and education. Religion is also decreasingly seen as a social binder, and is generally considered a personal matter which
should not be propagated in public. The Dutch constitution guarantees freedom of education, which means that all schools that adhere to
general quality criteria receive the same government funding
. This includes schools based on religious principles by religious groups (especially Roman Catholic and various Protestant). Three political parties in the Dutch parliament, are based upon the Christian belief. Several Christian religious holidays are national holidays
. In the late 19th century atheism began to rise as secularism, liberalism and socialism grew; in the 1960s and 1970s Protestantism and Catholicism notably began to decline. There is one major exception: Islam which grew considerably as the result of immigration. Since the year 2000 there has been raised awareness of religion, mainly due to Muslim extremism
. In 2013 a Catholic became Queen consort.
Symbolism. The display of the national flag and the singing of the national anthem are important expressions of identity for a decreasing number of citizens. The flag consists of three horizontal strips in the colors red, white, and blue.
In order to deliver good work, the Dutch like to consider the risks and consequences of everything they do, well in advance. They want to have detailed information. In the case something does go wrong, the Dutch individual will take full responsibility for the
consequences. In the case of success, of course, they will take the full credit.
The national anthem is the Wilhelmus . It was a rebel song during the independence war against Spain and was adopted as the national anthem in 1932.
The complex relationship of the Dutch people with the sea is notable.
The Dutch are famous in the Western world for the many hours a week they spend in meetings. Decision-making processes are complex.
The sea has historically been both adversary and ally. The Dutch used to repel foreign invaders by deliberately piercing river dikes. However, if not for the extensive waterworks, 65 percent of the Netherlands would be flooded permanently.
This may seem so because in most countries, the client has a preferential position above the sales person and therefore in that particular situation, a higher status. In the Netherlands, however, goods and services are exchanged
on an equal basis. Sales persons feel free to
openly disagree and criticise their clients.
The Dutch take great pride in their struggle against the sea and reclaiming of land, which they view as mastery over nature.
Another source of national pride that sets aside regional and religious differences is sports, especially soccer and speed skating.
Whether you’ve lived here for days, months or years, you won’t regret attending the Expat Fair for Internationals. Sunday 8 October 2017, Amsterdam.
Whenever the national team engages in international competitions, orangemania reigns. People dress in orange (in reference to the name of the royal family), raise national and orange flags, and decorate houses and streets as a patriotic feeling of athletic superiority floods the nation.
Another traditional feast of the Netherlands is King's Day (Koningsdag). This is celebrated in honour of the King's birthday. The day is known for its nationwide vrijmarkt ("free market"), at which many Dutch sell their secondhand items. It is also an opportunity for "orange madness" or oranjegekte, for the national colour
, when the normally strait-laced Dutch let down their hair, often dyed orange for the occasion.
The Elfstedentocht ("Eleven-City Tour") also raises national awareness. This speed-skating event in Friesland occurs only occasionally as it takes a prolonged period of frost to harden the 125 miles of lakes and canals that connect the eleven Friesian towns.
The contrary takes place when Dutch businessmen and women travel. They usually have the individual authority to close deals on the spot without consulting the home office.
The clearest example of national symbolism is the Dutch royal family. The queen is regarded as the embodiment of the Dutch (nation) and a symbol of hope and unity in times of war, adversity, and natural disaster.
The Dutch do not necessarily feel ashamed when you inform them of a mistake, and can appreciate that you give them the opportunity to correct and thus improve themselves. The Dutch feel that in the end, one learns from his mistakes
Her popularity is manifested annually at the celebration of Queensday on 30 April. The capital, Amsterdam, in particular, is transformed into a gigantic flea market and open-air festival.
The 1940-1945 occupation by Nazi Germany provides a continued source of national identity.
With all this planning and structuring, little is left to the unexpected. Therefore Dutch people do not excel in improvising. However, they have an adventurous mind and dare to take risks in business, which requests flexibility.
There are more than eight hundred World War II monuments and memorials, and the Dutch people still use the war years as the most important historical point of reference. The conflation of Jewish and non-Jewish Dutch suffering is a striking characteristic of
One traditional festivity in the Netherlands is the feast of Sint Nicolaas or Sinterklaas. It is celebrated on the evening before Sinterklaas' birthday on December 5, especially in families with little children
. Sinterklaas has a companion known as Zwarte Piet. In the United States the original figure of Dutch Sinterklaas has merged with Father Christmas into Santa Claus. In the Netherlands, gift-bringing at Christmas has in recent decades gained some popularity too
, but Sinterklaas is much more popular.
