We have a prediction. Mark our words: If you visit the Netherlands — or, so help you God, move here — you will sooner or later buy a book titled, The Undutchables
Simply because you’ll want to confirm to yourself that you are not going crazy.
“The Undutchables” is an over-the-top, no holds barred, unfair character assassination of the Dutch — and it’s all true. Well, most of it at least.
Written by Laurie Boucke (a Californian) and Colin White (a Brit), this highly popular book — currently in its umpteenth printing — educates puzzled visitors and expats about the way things are done in Holland, the way the Dutch think, and the way the Dutch act. The European (no longer published) noted that The Undutchables “has become a cult among English-speaking expatriates.”
Matter of fact, The Undutchables is an eye-opener even to the Dutch, for whom reading the book is akin to looking into the mirror just after getting up in the morning and being somewhat shocked by the image staring back. Is this really what we look like? Do we really come across like this? Specifically, do our birthday parties really resemble a visit to a doctor’s waiting room? Is our coffee stirring ritual that weird? Are the Dutch truly this rude?
Yes and no. The unflattering portrait that emerges from The Undutchables is a caricature — and as such highlights certain aspects in an often unflattering manner. Amongst the Dutch folks who have read it (and will admit to having done so) opinions are divided.
One faction would like to tar and feather the authors — preferably during a book burning party. That this hasn’t happened yet is quite possibly due to the Dutch penchant for trying to gain a consensus for exactly how a job is to be done. As described in The Undutchables, this process involves endless meetings that more often than not result in one or more committees being set up to study various aspects of the issues under discussion.
Other Dutchies take a different approach, which usually involves acknowledging that the book is somewhat correct, while simultaneously trying to reach a consensus on where — and exactly how — the authors have been guilty of exaggeration.
I personally own a copy from one of the first printings of the book, and recently managed to buy the current, much expanded version. (If you are Dutch and would like to purchase a copy as well — without being detected by fellow Dutch folks who might brand you as a traitor — either buy the book online or at the American Book Center).
There was no need for me to hide my purchase from my wife. Born in England and raised in Ireland, she has lived in Holland for over 20 years. To hear her talk, she has personally verified all the information in the book. She sometimes uses it against me, but I am often able to pre-empt her by reading favorite portions out loud to foreign visitors.
I’m happy to report that, over the years and various press runs, The Undutchables has been fleshed out with truly handy information such as normally found in tourist guides — albeit presented with a wink and a bite.
So, if you’re puzzled as to why Dutch friends kiss each other three times when meeting, why some of the streets are full of dog shit (and why the Dutch use the word ‘shit’ in every day conversation), or why your way in and out of buses and trams tends to be block by large hordes of people, get this book. It confirms you’re not crazy. They are.
The Undutchables book has inspired a lively online forum which, along with related information, can be found at TheUndutchables.com
Note that a recruitment agency for international professionals who want to work in the Netherlands goes by the name “Undutchables.” It has no relation to the book, and word is the agency took the name without checking with the authors first. If true, that would be very un-Dutch indeed.
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