News - January 26, 2012

Ruled by Rules


Many Dutch people seem to think that they are easygoing when it comes to rules.

But if you ask me, Dutch people follow rules strictly - unlike in my city, Mumbai, in India. Here, traffic signals and signs are respected. If there is a ‘no smoking' sign, normally nobody smokes in that area. If there is a sign saying ‘no dogs allowed', then there are no dogs. In fact, I was surprised to see that the Dutch carry dog poop pick-up bags for their pets and dispose of the poop in garbage bins with a dog sign on them.
Once on a rainy night, I was biking home from Ede railway station. As I was approaching a crossroads, I saw two cyclists patiently waiting at the traffic lights. I thought it was hilarious to wait in the middle of the night when the roads were completely empty. However, looking at these two Dutch cyclists, I was trapped in guilt and forced to wait a full two minutes till the traffic light changed to green. We exchanged smiles and proudly crossed the road. This is so typical Dutch. OK, many Dutch might occasionally rebel and exceed the speed limit, but they will certainly stick to the limit when there is a traffic camera!
To queue is also so typical of the Netherlands. Here, the roads are wide enough to fit four cars yet drivers maintain queues by nicely keeping a distance between two vehicles. Almost all the cars on the road drive between the white lines. Yet traffic jams are inevitable. The main difference is that a traffic jam in an Indian city looks like a maze while in the Netherlands it is so very organized! I cannot imagine queuing for a bus, train or tram in an Indian city, either. So to me, abiding by the rules is amazingly and so typically Dutch.
Purabi Bose, a PhD researcher at the School of Social Sciences, from India