The Dutch pride themselves on their fierce resistance to the Nazi regime and their sheltering of 25,000 Jewish and 300,000 non-Jewish Dutch, but there also was extensive collaboration with the Nazis. More than a hundred thousand Jews were deported to concentration camps.
Loss of face is a rather unknown concept in Dutch society when compared to other cultures.
Anne Frank symbolizes this deeply ambiguous self-perception of the Dutch as victims, resisters, collaborators, and passive bystanders. The Frank family was harbored for two years by Dutch resisters before finally being betrayed by Dutch collaborators.
However, expatriates have reported that being direct back to the Dutch doesn't always sit so well.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. Dutch national identity emerged during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially in the struggle for independence from Catholic Spain during the Eighty Year War (1568-1648).
The Dutch may have great work relationships with their colleagues, but they rarely invite them to their homes. Work and private life are strictly separated.
The Dutch people received independence from the House of Habsburg in the Treaty of Munster in 1648. The Netherlands was temporarily unified with Belgium after the Congress of Vienna. The Catholic Belgian elite sought its freedom from the Protestant Dutch, and Belgium became independent in 1839.
The Dutch are open and will enjoy lengthy discussions over a beer in a bar with mostly anybody. This relationship ends when you say goodbye at the door.
National Identity. Dutch national identity emerged from the struggle for political sovereignty and religious freedom from the Catholic Habsburgs (Philip II). The Dutch merchant class formed an alliance with the House of Orange; the merchants supplied the funds to wage war, while the House of Orange provided political stability and military protection.
The Dutch are distrustful of very polite conversations, afraid that an unpleasant message may be hidden which they are unable to detect.
Politics became more dependent on consensus and negotiation than on authoritarian rule as power rested in the hands of provincial viceroys.
The rapid expansion of the Dutch merchant fleet enabled the establishment of a worldwide network of trade relations that created naval dominance and increasing wealth for the merchant class.
The Netherlands is a small country with a limited internal market, consequently the Dutch look across their borders for markets. They started out as worldwide maritime traders in the 16th century and today they are still significant players in the global economy
Handicapped by a small population (670,000 inhabitants in 1622) and besieged by growing English and French might, the Dutch Republic began to decline. Paradoxically, at that time, the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy merchant class
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A woman selling cheese at the market in Alkmaar. The Netherlands has an advanced free market economy.
resulted in the so-called Golden Age. Stately canal houses were constructed in Amsterdam, and great works of art were commissioned.
Vacation days, depending on the labour contract, run from 21 to as many as 35 working days a year. Expatriates on foreign work-contracts in the Netherlands often complain they are always in the office while the Dutch are on vacation.
The Netherlands was one of the poorest nations in northwestern Europe by 1750. In 1813, at the end of the French occupation (1795-1813), William I of the House of Orange-Nassau accepted the throne and became the first Dutch king.
Therefore, extremes are absent in society: political extremes, extreme emotions, extreme richness or extravagant lifestyles. Some money may be spent for pleasure, but frequent vacations abroad, comfortable houses and safe cars are preferred above luxury items.
The Dutch nobility never had a position of prominence and influence in Dutch society. Only after constitutional reforms in 1851 did the nation begin its ascent to industrialization.
Rural-urban migration and especially the establishment of male suffrage in 1887 undermined traditional ways of life in the eyes of some politicians.
The Netherlands has an egalitarian society. Status and respect are obtained through study and work and not through family ties or old age. Every person is equal and should be treated accordingly, which may be difficult for
foreigners to understand.
The Anti-Revolutionary Party was founded in 1878 to reverse that trend. That party advocated autonomy for different political and religious communities. Its initiative resulted in the early twentieth century in a process of vertical
segmentation or pluralism known as pillarization.
During the 20th century Dutch architects played a leading role in the development of modern architecture. Out of the early 20th century rationalist architecture of Berlage, architect of the Beurs van Berlage, three separate groups developed during the
1920s, each with their own view on which direction modern architecture should take. Expressionist architects like M. de Klerk and P.J. Kramer in Amsterdam.
