Wetenschap - 8 november 2001

Dutch Culture - Tall Order

Dutch Culture - Tall Order

What a difference a difference makes

I get the distinct impression the natives here like to follow the rules. They benefit from efficiency, quite a relief from the organised chaos I experience in England. Dutch planning is impeccable and achieves objectives in an almost clinically calm manner. If something is discovered not be working well enough, it is promptly and if necessary ruthlessly amended. This display of flexibility and adaptation is strangely lacking from British values; we have no difficulty noticing problems but the major cultural difference is simply that we don't do anything about them! I believe the strength of the Dutch comes from being able to distance themselves from matters having order without being totally controlled by it. The inability to comfortably switch off from your occupation can lead to stress, it probably happens here too but only when there are not enough coffee breaks!

Almost everyone here seems polite, although they don't hesitate for a second to be astoundingly blunt. Advice is very direct but courteous, maintaining the custom of firm fairness. Fortunately a good sense of humour prevents possible offence from being taken. I'm no longer phased when a flat-mate points out that I have yet again failed to participate correctly in a long established communal list or rota. I have come to expect that I will break some unspoken laws without realising. My fridge freezer last year in my Leeds accommodation typically only contained two half-drunk vodka bottles and my pint of milk, hidden in a secret compartment to prevent its theft. My ideal situation would have slightly less of both extremes, but if one approach had to be adopted I must confess preference of obsessive order over squalid disorder.

Witnessing, and I must admit participating, in the protest to the university about current housing bureaucracy, I got the strong sense we were righting wrongs and standing up for our convictions. I was so keen in fact that I accidentally arrived a good hour before it began. I was fortunate enough to chat with the organisers and experience their nervous anticipation as our ranks grew painfully slowly. Then before we knew it there was a jovial throng of ethnically diverse rebellion. Our banners and number gave a clear voice to our message demanding housing reform and eradication of bias against international students. We loudly announced our distaste at the university for not assisting us in achieving our goals. We certainly got some attention and hopefully in the process catalysed fruitful negotiations between representative of those concerned. The swift reaction in response to our visible statement of discontent, hints that the Dutch prefer to be treated in the manner they themselves would utilise. So don't delay, be blunt today!

David Hopkins

E-mail: zen@mail2my.com

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