Friday, November 1, 2013

The Netherlands: Stereotypes Revealed

Alright, it was bound to happen. I was going to have to- at some point- write a post regarding the fabulous and splendid Netherlands since it was my home away from home for about six months. Now, as much as I'd love to tell you every delightful detail from that wonderful time in my life, I realize that would make for one very long blog post. And so, I have decided to follow a similar trend to my previous post, "Finally Friday!," and utilize images to tell you a bit about the Netherlands- mostly by clarifying all the half-truths that foreigners generally think up first when attempting to describe the Netherlands.

First of all, there is a quite large difference between the Netherlands and Holland. You see, Holland is actually only part of the country. In fact, the Netherlands, similar to our dear United States, is comprised of 12 provinces all with their own specific regulations and cultural backgrounds- some even speak a completely different language! On top of all that, the country of the Netherlands is actually just one part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands which includes the cities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, as well as the additional island countries of Aruba, Sint Maarten, and Curacao. For a thorough explanation on all that confusion check out this hilarious video compliments of Madi Traffico:

Second fact of the day: not all Dutch people smoke pot. In fact, only 11.4% of Dutch people age 15-24 have consumed cannabis and the number has been dropping steadily each year. Also, it is technically illegal to smoke pot in the Netherlands, though there is a policy of tolerance especially where the coffee shops of Amsterdam are concerned. So yes, you can smoke weed there, however, don't expect all your Dutch friends to accompany you. For more information on what's legal and what's not, check out this wonderful article from CNN:

Number three in our list would have to be that all Dutch citizens are tall, blonde and blue eyed. Yes, the Netherlands is home to the tallest average population measuring in at over men coming in at 6'1" on average, but you need to keep in mind that the Netherlands is not just for the original "Dutch" anymore. Like the rest of the world, the Netherlands has seen a large increase in immigrants from places all around the world. Besides that, Amsterdam is one of the largest salad bowls this side of the equator and very well known for its multitude of different cultures.

Fourthly, the Dutch people do not wear wooden clogs everywhere they go and for all occasions. Undoubtedly some of the older generation, tiny tots and rural population still stick with the traditional Dutch clog to tromp about the country, but a majority of the population wear normal shoes like the rest of the world. However, they are still content to let us carry on thinking this common myth in order to help boost clog sales by the surplus of tourists that poor into Zanse Schaans annually.

Fifth on the list would have to be their surplus of windmills. With all the weather and wind that sweeps off the North Sea and the Ijsselmeer, it's no surprise that the Dutch have a strong relationship historically with Windmills, but nowadays most of their windmills are just more tourist attractions and museum types there to compliment the landscape and draw in more tourists. In fact, the Dutch have definitely improved on the old model and expanded their collection of wind turbines to better utilize the weather that still batters their sloping shores.

The sixth and final item for my brief blog post is, naturally, the Red Light District or de Wallen in Dutch. Generally whenever I give classroom presentations, students are too nervous to come out and ask about it, so here's the sitch. It's overrated, and in my opinion not worth your time. If you google it, there are tons of websites promoting it's splendor and telling you what a lovely tourist attraction the Red Light is, but honestly I wasn't very impressed. To top it off, when I mentioned it jokingly to a Dutch friend, he promptly told me that he'd rather wait outside by the canals than "sample the wares" from the shops lining the lengthy street.

Not that I'm telling to avoid de Wallen, but there are a slew of other more worthwhile attractions to check out should you find yourself meandering the streets of Amsterdam such as the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank Huis, Vondel Park, Artis (the zoo), Heineken Experience, Science Center Nemo, the Royal Palace, Heineken Music Hall, the Van Gogh Museum, and Albert Cuypmarkt just to name a few. I'm sure this blog post will be followed up with more regarding the Netherlands, Dutch culture and my experiences, but for now I hope you enjoyed our Friday edition.

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