Pillarization meant that each substantial subsection of the Dutch population was able to participate in social institutions and organizations (labor unions, schools, universities, political parties, social clubs, churches
, and radio stations
) that catered to its specific needs.
Being very nice may awaken the suspicion that one is in need of a special favour. Politeness may also cause irritation as it is considered a waste of time.
The four main pillars where Catholic, Protestant, socialist, and conservative. Intensive cooperation and negotiation between the pillars took place among national politicians. Secularization and emancipation in the late 1960s resulted in depillarization because of a greater vertical social mobility, growing intermarriage, and a declining identification with
each of the four pillars.
The Dutch work hard in their 36- to 40-hour week. Work is streamlined to make the client's life easy but at a steep price because foreigners often have the impression that Dutch people are not very service-minded.
A strong self-conscious national identity did not develop in the Netherlands because of these centrifugal historical processes, and this denial of a national identity became a hallmark of Dutch culture.
People may start retiring as young as 50, up to legal retirement age of 65 years old (to be gradually raised to 67 by 2021). The elderly are not respected in the corporate world. However, the Business Insider ranked the Netherlands in their top 10 list of places to retire
Religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity are considered the essence of Dutch culture. The persistence of sizable religious and regional minorities and the decentralization of administrative power have allowed cultural diversity to survive
The Dutch are mistakenly called stingy. But in reality they simply hate to waste everything from food to money. Maybe it is this virtue that made this small country an economic world power.
In the absence of a countrywide shared identity, the hegemonic Randstad culture has provided most of the markers of national identity.
Ethnic Relations. There is not much debate about racism or ethnic discrimination among the Dutch people, probably because of their self-ascribed tolerance.
In some cases, they expect you to be honest and direct in return. If you detect mistakes in their work and you do not inform them about these mistakes, they might get disappointed with you.
Nevertheless, the socioeconomic position of most non-European minorities is far worse than that of the indigenous population. The status of immigrant groups after World War II depended mainly on the moment and condition of their entry.
How we look upon and judge the lifestyle and workplace of other cultures depends on how we view the world from our own cultural background.
Dutch-speaking Indonesians arrived at the height of the postwar economic upswing after Indonesia's independence in 1950. The Indonesians had ample time to secure a stable position in Dutch society. By contrast
, the Mediterranean guest workers who arrived in the late 1960s and early 1970s regarded themselves and were viewed by the Dutch authorities as temporary residents and therefore did not familiarize themselves with Dutch culture.
The Dutch directness in the communication with foreigners regularly causes misunderstandings. Unable to make things understood through context and unable to read context, the Dutch express themselves verbally.
Guest workers were recruited principally from Spain and Italy and later from Turkey and Morocco. Those workers performed unskilled labor in the industry and service sectors. Many Dutch-speaking Surinamese arrived after Suriname became independent in 1975.
Also, Dutch businessmen do not feel obligated to entertain foreign business visitors after business hours.
Those immigrants and the poorly educated Turkish and Moroccan labor migrants were among the first to suffer from the economic decline of the 1970s. The position of the Surinamese improved during the 1980s and 1990s, but the Turks and Moroccans remained the most disadvantaged ethnic groups in Dutch society
As work is very well structured within organisations, much work is done during regular working hours. Except for those at management level, employees are reluctant to work overtime.
Local residents of the Netherlands Antilles have been migrating to the Netherlands since the mid-1970s in search of work and schooling. The 1990s was marked by the immigration of substantial groups of refugees from west Africa, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan
, and the Balkans.
Urbanism,Architecture, and the Use of Space
Dutch cities are extremely compact and densely populated.
Many Americans think the Dutch way of working is time-consuming as no one can be given a quick order without explaining why.
Government intervention ensures that intercity areas are well kept and that ethnic ghettos and industrial wastelands do not emerge. The major cities are constantly subject to urban renewal projects. Much attention is given to fostering a sense of community by creating
public places, such as parks and squares with benches and playgrounds. The country has an
intricate network of railroads and an even denser web of bicycle paths.
Early Dutch architecture was influenced by a Calvinist ethos of uniformity and sobriety. This distinct style emerged after the Netherlands separated from Spain in 1581. Unlike their contemporaries in France and Great Britain, wealthy Dutch merchants built fairly modest yet stately canal houses in Amsterdam. Dutch cities lack the grandeur and flamboyance of Paris and London because the government meets in inconspicuous buildings.
