14 Wing Nijmegen Team 2008

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Netherlands Cultural SME

by Captain Paul Trenholm, C.D., B.A.; Edited by Christiene Groeneveld

Getting started

The Netherlands is an exceedingly user-friendly place to visit. Up-to-date information is plentiful, transport links are swift and there's an abundance of exciting things to do. All this means that you can allow a fair amount of spontaneity to your trip.

When to go.

Any time can be the best time to visit.

The Netherlands has a temperate climate with cool winters and mild summers. The weather is often blustery and changeable, and there are normally only several weeks of sunny days a year - although global warming may be changing that. The summertime (June to September) has hot, sticky spells but its but its not quite the Riviera shown in some tourist brochures. ha ha ha our summer temperature is not hot, whenever it's warm than we have sticky wheater. Normally our summer temperature will not be higher than 25 degrees some day it may be hotter.... Just depends on which summer we will have...


Although some expats will tell you its possible to scrape by in Amsterdam on a busker's pay, the Netherlands really isn't a budget buy. If your happy eating chips, sleeping in hostels and walking around, its possible to hang around in the Netherlands for around 30 Euro per day. Those of you who will be taking leave after the competition and prefer a couple of solid meals a day, a comfy bed with private facilities and travelling by public transport are looking at 70 Euro per day as a starting point.

Things start to feel comfortable, if not pampered, on 100 Euro per day. true but you have a website where you can arrange cheap weekends.... (www.weekendjeweg.nl) You can visit the website but I will probably be hard to figure things out as all information is dutch... For you maybe not a problem as you Dutch is going great ha ha ha and I will be happy to translate..

There are a lot of free activities to stretch your budget, especially in Amsterdam in summer, and discount passes like the Museumkaart and the and the Amsterdam Pass can save you loads on admission.

The first Sunday of the month is free at many museums, (not true.... I didn't know this fact so I searched the internet... They making plans to make it free on the first sundays but it's not implemented yet....) the Concertgebouw holds lunch time concerts for free and some restaurants have cheaper kiddie meals.

(all prices in Euros from this point forward)

Litre of bottled water: € 0.80
Glass of Heineken: € 2.50 (1.5 - 2.0) depends on the pubs.... or are you talking about 0.5 litre...
Souvenir T-shirt: € 10
Patat met (chips/fries with mayonnaise): € 1.75
Local phone call: € 0.30 we don't have lots of telephone booth anymore so you need your own phone or going to the railway station...
One hour of parking (Amsterdam): € 3 some places in Amsterdam even more and Nijmegen isn't cheap either ha ha ha
Bus/tram ticket: € 1.60
Bicycle lock: € 10

Travel Literature

Dealing with the Dutch by Jacob Vossestein is a serious but knowledgeable work. Subtle aspects of Dutch behaviour are connected in a non-judgmental fashion.

(I have found this piece of literature very helpful as my sweetheart is Dutch, my in-laws are Dutch, and of course my very good friend Christiene is super-Dutch.)

The Low Countries 1780-1940 by EH Kossman presents the Netherlands and Belgium in a compare-and-contrast study.

Live and Work in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg by Andre de Vries lays out a roadmap with the ins and outs of bureaucracy for new settlers.

The UnDutchables by Colin White takes a humorous look at Dutch life, from language and transport to child-rearing and social habits. Sometimes its spot-on and sometimes so wide of the mark that it becomes slapstick.

Read This First: Europe by Lonely Planet covers everything travellers new to the continent will need to know, from what to pack and how to budget to where to visit once they hit the ground.

Internet Resources

British Library http://www.bl.uk/collections/westeuropean/dutch.html - Dutch and Flemish history, politics and culture.
Lonely Planets Destination Netherlands http://www.lonelyplanet.com/worldguide/netherlands/ - News and Information about the Netherlands
Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.minbuza.nl/ - Wealth of background facts and information, but not officious
Dutch Tourism Board http://us.holland.com/ - Attractions, cultural articles and loads of practical stuff
Expatica http://www.expatica.com/nl/main.html - Entertaining all-round guide to life in the Netherlands with daily news and listings.
Uitlijn http://www.uitburo.nl/ - Events site for the Netherlands in Dutch, but easy to navigate.

