The Netherlands. Or Holland, to some confused people. This low-lying land is referred to by both names, but only one is technically correct, unless you are referring to the specific provinces dubbed “North Holland” or “South Holland.” The Netherlands were, at one point in time, referred to as “The Kingdom of Holland,” but that’s over and done with.
When you think of the Netherlands, you might picture sprawling fields of tulips, herds of bicycles roaming the streets, and windmills piercing the skylines. You may become uncomfortable thinking about a place where prostitution is legal, and cannabis, though technically illegal, is tolerated by the public and police alike if only small quantities are possessed. What you do not think about, perhaps, is the code of etiquette known, valued, and followed in this country, a code quite elaborate. I found this list online, but you can buy books for more in-depth understanding. (You can look at this list of American etiquette practices to compare and contrast). Note, some forms of etiquette are regional; none are absolute. Here are just some of the examples:
- A person who never offers criticism is seen as either being simple-minded or failing to tell the truth. A foreigner need not worry too much about saying something that will hurt feelings. The Dutch will argue, but seldom take offense.
- Don’t chew gum in public.
- Taking off your jacket in an office is acceptable. It means getting down to business. Do not roll up the sleeves of your shirt. When leaving an office, put your jacket back on.
- The Dutch are reserved and don’t touch in public or display anger or extreme exuberance.
- Compliments are offered sparingly, and to say that something is “not bad” is to praise it.
- Stand when a woman enters the room.
- Shake hands with everyone present — men, women, and children — at business and social meetings. Shake hands again when leaving.
- Keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal — not in your lap. However, take care to keep your elbows off the table.
- To signify that you would like more food or that you are not finished, cross your knife and fork in the middle of your plate in an X.
- When finished eating, place your knife and fork side by side at the 5:25 position on your plate.
- It is considered rude to leave the table during dinner (even to go to the bathroom).
The Dutch, no-nonsense people, create space within their etiquette rituals for honesty and criticism. Statements that would be considered “rude” and “blunt” in the United States are viewed as openness, and are uncontroversial in the Netherlands. The system is not in place to oppress people with obligation. Instead, it speaks to the Dutch standards of egalitarianism: People are equal, and therefore, are treated equally through a code of etiquette.
But the more I thought about the etiquette in the Netherlands, the more it affected and transformed me. Etiquette seems so small and innocent of a thing. Isn’t it just the thing made up of please’s and thank you’s? Upon deeper evaluation, it grew into something much more. Bear in mind, as I’m writing this, I am hearing about the Charlottesville protest and the violence unfolding. I am filled with sadness, anger, and confusion. As I try to imagine and respond to the etiquette of the Dutch, their land of social tolerance, I am simultaneously wrestling with the hatred, hypocrisy, and violence of my own country. As my brain is oscillating between two very different political climates, suddenly, the smallest acts of etiquette and common respect feel very significant indeed.
The meal itself was instantly beloved by me and others. The thought of it alone brings me comfort. My fellow music therapist and Tucson native, Sierra, joined us, and it was a pleasure to have her. Bacon and lots of onion, fried together, create an ultra-flavorful and rich base for the mashed potatoes. Mix in one of my favorite ingredients ever – mustard – with some withered greens, and toss some sausages alongside it. Perfect. There are many variations of this dish, and from what I’ve found, this is more traditional. But in this case, tradition is not such a bad thing. In fact, it’s really quite delicious. Gather some good people together and share this dish like some kindness, freely and generously.
Teresa: “Next Christmas, I know what I want to make and eat: Stamppot.”
Sierra: “Next-level Bangers and Mash! Yummmm. And the company was as amazing as the food! :)”
Spencer: “Anything topped with Kielbasa that tastes like pure Thanksgiving is a win!”
- potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- smoked bacon, diced
- onions, diced
- andijvie, roughly chopped (I used kale)
- whole-grain mustard
- Salt and pepper
- smoked sausage
- The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam
- The official language is Dutch
- The word “Netherlands” literally means “low land,” referencing the country’s low sea level; only 50% of the country exceeds one meter above sea level. The country would be heavily flooded without the dikes in place today
- Amongst prostitution, abortion and euthanasia are also legal in the Netherlands. It was also the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001
- The only countries that are more densely populated than the Netherlands are South Korea, Bangladesh, and Taiwan (excluding city-states such as Vatican City and Monaco)
- Almost 70% of the population has no religious affiliation. Christianity has the largest percentage at 34%
- The Dutch are very proud of their cultural heritage. Notable and revered Dutch painters include Rembrant van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, and Vincent van Gogh
- The red stripe used to be orange; back in the 17th century, it was changed to red because orange dye tended to be unstable and change into a red hue over time
- Orange was originally used to honor William I, Prince of Orange, also known as William the Silent, who led the revolt for independence against Spain in the 1500s. The orange-striped version became known as the “Prince’s Flag”
- This is why orange is still a prominent color for the Netherlands; orange is still used for sport uniforms
- The Prince’s Flag was forbidden during the 18th century under the French conquest
- It is suggested that the colors red, white, and blue were taken from the Bavarian house’s Coat of Arms, rulers of the county of Holland
- On February 19, 1937, Queen Wilhelmina officially declared the red, white, and blue flag as the national flag