Contemporary Dutch architecture is more cosmopolitan. The expressionist Amsterdam School and the cubist Stijl architects of the 1920s were inspired by international art movements. Modernism became the principal style of the post-World War II housing boom. The city center of Rotterdam is a typical example.
A widespread tradition is that of serving beschuit met muisjes when people come to visit a new-born baby and his mother. Beschuit is a typical Dutch type of biscuit, muisjes are sugared anise seeds.
Largely destroyed in World War II, the heart of this port city was rebuilt in an American style with steel and glass skyscrapers. At the end of the twentieth century, the Randstad cities began developing postmodern suburban business parks and
indoor shopping malls.
Being an egalitarian society, personal and academic titles are not used on business cards. Only corporate Holland will print the academic titles of their managers on their business cards.
The Dutch have a desire for spatial organization that is informed by Calvinist assumptions about order as a synonym for cleanliness and sinlessness. The Calvinist sense of space can be seen clearly from the air.
They speak in a friendly tone in rather short, clear, sober sentences lacking any form of politeness or courtesy.
The land is carefully divided in Mondrian-like squares and rectangles. In part, this is related to surface water management with its need for canals and dikes, but it also reflects the Dutch desire for order and uniformity. This can be seen most clearly in the undistinguished suburban housing development projects
Dutch houses are relatively small and have prominent front doors and large windows.
Everyone involved needs to be heard. In the end a compromise will be reached in which every one agrees. Once agreed upon the work can progress steadily. Therefore, changes are usually lengthy processes.
Homes are stacked with formidable amounts of furniture, indoor plants, and flowers. Dutch interiors are a reflection of the outside world, congested but orderly and clean.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. The Netherlands does not have a distinct culinary culture because of its Protestant ethnic and the absence of a strong culinary tradition at the court due to an emphasis on Calvinist soberness. Food is seen as a necessary part of life, with no need for luxury. Traditional foods include pea soup, kale stew, hotchpotch (a thick stew), white asparagus, French fries with mayonnaise, meat croquets, and raw herring. In the morning, the Dutch consume several sandwiches with cheese, peanut butter, or chocolate sprinkles.
Elderly people may never be consulted for their wisdom but they are well taken care of in comfortable old-age houses once they are unable to live on their own. If you are wealthy or not, everyone gets equal treatment
Lunch consists of sandwiches, often with cold cuts and perhaps a small salad on the side. Dinner, which generally is served between five and seven P.M. , is a twoor three-course meal that often begins with soup. The main dish usually contains a mixture of potatoes with vegetables and meat, fish, or poultry and is followed by dessert.
Adult brothers and sisters usually see each other only on birthday celebrations, weddings and funerals. There is no moral obligation to take care of extended family members or elderly parents.
Chinese-Indonesian, Surinamese, and Italian food have become part of the Dutch diet.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The Dutch hardly ever invite people with whom they are not closely acquainted for dinner. Instead, coffee has a strong social significance. Neighbors often invite each other over for a cup of coffee with the invariable one cookie, and the morning coffee break at work is a sacred institution. Coffee-drinking
A drawbridge over a canal in Haarlem. Dutch cities are compact and densely populated.
rituals reveal the core meaning of the crucial Dutch word gezelligheid ("cozy," "sociable," or "pleasant").
Basic Economy. The Netherlands has an advanced free market economy. The Dutch pride themselves on having an economy that performs smoothly, known as the polder model, which hinges on periodic negotiations among labor unions, employers' associations, and the government to control wage scales and taxes.
The Dutch expect others to be open and direct like them. They will tell you what they think of you and criticise your work indifferent of your status if you are a superior or a subordinate.
The labor force consisted of 7,097,000 persons in 1999; the unemployed numbered 292,000. The annual gross national product (GNP) amounted to 323 billion euros ($373 billion) in 1997. Imports totaled about 55 percent of GNP; and exports totaled 61 percent. The average income after taxes is 20,000 euros ($23,160). The Netherlands never had a major wave of industrialization but
remained firmly oriented toward agriculture
, trade, and service industries. Two percent of the Dutch population are employed in the highly mechanized agricultural sector (which includes the fishing industry), 24 percent are employed in the industrial sector, and 74 percent work in service industries
Trade. Dutch exports can be divided into five main categories: agricultural products, 15 percent; natural or enriched fuels, 6 percent; chemical products, 17 percent; industrial products, 12 percent; and machinery, 24 percent. Germany is the principal trading partner. Two-thirds of Dutch exports go to five nations: Germany, Belgium, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Those five trading partners account for 61 percent of Dutch imports.
