Sound severe, doesn’t it? It’s the type of cultural stereotyping that both infuriates and entertains – depending on the individuals in question. This crude heading refers to, off course, the Dutch (and liberal pot smokers all around the world, but mostly the Dutch). But this text will debate much more than stereotyping the Dutch – I want to delve a bit deeper into the insidious nature of these, seemingly light hearted, prejudices. If you’re Dutch, admit it – that title was funny but slightly hurtful, no? Read on.

Again I must revert back to my Serbian heritage to paint a clearer picture. A brief summary: I am from Serbia. We used to be a powerful nation in medieval times. We then used to be apart of Yugoslavia, a much larger and more prosperous country than Serbia on its own. Fast forward through a couple of wars, and Yugoslavia has splintered into multiple states once contained within the Federation – one of which is Serbia. That’s pretty much all the context you will need. What’s important to note is that, and this goes without saying, Yugoslavia was not only more prosperous but also had better public rep. We were kinda big once too, Dutchies! No slave trade either!

liberal pot smokers djokovic serbia tennis raspberries gedoogbeleid
Emperor Dusan the Mighty, of Serbia. Look at his “oh shit” face. Its like he saw the future.

But I digress. When I first moved to the Netherlands, in 2001, I was faced with a plethora of funny questions about where I was from. Some of them (most, actually) were a product of ignorance, but some of pure bigotry. I was asked if I was from Siberia. Someone tried to persuade me that Yugoslavia is „Jewish country“. I was asked if we „have the internet there“ or if „I have a lot of guns at my place“.

I answered these with good humor (Off course! I sleep with my AK!), but a part of me was haunted by being labeled the „possibly-terrorist Slavic immigrant“. I was facing, in a much milder degree, a similar kind of discrimination that all Arabic and Muslim people faced after the September the 11th attacks.

What I found interesting is that I was not offended by accusations of terrorism and barbarism – I was, more or less, expecting it. What irked me, though, was the sheer ignorance of people, and their ability to jump to conclusions as a product of said ignorance. However, most of this was understandable – remember, we are talking about high school kids here: off course they do not know where Serbia is!

pot smoking liberals serbia serbs novak djokovic raspberries clubbing tennis gedoogbeleid
Silly Serbs. Look at their letters! How can they have the internet if they use these letters? What the hell is this, Lord of the Rings?

But there lies the catch – adults, to this day, do not behave much different. Even some of my friends have very little knowledge of where I come from and are more than satisfied to make assumptions and conclusions based on these tiny shards of insight they posses – knowledge mostly based off the horrible stuff caught from CNN or the internet. Though much loathed for his omnipresence in Serbia, and for the fact he was practically deified by a large part of the Serbian population, one very good thing to come out of Novak Djokovic becoming the world no.1 tennis player was a rise in good PR for Serbia. Thinking about this „Serbs are bearded terrorists“ trope, I came to the conclusion that it was the seeming insignificance of my heritage that pissed me off, not the wrongful assumptions and discrimination that I faced. No one gave a shit about Serbia – why should we need to even know where it is? Further analysis revealed a startling fact – this is as it should be. If we, as Serbs, want to be noticed and remembered for something other than war – we need to excel in other things (Tennis? Partying? Raspberries?).

So what about the Dutch? If the Serbs are bearded, baby-eating terrorists with no internet and a Russian accent – what does that make the Dutch? While the complex relationship between the Dutch and the Serbs is a topic for another post, I found it funny to analyze what kind of cultural stereotype pisses off the Dutch most. You guys have no recent wars, and you are far from the „Eastern European Barbarians“. So what ticks the Dutch off best? Predictably, it’s the mindless (usually American) tourist perceptions of the Dutch as very liberal (gay!), consistently stoned whore-mongers. This more-than-hilarious FOX news reel only pointed out this gross miss-representation of the Dutch in American culture – but this is by no means solely an American thing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8bc_ZyORbM

As a matter of fact, in my experience, the Dutch are  often some of the least liberal people I’ve met – their conservative views are very thinly veiled. The prostitution, the drug laws (gedoogbeleid anyone?) – this is all but a minor part of Dutch daily life, usually only prominent because it reels in the tourists. Well, sorry Dutchies, you can’t have your cake and eat it; if you enjoy the massive revenue your party-fueled tourism draws, you will have to deal with the perpetual reaction of: „You’re from Holland? Sweet, you must get hiiiiiiigh every day bro!“.

drugs hookers pot liberals novak djokovic gedoogbeleid serbia serbians
Just your average Dutch person, enjoying his afternoon drug binge. He will move on to hookers later. Move along, please!

If I can be the bearded, dirty Slavic war criminal, you guys can be the sinful drug dealing pimps. Now let’s join up and poke fun at some other culture – maybe that way we can get educated about them. While it won’t stop us teasing them (when has it ever?) it will, at least, spread cultural awareness. And yes, we do have the internet in Siberia.

 

(Featured picture – source: trepca.net)

5 COMMENTS

  1. A decent subject.
    Hey – you can have lots of fun with this… Imagine going with the flow…. and getting laid by chicks who get wet over bad boys & criminals… 😀
    I see a comedy there! Good fun!
    Go with it, bro and tell us all about it!

  2. Generalizations and stereotyping are a nasty game. While they are a normal function of our minds (psychologists will say they are necessary tool for our everyday functioning), they easily turn being deadly. More than once, I have been accused of being a bearded, genocide mass-murder supporter and what not.

    Irony here is that exactly that kind of behaviour – declaring somebody a bad person based on nationality (or some other group association) – is the fuel of wars, genocides and mass murders. http://www.acidzen.org/2011/generalizations-fuel-wars I guess we’ll either have to learn to just ignore all those stupid accusations or spend our lives trying to get a bit of sense in the heads of the people we talk to.

  3. I personally do not mind the labels. I play along with them just like you and put some humor in there that makes people think about it. But I totally agree that the image of Holland is mostly a farce with our crappy half-assed drug laws, minimal support of prostitutes and our liberalism eclipsing our conservatism. Ah well.. It comes and goes in waves. maybe well be having a slightly more progressive high coming up soon.

  4. First of all, I want to say that I love your work, it always crack me up!

    Secondly, this particular post resonated with me on a lot of levels. When I’m abroad, I never say that I’m Dutch (legally) because of all the negative prejudices people have. The last time I was abroad, they thought I had passed through customs with coke up my crack and weed in the lining of my suitcase. This was after I told them I was Dutch and they assumed I was from the Dutch Caribbean, hence the coke up my crack. Bahaha, people never cease to amaze me.
    Nevertheless, this is a fine example as to why I say I’m from a different country and continent. Since most people can’t guess my heritage anyway, I let their imagination [read: suggestions] run wild.

    PS: [Completely off topic] Nothing about how Nikola Tesla has launched the entire world into the 21st century?

    • Sorry for the extremely late reply, and thanks for the comment! I didint wanna write anything about Tesla as I have a tendency to start rambling about Serbia far too often 🙂

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