Must see films

Abel (1986)
Amsterdamned (1987)
Amsterdam, Global Village (1996)
Antonia (1995)
Diamonds are forever (1971)
Fanfare (1958)
Father and Daughter (2000)
Karacter (1997)
De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man) (1983)
Turks Fruit (Turkish Delight) (1973)


1200 – Founding of Amsterdam
1566 Beginning of 80 Year’s War with Spain
1579 United Provinces of the Netherlands

Between the waves of invader and the invading waves, the Netherlands has a turbulent past that is not immediately apparent to the visitor. One important point to remember is that the Netherlands came into existence only in 1579. Before that, the entire region of the Low Countries – today’s Netherlands as well as Belgium and Luxembourg – was intertwined politically and culturally and for the most part, had little say over its own destiny.

Foreign Domination

The territory that became the Netherlands struggled long and hard to rid itself of unwanted guests. Among the earliest invaders were the Romans who, under Julius Caesar, conquered a wide region along the Rijn (Rhine) and it tributaries by 59 BC. Fiercely independent by nature, Celtic and Germanic tribes initially bowed to his rule. Over the next three centuries the Romans built advanced towns, farms and the straight roads that still shape the landscape today. However, these heavy troops hardly bothered with soggy regions to the north such as Friesland, where early settlers built homes on mounds of mud (called terpen) to escape the frequent floods.

www.hunebedden.nl – Pics and history of these megalithic mystery monuments in Drenthe province.

The Romans hung on until the 3rd century even during this time, the Franks, an aggressive German tribe to the east, had been sniffing around the region. Between the 7th and the 8th centuries, the Franks finished their conquest of the Low Countries and began converting the local populace to Christianity, using force whenever necessary. Charlemagne, the Holy Roman emperor, built a palace at Nijmegen but the empire fell apart after his death in 814.

Next came the Vikings, who sailed up Dutch rivers to loot and pillage. Local rulers developed their own fortified towns and made up their own government and laws, even though strictly speaking they answered to the Pope in Rome.

Conflicts arose between the artists and the rich merchants in the towns and the lords who dominated the countryside. The townspeople would back their local lord when he wanted to gain someone else’s territory, but in return they would demand various freedoms. Beginning in the 12th century, these relationships were laid down in charters – documents that not only spelt out the lord’s power, but also detailed other bureaucratic matters such as taxation.

http://www.arts.leidenuniv.nl/research/ - An extensive listing of Dutch history resources on the Internet, according to Leiden University.

Dutch towns with sea access like Deventer and Zwolle on the Ijssel river joined the Hanseatic League. This mostly German federation of towns and cities grew wealthy through its single-minded development of laws, regulations and other policies that promoted trade. In many ways it was a very early forerunner of the EU.

http://www.inghist.nl/ – Online catalogue of book titles and articles at the Institute for Netherlands History. In Dutch

Meanwhile the many little lords met their match in the dukes of Burgundy, who gradually took over the Low Countries. Duke Philip the Good, who ruled from 1419 to 1467, showed the towns of the Low Countries who was boss by essentially telling them to stuff their charter. Although this limited the town’s freedom, it also brought to the region a degree of stability that had been missing during the era of quibbling lords.

The 15th century ushered in a great prosperity of the Low Countries. The Dutch became adept at shipbuilding in support of the Hanseatic trade, and merchants thrived by selling luxury items such as tapestries, fashionable clothing and paintings – but also more mundane commodities such as salted herring and beer.

With their wealth tapped through taxes the Low Countries were naturally coveted by a succession of rulers. In 1482 Mary of Burgundy, Philip’s granddaughter, passed on the Low Countries to her son, Philip the Fair.

The family intrigues that followed are worthy of a costume drama: Philip married Joanna, the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain; Philip then bequeathed the Low Countries to his son Charles, now a member of the powerful Habsburg dynasty, in 1530. Charles V was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, making him monarch most of Europe.

Fortunately the rule of Charles V did not stand in the way of the Low Countries growing wealth. But this all changed in 1555 when Charles handed over Spain and the Low Countries to his son, Philip II.

Suggested reading:
The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806, by Jonathan Israel, provides a thorough account of the emergence of the United Provinces as a great power in the Golden Age and their subsequent decline.

"Dutch national pride is muted except on the soccer field."

The National Psyche

It may sound like a cliché, but the Dutch are passionately liberal and believe that people should be free to do whatever they want to long as it doesn’t inconvienece others. The most outrageous conduct in public might go without comment, bringing to mind the Dutch saying “Act normal, that’s crazy enough.” Its hard to appreciate it until you’ve been there.

