Observations: The Duality of the Dutch

I know what you’re thinking: I’d like to know what a Canadian who has lived and worked in Amsterdam for almost ten months has to say about the duality of the Dutch based purely on anecdotal evidence and not at all on scientific research! Well, you’re in luck because I’m going to tell you.

Hookers, Hash and Homosexuals
As you know, Amsterdam could be the second City of Sin (Las Vegas, I will visit you one day). We all know that it is infamous for its lax policy on conspicuous cannabis consumption (I’m going to trademark that) and its openness regarding sex and prostitution.

I’ve walked through the Red Light District a few times now, and it’s a strange and surreal experience seeing those women in the windows displaying their goods all the while beckoning the crowds of drooling, wide-eyed men (mainly tourists and many of them rowdy British blokes) to come in and go for an exciting ride on the Hooker Express. Fifty euros per person, please. What I find amusing is seeing people do the quick walk of shame out the door: head down, hood up. I’ve become somewhat desensitized to the whole thing, especially after I had the pleasure (pun intended) and displeasure of watching two very unattractive people have sex through a window at the last-standing peep show in Amsterdam´s Sex Palace.
If you want to find a way to get rid of some of your change, do it here. Two euros will get you two minutes of terror. Or was it five minutes? I don’t remember, I was too busy laughing hysterically and being horrified to remember. So why pleasure and displeasure? Answer: It was funny and it was something I felt like I had to do. What did I have to lose besides two euros and unscarred retinas? Now I have a story to tell. And the reason for my displeasure? Well, I don’t need to explain that.

It’s no secret that Amsterdam’s gay culture is rich and thriving. Aside from marijuana and prostitution being legal, it is known for being one of the most, if not the most, tolerant and open cities in the world regarding homosexuality. The Netherlands was actually the first country to sanction same-sex marriage, a law that came into effect in April 2001. Not to mention that it’s the only city in the world that celebrates Gay Pride with a canal parade. Hooray for gay boats!

Who would´ve expected that Drag queens know how to put on a show? Gay Pride in Amsterdam 2012.
Who would have expected that Drag queens know how to put on a show? Gay Pride in Amsterdam 2012.

Identity Crisis?
So who cares? Considering the fact that this city is such a crazy, lively and open-minded place, why do the people seem reserved and dare I say…a little uptight? A comment that I hear often is that the Dutch are snobby and rude. I mean, it’s hard not to have your nose in the air when you’re so goddamned tall (joking!). Oh no she didn’t! Oh yes I did. Relax, friends, (most of) the Dutch people I’ve met do not fit the bill of being uptight, reserved or snobbish, but maybe that’s because I know them. Perhaps this view of the Dutch comes from first impressions. They are known to be direct after all.

Serve me, goddammit!
I have noticed that in service environments, it is common that people are rude and uptight. I come from a culture that stresses great customer service, so maybe my expectations are a little too high. Sometimes I get so frustrated with the administration bullshit that comes with being an expat, I want to take my laptop and smash someone’s head with it. But I don’t because I need my laptop and I would rather not go to jail. Fuck you bureaucratic red tape, fuck you. Ok, maybe that’s a bit too melodramatic, but whatever. That being said, I have encountered some really nice people working in the service industry here as well. Many times I have been pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the experience of being in a shop or bar can be because the employees actually seem to give a shit.

Do the Dutch, just don’t touch
Let’s not forget dancing at clubs. Being from Canada, I’ve seen enough to say that, North Americans practice a sacred form of dance that we like to call grinding.

McLovin gets his grind on. (Source: Cinemablend)
McLovin gets his grind on!
(Source: Cinemablend)

Apparently that’s not really how the Dutch get down. I can’t say I’ve witnessed the locals get jiggy with it like this. I asked a Dutch guy about this once and he said that grinding is indeed uncommon here. When he went to the United States and saw how people do it there, he was a little shocked to say the least. They are definitely more “hands-on”. Also, and this is probably an invalid and useless point, but the smaller bars here tend to fill up to the point where you can’t even move. Educated people know that grinding requires a tiny bit of breathing room. Obviously!

No such thing as “just biking”
It doesn’t help that Dutch people look like this on their bikes:

Bikes aren’t only good for getting around; they’re also great for looking hot.(Source: Garance Dore & NY Times)
Bikes aren’t only good for getting around; they’re also great for looking hot.(Source: Garance Dore & NY Times)

Fine, I’m exaggerating a little. But seriously, check out those Dutch people on their very Dutch bikes looking like they know a thing or two about good posture and being fashionable. Three words come to mind: Pristine, proper and polished. However, that image is quickly shattered when I see someone on their bike simultaneously talking on their phone, smoking and carrying a wooden panel. Throw in a baby sitting in the front and you’ve got yourself a badass motherfucker on a bike (minus the smoking in front of a baby part). I’ve seen people biking with someone standing, yes standing, on the back of the bike. I could continue with examples of crazy things people do while biking in Amsterdam but we’d be here forever.

In conclusion… 

…there is nothing I can say with absolute certainty about the Dutch. I may have confused myself even more, which is why I’m going to cop out and leave that up to you. What do you guys think, are Amsterdammers and/or Dutch people in general uptight or not?




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