Nieuws - 13 juni 2017

Blog: Neighbours’ rivalry

Leonardo Medina Santa Cruz

A Dutch person, Santa Claus and a smart Belgian decide to enter a race. Who will win?

The Dutch, because the other two do not exist.

Why do the Dutch have such big nostrils? Because air is free.

How do you keep a Belgian occupied for a few hours? Give him a piece of paper with “see reverse side” written on both sides.

What’s the difference between the Dutch and batteries? Batteries also have a positive side.

These are a few of the myriad jests I’ve heard my Dutch and Belgian friends use to mock one another. For some reason, I still fail to understand: the Dutch think of all Belgians as dumb, while these in turn consider every Dutch to be stingy.

This playful resentment seems universal. Every single Belgian teases the Dutch, and vice versa. But the cultural war extends further away than mere personal amiability or intellectual capacity.

To the average Belgian, the Dutch are loud and their language is unpleasantly harsh and grinding. They are awfully arrogant and way too direct when stating their usually uncalled-for opinion. And if that wasn’t enough, their lame and passionless diet ‘is nothing less than ridiculous’.

On the opposite side of this love/hate relationship, most Netherlanders I’ve met joke about Belgians being unreliable, inefficient, disorganized and even too conservative.

They seem to only kid each other. Obviously, the Dutch don’t really believe all Belgians are dumb, just like the Belgians don’t believe all Dutch are actually stingy. Yet, the saying goes: Many a true word is spoken in jest.

So where does this neighbourly rancour come from?

Some people trace it all the way back to Protestant versus Catholic clashes, while others talk about a lingering resentment from the Belgian Revolution, prior to which the country was part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. But most people I’ve asked seem to blame the cultural differences between the two countries; which, by the way, seem almost imaginary to the rest of the world.

Whatever the reason, the snide comments and their mostly humorous trait seem to be the worst of it. Deep inside, despite a stubborn reluctance to admit it, the Dutch and Belgians seem to both love and hate each other. Just like two teen siblings in an immature fight for house (or in this case, cultural) dominance. 

Then again, which is the older one?