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!

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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!

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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!

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!“.

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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)