News - June 14, 2018

Dutch tolerance

I enjoy discussing social and political issues with Dutch friends. But the more I discuss them, the more I feel that Dutch people’s tolerance on some social phenomena is nearly incomprehensible.

Illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek

I admire Dutch people’s respect for social diversity very much. Prostitution, drugs, and homosexual marriage are all allowed in the Netherlands, which I agree with completely, and think other countries should learn from. However, recently I was astonished by the tolerance of Dutch people on other social issues. One day, I told to my Dutch friend that the Dutch government should ban the Second Love commercials. He seemed shocked by what I said. He explained that Second Love, a site for discretely cheating on your partner, is just one of the many kinds of business, like trading or banking, and the government should not intervene. I was shocked by what he said because I think these kinds of commercials can mislead teenagers and undermine the social consensus on monogamy.

For my Dutch friend, helping you cheat on your partner is just one of many kinds of business

Another time, a Dutch friend told me that as far as he was concerned, the Scottish man who taught a dog to perform the Hitler salute should not have been arrested. I said if the man put the video online himself, he crossed a boundary. My friend answered that people should be more tolerant of such jokes because the person who made them had no intention of hurting others. I find this explanation far-fetched.

I realize the reason why we have such divergent views on the same social issues is deeply rooted in the different socio-cultural traditions. Dutch people are extremely, if not unreasonably, cautious about state intervention. They worship freedom, while Chinese people tend to believe society needs regulations.

Jin Zhang, a Chinese PhD candidate in Rural Sociology

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