Understanding Dutch Culture Through American Eyes - William Drake

Understanding Dutch Culture Through American Eyes

By William Drake

  • Release Date: 2018-12-30
  • Genre: Europe


Population density and the small size of the country have made rules of social interaction important and a certain amount of intrusive regulation necessary. The Dutch people feel that an individual’s privacy, personal and physical, should be respected at all costs. Rules of etiquette, politeness to others, and many formal and informal regulations are designed to ensure privacy and respect for the individual.

It is important for Americans to recognize the influence of this core Dutch cultural value upon our own culture. Many of the original American settlers were from the Netherlands, and with their dedication to personal liberty and freedom they helped shape the American core culture. So while some Dutch rules and regulations, and some of the petty bureaucratic processes one encounters everywhere, may be perceived by Americans as being excessively restrictive, confining, and interfering, the Dutch value a smoothly running, well-organized social system as much as they value privacy and liberty, and they realize that in order to achieve that balance, individuals must when necessary sacrifice a personal preference in favor of group considerations.

One of the central aspects of the Dutch approach to life is incorporated in the word ‘gezellig’. The state of ‘gezelligheid’ is a comfortable, pleasant, no-stress interlude in the day’s activities like the family who, at twilight, rather than turning on the house lights will put a few candles around the living room and all gather to look quietly out at their garden. It can also be seen in a mother at a playground who calls gently “keep your play gezellig” as the children’s play becomes too rowdy. The most valued mood in a Brown Café is gezellig, and there is even a Dutch beer advertised as “guaranteed gezellig”. (If you are familiar with Thai culture 'gezellig' is a lot like 'sanook'.)