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.
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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