Calvinist traditions have had an influence on the Dutch character, even among those people who are Catholic. The Dutch see themselves as sober, hard working, level-headed and to a certain extent unable to enjoy themselves without feeling guilty – all traits that they blame on their Calvinist background.

The country is crowded and Dutch people test to be reserved with strangers. On the trains, you’ll notice that passengers sit to maintain the greatest distance between each other. The Dutch treasure their privacy because it is such a rare commodity. Still they’re far from antisocial – their inbred gezelligheid (conviviality) will come out at the drop of a hat. Expect chummy moments at the supermarket.

The Dutch aren’t exactly hot-blooded but given the chance, they will speak their minds and expect to be looked in the eye. This manner may seem blunt or even arrogant to foreigners but the impulse comes from the desire to be direct and, wherever possible, honest.

Prostitution is legal, but promiscuity is the furthest thing from Dutch minds.

Anyone who is worth their weight in bong water knows that you can easily buy marijuana in the Netherlands. This doesn’t mean that every Dutch person is a pothead; on the contrary, only about 5% of the population indulge (less than in France where drug policy is much stricter). Many Dutch people think that hanging out in coffee shops is for slackers and tourists.

Last but not least, the Dutch are famously thrifty with their money. They often don’t know themselves what to think of this – they laugh at their bottle-scraping and this it irresponsible, gross even to throw cash around. At the same time, they don’t like to be called cheap.


Many Dutch life independent, busy lives divided into strict schedules. Almost everyone carries a diary and it’s a mark of prestige to have a full Filofax. Advance notice is usually required for everything, including visits to your mother, and its not done to just “pop round” anywhere. Socialising is done mainly in the home, through clubs and circles of old friends, which can make it tough for foreigners to “break in” at first.

Most Dutch families are small, with two or three children. Rents are high so Junior might live with his family well into his 20s or share an apartment; however, Dutch housing policies have made it easier in recent years to get a mortgage, and my more yups (yuppies) buy homes than even a decade ago.

If you’re invited to join a family party you have crossed a major threshold – the Dutch don’t invite just anyone into their homes, and chances are you’ve made a friend for life.

Birthday’s are celebrated in a big way, with oodles of cake and cries of well-wishing loud enough to wake the dead. If you forget the date of someone’s birthday (or even the sister of that someone), or if you forget to make a big fuss on the day, then you’ve dug your own grave.

The 1990s were good times for the Dutch economy and society is noticeably more affluent than a few years ago- although the Dutch don’t flaunt the fact that they now earn more per capita than the Germans. New cars abound and apart from the individuals, fewer people chug around in the old bombs.

The gay community is so well integrated, and the atmosphere so relaxed in the big cities that it rarely makes headlines as a social topic. After all, leading political figures and businessmen are openly gay or lesbian. Relaxed too are attitudes toward gay or lesbian teachers, clergy, doctors, and other professions, even among the older Dutch generation.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do give a firm handshake or double cheek-kiss.
Do take a number at the post office counter
Do show up five to 15 minutes late on social occasions.
Do dress casually unless its an overtly formal affair.
Do say “goedendag” when you enter a shop.
Don’t smoke dope or drink on the streets.
Don’t be late for official appointments.
Don’t ask about a person’s salary.
Don’t forget someone’s birthday.


The need to love thy neighbour is especially strong in the Netherlands, where the population density is the highest in Europe (475 per sq Km). Nearly half of the country’s 16 million plus residents live in the western hoop around Amsterdam. Den Haag and Rotterdam, where the Netherlands’ slick motorways slow to a crawl at rush hour. At the other end of the scale, the provinces of Drenthe and Overijssel on the German Border and Zeeland in the southwest are sparsely settled, in Dutch terms at least.

Nine-tenths of the population are of Dutch stock. The ethnic communities gather in the cities of the Randstand (rim city) – in fact, perhaps half of Rotterdam’s 600,000 residents are immigrants or of foreign decent. People from the former colonies of Indonesia, Surinam, and the Dutch Antilles, plus more recent arrivals from Turkey and Morocco account for about 6% of names of the population register.


The Netherlands is one sport-happy country. About two-thirds of all Dutch engage in some form of sporty activity, and the average person now spends 20 minutes more a week getting sweaty than in the 1970s. Sport is organised to a fault; about five million people belong to nearly 30,000 clubs and associations in the Netherlands. It’s a very social pastime, but the average Dutchie is starting to break away for more solitary exercise, such as a burst of after-work fitness training or a park jog.