Classes and Castes. Differences in wealth are relatively small in comparison to many other countries because of progressive taxation and the redistribution of fiscal funds to the unemployed and occupationally inactive.
Despite having a very open and individualistic society, when it comes to the family nucleus, it is a hermetically closed circle. The family nucleus is detached from the extended family.
This equality of income is clearly shown when Dutch households are subdivided into four separate income categories. The lowest quartile has an average income of 8,730 euros ($10,105) after taxes, whereas the highest quartile has an average income of 38,365 euros ($44,420). An open discussion of class
, income, and status differences is more or
less taboo in a society that strongly
Despite the strong Calvinist background and a disapproval of extremes, homosexual marriages, sex on TV and legalised soft drugs are part of daily life.
Although Dutch society in general is firmly middle class, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the population lives at a subsistence level. This income polarization and the ensuing social segmentation began in the 1980s. Low-skilled workers, the unemployed, the disabled, the aged, and single-parent households have been
Two windmills in the Netherlands.
hit hardest. Low-income households are concentrated in the Randstad cities and the two most northern provinces, Friesland and Groningen.
Symbols of Social Stratification. Class differences entail few visible signs of cultural differentiation, but those minor differences have a great symbolic value in creating social distinction.
Working hours may run from 9am to 5-6pm. Those who are unable to handle their job within the office hours may not be fit for the job.
The most obvious differences can be observed in housing, consumption patterns, and community participation. Lower-class homes are small and tend to hold a large amount of furniture and decorative articles. Higher-class homes are more spacious and tend to hold less and often more sober furniture. The social participation of Dutch people does not depend entirely on
, but higher-income households tend to have less involvement in community life than do
low-income households. Lower class people are in general more rooted in community life and less restrained in contacts with neighbors and relatives.
As for your private agenda, with some friends you may be expected to plan an evening at the cinema six weeks from today. There is generally no such thing as just 'dropping by to say hello', although this depends on your friend
Differences in clothing are relatively slight but important class markers. The Dutch dress with little eye for flamboyance. Even corporate dress codes are informal. Only the very rich and young urban professionals have a dress style that adheres to international clothing standards.
Speech patterns also may vary with class. Lower class people tend to speak in a local dialect, while the middle and upper classes speak Standard Dutch.
Government. The Netherlands is a unitary state governed by a central body. The political system is a parliamentary democracy as well as a constitutional monarchy. The queen has little political influence; her role is largely symbolic. Political power lies in the hands of a cabinet of ministers headed by a prime minister. The cabinet is accountable to the parliament ( Staten-Generaal ), whose members are elected at four-year intervals. The Dutch Parliament consists of the First Chamber and the Second Chamber, which together constitute the legislative body. The Second Chamber initiates new legislation. Its members are directly elected by the people, who have had universal suffrage since 1919. The members of the Second Chamber are elected by proportional representation, which leads to a great number of political parties that together compete for 150 seats. The First Chamber either ratifies or rejects the new legislation proposed by the Second Chamber. Its members are elected by the members of the Provinciale Staten . Each of the twelve provinces has a local governing board ( Provinciale Staten ) whose chair is the commissioner to the queen, who is appointed by the government for a life term.
Being very organised and time conscious, one may have to plan business appointments up to four weeks ahead, with bosses, clients and colleagues.
Its members are elected by the inhabitants of the province. Each municipality has an elected council presided over by the mayor and elected aldermen. Commissioners and mayors are handpicked by the government for life terms.
Leadership and Political Officials. The main political parties are the PvdA (social democrats), VVD (conservatives), and CDA (Christian democrats). These parties are supplemented by a large number of smaller parties, ranging from socialist and nationalist to religious and green. Dutch cabinets are invariably coalitions of the major political parties. Open debate and negotiation toward consensus are part of Dutch political culture.
Most top level government positions are occupied by former members of the Second Chamber who have moved up in the party ranks. Most public functionaries at the ministries are career bureaucrats. Interactions between politicians and ordinary citizens are fairly limited, especially on the provincial and national levels. Only industrial associations, unions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and political lobbies interact directly on political matters. These groups have a strong impact on political decision making.
