There is a lot more to the Dutch than clogs and windmills. A culture generally misunderstood by many visitors to the country, the Dutch are a complex nation of people whilst still having a very simple live and let live ethos with which they live by.
The root of many misconceptions towards Dutch culture stem from the laws that are in place within the country. Many people view The Netherlands as a depraved country due to its relaxed policies concerning drugs and its openness towards sex. Nothing could be further from the truth. Holland’s lack of sexual inhibitions has led to nation of people with no sexual hang-ups whatsoever and very little interest in the sexual preferences of others. This social understanding has led to many significant changes within their society including the recognition of same sex partnerships since 1998.
The issue of Drugs within The Netherlands is one of complete misconception. Soft drugs are not legal in The Netherlands! Much like many other societies around the world Holland has approached the problem of drugs with the utmost of attention. During a pop festival in Kraalingen in 1970 the authorities issued a decree to the police to not arrest any persons selling or using Marujuana. Two years later the first coffeshop opened in Amsterdam ‘The Mellow Yellow’ and the coffeshop culture was born. The thought process behind these decisions where way ahead of there times and among much discussion today within other countries in the world. By 1970 the government in The Netherlands where already well aware of the effect of various drugs on the human body and in an effort to split the users of hard drugs from those who where only interested in soft drugs took a tolerant stance towards the use of Cannabis. With these measures in place people interested in smoking Cannabis where able to do so in closely monitored coffeshops without ever coming into contact with hard drugs. The irony of the situation is that to this day the possession and cultivation of Marijuana is illegal in The Netherlands and large drug busts of Marijuana farms are a regular feature within the Dutch press.
Many visitors to The Netherlands are struck by the abrupt and direct nature of people and sometimes incorrectly interpret it as rudeness. This mannerism takes some time to get used to but is just a way of being amongst Dutch people and within the country is actually considered as a positive trait.
Outward displays of wealth amongst Dutch people are not common and there is an emphasis within Dutch culture on financial equality that is reflected within wage and tax structures within the country. When either dinning out or drinking at a bar each person will nearly always pay their own part hence the internationally used expression ‘going Dutch’.
The Netherlands is a very secular culture with over 40% of the population claiming to have no religious faith. The rest of the country is made up of 30% Roman Catholic, 20% protestant and 10% other denominations.
The Netherlands has a rich vein of artists running through its history including the Dutch masters of the 17th century such as Rembrandt and Vermeer and of course the famous painters of the 19th century such as Vincent Van Gogh. These painters to this day are considered to be of enourmous importance to the history and development of Art as we know it today.
Music in the Netherlands has a tradition in Folk from the early 19th century heavily influenced by Germany and Belgium. In more contemporary times the Netherlands has become synonymous with Eurodance and Trance music producing such bands as 2 Unlimited and the venga boys and spawning DJ’s such as Armin Van Buuren and DJ Tiesto. There is also a large following of Gothic metal music in The Netherlands with bands such as The Gathering, After Forever and Epica all coming out of Holland.