My European friend Christiene is famous for playing a very competitive game of tennis.


Tennis has been incredibly popular since Richard Krajicek fell to his knees after clinching the 1996 Wimbledon finial. The national tennis club is the country’s second largest after football, and many people book time on courts in all-weather halls. Krajicek has hung up his racket but there’s fresh blood on the circuit like Sjeng Schalken and Martin Verkerk, a finalist at the 2003 French Open.They’re both stopped playing on the highest level. Richard half-sister Michaela is doing a good job.

http://www.gtp.gr/TDirectoryDetails.asp?id=35806 – Website of the Netherlands Olympic Committee/Sport Confederation, including an events calendar and general background on Dutch sports.


Through much of the 20th century Dutch society was organized along religious or ideological lines. Each group – Catholic or Protestant, socialist or liberal – had its own clubs or associations that pursued essentially the same goals from different angles. This careful allocation of freedoms minimized friction since each group managed to live more or less independently of, but in harmony with, the others.

This social order was called verzuiling (pillarisation) . Each persuasion had a pillar that supported the status quo in a general “agreement to disagree.” This practical set-up began to crumble by the 1960s when the old divisions became largely irrelevant. Pillarisation is regarded as old hat but not evidence can still be seen in the media, education and organizations of all kinds. It also left a strong legacy of tolerance that has become the subject of much debate.

Controls on immigration have been tightened in recent years as the Netherland began to feel distinctly overcrowded . this is a big change from the 1960s and the 70s when the government recruited migrant workers from Turkey, Morocco and Surinam to bridge a labour gap. More than 5% of the population still don’t have Dutch nationality.

The gates haven’t been slammed shut, but admission is now restricted to a few narrow categories – eg people whose presence serves the “national interest” or those with compelling humanitarian reasons for getting a residence permit. For prospective immigrants from developing countries, the Netherlands is no longer an easy option.


The Dutch value freedom of expression and the media have an independent, pluralistic character. Newspapers, TV and radio are free to decide on the nature and content of their programmes, and the government is supposed to keep its hands off the press. It is, however, responsible for creating the conditions to keep the media ticking over.

Women in the Netherlands

Dutch women attained the right to vote in 1919, and by the 1970s abortion on demand was paid for by the National Health Service. Dutch women are a remarkably confident lot; on the social level, equality is taken for granted and women are almost as likely as men to initiate contact with the opposite sex. Its still a different story in the workplace- few women are employed full-time, and fewer still hold positions in senior management. A lot of women do work full-time. There are a lot of families were both man and wife are working. And women do still got paid less for the same job in some cases.


The Netherlands has a rich literary heritage, but its gems used to be reserved for Dutch speakers. Most of its best-known contemporary authors were finial translated into English beginning in the 1990s.

Vondel is regarded as the Dutch Shakespeare. His best tragedy, Lucifer describes the archangel’s rebellion against God. Dutch literature flourished in the 17th century under writers such as Bredero, of the early comic writers, and Hooft, a veritable multitalented writer who penned poems, plays and history. The Bible was also translated into Dutch in the 17th century, and the publication of De Statenbijbel in 1637 was a milestone in the evolution of the Dutch language.

Max Havelaar by Multatuli. An indictment of colonial forced-labour policy in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia)
Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank. A moving account of a young Jewish girl’s thoughts while hiding from the occupying Germans.
A Dutchman’s Slight Adventures by Simon Carmiggelt. Comical Amsterdam vignettes by winner of many literary prizes.
Parents Worry by Gerard Reve. Historical novel about one day in the ravaged life of a poet looking for truth and a way out.
In the Dark Wood Wandering by Hella Haase. Quirky historical novel set during the Hudred Years War.
The Following Story by Cees Notenboom. One of Holland’s top contemporary Dutch writers presents a shot fable of a schoolmaster’s journey through memory and imagination.
The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch. Two friends find they were conceived on the same day, and share love hate and a woman on an extraordinary quest that takes them to St. Peter’s gate.
A Heart of Stone by Renate Dorrestein
First Gray, Then White, Then Blue by Margriet de Moor
The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi by Arthur Japin
In Babylon by Marcel Moring
Amsterdam: A Traveler’s Literary Compantion edited by Manfred Wolf
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
The Acid House by Irvine Welsh
The Coffee Trader by David Liss.