Social Problems and Control. Traffic violations are the most common legal infraction. Violent crimes are low compared to other European countries and the United States; 273 murders were committed in 1996, amounting to 1.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Dutch citizens worry mostly about muggings and burglaries. People hardly ever take the law into their own hands. There are very few neighborhood watches and no armed citizens' militias. The Netherlands has very strict gun control. Possession of small quantities of soft drugs (marijuana and hashish) is not prosecuted. The sale of soft drugs in so-called coffeeshops is not legal but is tolerated. The Netherlands has become a magnet for drug tourists because of its liberal stance toward drugs and its position as a major transport hub within Europe. The Netherlands has a great tolerance of prostitution. Randstad cities have red light districts in which women display themselves behind windows to potential customers.
Military Activity. The Dutch army was professionalized during the 1990s, when conscription was formally abolished. The defense budget declined substantially between 1989 and 1998 because of the end of the Cold War. In the absence of armed conflicts, the Dutch armed forces become only active during national disasters such as major floods and forest fires and in international peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations or NATO. Even though the Dutch hold the military in low esteem, their attitude toward peacekeeping missions is very positive.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
The modern Dutch welfare state, with its elaborate system of laws and regulations, came into existence after World War II. The current array of welfare laws is impossible to summarize, but the main assumption is that people are entitled to a sufficient income to satisfy their basic needs and should not be at the mercy of charity.
The welfare system was created to provide for the aged and as a temporary safety net for unemployed breadwinners. However, in the present post-industrial economic system, this system has become a permanent source of income for a large and stable group, and this has created increasing dependency on the state. High economic growth at the turn of the twentieth century, tax incentives, and government reeducation programs had rapidly reduced long-term unemployment to record lows. Unemployment benefits are sufficient to maintain the recipients at a minimum standard of living.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
Nongovernmental organizations in the Netherlands consist mostly of charity funds and environmental and human rights organizations. Important organizations include Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and Natuurmonumenten (an organization for the protection of the Dutch natural environment), which have a large middle and upper class following. They have a considerable impact on national politics. The Dutch contribute large sums to international disaster aid and consider themselves morally obliged to do so.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Women constitute only 38 percent of the labor force and often work part-time. This low rate of participation has ideological and historical reasons. There is a prevailing belief that maternity care has great developmental benefits for children. Furthermore, the Dutch involvement in both world wars contributed to the
A worker cultivates the perfect rows of tulips growing in the Bollenstreek bulb-region of the Netherlands.
late entry of women in the labor force. Unlike in Great Britain and Germany, where many men fought in the war, the Dutch did not enter World War I. The German occupation during World War II kept the male labor force largely intact in spite of the hundreds of thousands of forced laborers who were deported to Nazi Germany
, and women thus were not needed to take the place of male workers. Dutch women only slowly started entering the labor force after the pillarization of society crumbled in the late 1960s. They still lag behind men in terms of income and job status. The average annual income of men
was 26,410 euros ($30,580) before taxes in 1997 versus only 13,455 euros ($15,580) for women. Women are found mostly in low-paying service jobs such as nursing and cleaning.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Although women and men are equal before the law and the trend toward gender equality has been noticeable, women and men still occupy distinct functions in Dutch society. The differences between men and women are especially noticeable within the nuclear family, where the woman continues to perform the role of homemaker, while the man is seen as the breadwinner or provider. This is especially true among working-class families. Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in politics and the economy.
Marriage,Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Dutch people are free to choose their spouses. The common basis for marriage is most often love. This does not mean that people marry independently of the constraints of class, ethnicity, and religion. The choice of a partner is often class-based. Monogamy is the only marriage form allowed. Many Dutch couples live in a consensual arrangement. Same-sex couples can marry and have the same rights as heterosexual couples.
The marriage ceremony may consist of two separate formal events: the municipal registration and a religious ceremony, with the latter being optional. The couple holds a wedding reception where friends and relatives gather to celebrate the nuptial engagement. Almost 45 percent of the Dutch population is married; about eighty thousand marriages are registered each year, while on average thirty thousand couples file for divorce.
Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the most common household unit, although it is increasingly losing ground to single-parent families, couples without children, and single-person households. The principal authority in the household is generally the man, although there is a trend toward more equality of marriage partners. Extended family households are rare. Dutch couples have a neolocal postmarital residence pattern, as couples are free to choose where they live.
