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The UnDutchables: beyond wooden shoes and tulips

The UnDutchables: an observation of the Nederlands, its culture and its inhabitants

Nothing is more interesting than to see yourself through the eyes of an interested outsider… A very revealing treatise about us has been published, self-categorized by the publisher as “non-fiction/humour” – “The UnDutchables: an observation of The Netherlands, its culture and its inhabitants”, by Colin White & Laurie Boucke, two Americans (I think) who together lived with us in the swamp for 22 years. This book in a very exact yet funny way discloses all the secrets about us that we really would have preferred to keep to ourselves. In other words, they hang out the dirty linen.

We are adorned with the pet name “cloggies,” after clogs, the wooden shoes that we supposedly wear, but the authors have clearly looked much farther than wooden shoes and tulips. From the unnatural Dutch custom of finding it unfitting to answer the telephone with “Hallo” (an idiosyncrasy of mine, as you know) to our behavior in the tram, with garbage trucks, and in bed.

Even the way we stir sugar in our coffee has not escaped their notice and not until you read this book from cover to cover do you understand how much our behavior, that we consider as completely normal ourselves, borders on insanity for a non-Netherlander.

Everything in it is true, and only the humor with which it is written makes it at all palatable for us.

Although I just wrote that nothing is more interesting than to see yourself through the eyes of others, more than a chapter of this book is hard to handle at a time. Like at the psychiatrist’s, you have to let the horrible truth penetrate you in separate sessions. And just like at the psychiatrist’s, it won’t help one bit to make you happier. Less arrogant, perhaps, but not happier.

A fine little work, then, that will be around for years.

– Source: Johannes van Dam, Het Parool, May 26, 1990

Last updated CET (Central European Time)

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