Allow me to take you to the Netherlands, a country that will forever be close to my heart. Experience its culture, people and society through my own eyes.
Let’s start with the infamous three kisses. If I want to greet a Dutch friend or family member, I need to give him or her three kisses. I’m not certain where should one start to kiss but I often do it first on the right cheek. After a while, it becomes automatic. So maybe in five years, I would have kissed my new Dutch friends more than my own parents. Do the math.
Awareness — the one word I would use to describe how they spend an entire day. Every minute counts for a Dutch person. There’s only a tiny chance that someone will be late for work or for an appointment. It must be due to the weather, and it’s just really hard to drive a bike.
Speaking of the weather, they often know exactly what the temperature is, or would be for the rest of the week. The weather in the Netherlands always changes, but still quite predictable. It is always smart to arrange an appointment if you want to catch up with someone. A regular weekday is spent mostly working and making sure the bills are paid. But on weekends, they certainly know how to have fun. It's usually a crazy Saturday night, followed by a restful Sunday evening.
Much as I like to become more sociable, I hate drinking alcoholic beverages. However, it seems a big deal here. Beer and wine are served in every corner, day and night. It is part of every social gathering or even just a simple dinner. To have a glass of cold beer in your hand is like saying you are a Dutch man, and to swirl a glass of wine is like defining a Dutch woman. This is based purely on my standards though.
Dutch people love dairy products. Because these foods are wonderfully processed, they taste great and fulfilling. Bread and potatoes are the equivalent of our own rice. I still haven’t gotten used to it, but so far I’m doing fine. There are several types of bread but each slice is surprisingly heavy. I wonder how much calories are in there?
The Netherlands is a rich country all right. That is a given. And as far as I know, each citizen is quite secured and well taken care of by the government. Money or career is not often a favorite subject because one knows the next day would be just as convenient as the other. However, a Dutch person knows how to spend. They are often perceived as tight-fisted but the truth is that they just plan their expenses well. Unnecessary shopping is not in their vocabulary. For them, spending too much money is like show off and they are not comfortable with that.
The Dutch are associated with liberal attitudes. Recently they have become popular with laws tolerating homosexuality, euthanasia, drugs and prostitution. During my interactions with my boyfriend’s family, friends, acquaintances and neighbors, they all tell me that they are only being practical. Drugs are accessible but the legality of its use doesn’t make it any more appealing. Supporting homosexuality only means a person is free to love any one he or she chooses to, regardless of gender.
Because it is a small country, places in the Netherlands seem very close to each other, ergo, the use of bicycles. The roads are wide to give room for those who travel with bikes. Statistics show that there are even more bicycles than citizens. It’s funny that until now, I am still unsure of my cycling abilities. Every time I cycle around, I feel like people are giving me the do-you-know-what-you’re-doing kind of look.
It has amazed me several times how Dutch people show independence. "Going Dutch" means not expecting anyone to cover for you on a social activity or gathering that requires payment, except on a one-on-one date where the gents usually pay for the ladies. Children, who reach the "let-me-move-out phase" of their lives, are very happy not to rely on their parents' blessings any longer. When shopping, one always packs one's own purchases. This is very much the opposite of the practice in the Philippines where aside from a cashier, there is a bagger. You can then imagine how the first time I shopped alone and it almost became a disaster!
As a consequence of being socially tolerant, liberated and highly open-minded, Dutch people do not really subscribe to the idea of marriage. Many young couples move in together after three to five years of being in a relationship or as soon as they are financially prepared. This is very common to western people, I guess, much like in America. There isn’t any discrimination and whether you are a married, registered or live-in couple, you deserve all the respect in the world. And no one can say that you are violating any rules.
There you have it. I hope I have given justice to the Dutch society, let alone, my own Dutch man who accepts me as I am and never allows our cultural differences to get in the way.