Kin Groups. The Dutch make a distinction between relatives by marriage and relatives by blood. Consanguineal relatives are considered more important than are affinal relatives. Solidarity and support (financial and emotional) are usually directed at the closest kin (parents, children, and siblings). This is also illustrated by prevailing inheritance patterns. Disinheritance is not permitted by law. Every child receives an equal share.
Infant Care. The average nuclear family is relatively small, with only one or two children. Toddlers receive much parental attention. Many children are cared for primarily by their parents in the parental home. Infants usually are put in playpens, where parents can leave them without restraining their own movement around the house. Since in many families both parents are employed, children aged 6 weeks and up are often placed in a nursery when their parents are at work. Children often enter play groups at age 2 and at age 4 are officially required to attend primary school.
Child Rearing and Education. Dutch childrearing practices are permissive. Children are encouraged to discover their surroundings individually or with other children. Corporal punishment is disapproved of by most parents. Instead, parents reprimand misbehaving children verbally. Peer groups are important among Dutch adolescents. Teenagers have developed a wide array of subcultures in which to explore their identity such as punks, head-bangers, and in particular gabbers (Dutch slang for "mates") whose working-class members shave their heads, wear expensive training suits, and congregate at rave parties.
Higher Education. Dutch children are praised for successful performance at school. It is firmly believed that a good education and fluency in English are a sure road to success. Many children thus seek additional education after finishing high school. Approximately 70 percent of the adult population receives formal education after high school, and 20 percent of the adult population has received higher vocational training (HBO) or attended a university.
Most traits of Dutch etiquette resemble those of the rest of the Western world, but there are several distinguishing national codes of behavior. The Dutch either shake hands when they meet and depart or, in the case of women and closely acquainted men and women, kiss each other three times on the cheek.
The Dutch have a strong desire to order their time in agendas and on calendars. Dutch children are given their first agenda at primary school to write down scheduled lessons and homework. A full agenda signifies a full life. The Dutch are very punctual, and showing up even five minutes late is considered inappropriate. As a result, everything has to be done at fixed times: There is a time to work, a time to clean the house, a time to drink coffee, and a time to visit friends.
The Dutch do not line up and show almost no consideration in public for a person's status, gender, or age. The use of the formal "you" ( U ) to address a person is becoming less common, whereas the growing importance of the informal "you" ( jij )is meant to illustrate a commitment to equality.
Brick row houses in Haarlem have prominent front doors and large windows.
Religious Beliefs. The largest religious congregation in the Netherlands is Catholic (30 percent of the population), followed by Reformed Protestant (14 percent), Dutch Reformed (7 percent) and Muslim (4 percent). More striking, however, is the fact that 40 percent of the population are not religious or connected to a denomination. The extremely rapid secularization of the Netherlands after the 1960s has meant that religion plays a decreasing role in ordering people's social and cultural lives, with the notable exception of the small rural communities in the Dutch Bible Belt, which runs along the towns Zierikzee, Dordrecht, Utrecht, Zwolle, and Assen. Among the 60 percent who profess to being religious, an ever-increasing group either does not actively participate in religious ceremonies or is involved in New Age religions.
Religious Practitioners. Religious practitioners (priests, ministers, and imams) belong to the major religions in the Netherlands. The Roman Catholic ecclesiastical authority is represented by bishops who try to influence national debates about the family, social welfare, abortion, and euthanasia.
Rituals and Holy Places. The Catholic south of the Netherlands is rich in annual religious processions, some of which date back to the Middle Ages, such as the blood processions in Boxtel and Boxmeer, both in the province of North-Brabant. Shrines include those of Saint Gerardus in Wittem and Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk in Masatricht.
Death and the Afterlife. Beliefs about death and the afterlife correspond to the doctrines of the major religions. The deceased is either buried at a cemetery or cremated at a cremation center. All burials and cremations are arranged by professional undertakers.
Medicine and Health Care
Health care is almost completely the responsibility of the state. The Dutch institutionalized, although they did not socialize, health care during the twentieth century to a much larger extent than did many other Western nations. Even care for the aged and the disabled takes place primarily in an institutionalized setting. Secularization and increasing wealth have compelled the government to take over care for the aged because traditional institutions such as church, community, and family are no longer able or willing to perform this task adequately. Almost everyone in the Netherlands carries medical insurance. The unemployed and low-income families are protected by public health insurance, while higher-income families have private insurance.
Carnival celebrations the weekend before Ash Wednesday have become secular festivities that are spreading rapidly from the Catholic south to the Protestant north. The symbolic celebration of the Queen's birthday (Queen's Day) takes place on 30 April. Although Queen Beatrix was born on 31 January, the festivities are held on the former Queen Juliana's birthday. Remembrance of Dutch casualties in World War II is celebrated on Memorial Day, 4 May. The nation observes a minute of silence at eight P.M. to commemorate the dead. Liberation Day, the celebration of the end of the German occupation in 1945, occurs on 5 May. Most major cities stage elaborate festivities and music festivals. Family members and friends exchange gifts on the eve of Saint Nicolas Day (5 December), while children receive gifts on his birthday (6 December). On New Year's Eve, the Dutch reflect on the year that has passed and gather with friends rather than family members. The new year is welcomed with champaign and fireworks, and resolutions are made.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. Graduates of art academies receive a four-year stipend of about 455 euros ($525) a month to start a professional art career. In addition, several public and private foundations provide modest funding for artists. An important source of support are the artworks for public places commissioned by national, provincial, and local governments.
Literature. Dutch oral literature dates back to at least 500 B.C.E. The earliest Dutch written literature goes back to the mid-1200s with the songs of the troubadour Heynric van Veldeken. The works on world history and the lives of saints written in verse by Jacob van Maerlant (1230-1300) mark the beginning of a truly national literature. Dutch literature bloomed during the Renaissance with playwrights such as Hooft, Cats, Huygens, Bredero, and Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679).
Dutch literature entered a period of relative decline after the seventeenth century, only to arise to world stature in the mid-nineteenth century with the publication of Max Havelaar by Multatuli (a pseudonym for Eduard Douwes Dekker), which describes the colonial exploitation of the Netherlands Indies. The Movement of the Eighties (1880-1894), led by the poets Kloos and Gorter, marked a new era in Dutch literature. The novels of Louis Couperus were the fin-de-sicle apotheosis of the national literature.
The breadth of twentieth-century Dutch literature is great; Slauerhoff, Roland Holst, Bordewijk, and Vestdijk are the most important authors of the inter-war period. The principal post-World War II poets and writers are Lucebert, Kouwenaar, Vroman, Haasse, Mulisch, Hermans, Reve, Wolkers, Nooteboom, and Van der Heijden.
Graphic Arts. Contemporary Dutch graphic arts have been dominated by the legacy of the seventeenth century with its emphasis on painting, drawing, and etching. The masterpieces of Dutch painting are displayed at the Rijksmuseum (Rembrandt and Vermeer), the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum (contemporary art) in Amsterdam. In addition, there are important collections at the Kröller-Muller Museum (impressionism, expressionism) in Otterloo and the Haags Gemeentemuseum (Mondrian) and the Mauritshuis (Rembrandt and Vermeer) in the Hague. Museums are visited principally by the middle and upper classes, with the exception of major retrospectives of popular painters such as Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh, which attract a wide audience.
Performance Arts. Classical music (notably the Concertgebouw Orchestra) and ballet (the National Ballet and the Netherlands Dance Theater) are the principal performance arts with international appeal. Cabaret has a long-standing national tradition and is still popular. The Early Music Festival of Utrecht is known for its concerts featuring medieval and Renaissance music. The North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague is world-renowned. The Pinkpop and Low Lands festivals are two major events for popular music. The Holland Festival in Amsterdam is the most important annual presentation of the new programming season of contemporary Dutch performance arts. The performance arts attract mainly the middle and upper classes.
The State of the Physical and Social Sciences
Most scientific research in the Netherlands is conducted at universities and corporate research laboratories. There are thirteen universities. Twenty-four lower, middle, and higher polytechnic schools train students exclusively in applied work. The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) is the principal funding agency for the physical and social sciences. This foundation is under the authority of Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OC&W) and finances seven areas of science (chemical sciences, earth and biological sciences, humanities, medical sciences, physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and technical sciences). The 1998 budget totaled 300 million euros ($345 million), of which 36 percent was allocated to the physical sciences and about 5.5 percent to the social and behavioral sciences. This amount is dwarfed by the 3.3 billion euros ($38 billion) spent in 1996 on research and development in corporate laboratories.
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