8 Jul 2014

Holland

Hello to Those Who Have Not Forgotten About Me:

As I have been blabbering on about in the past couple of days, I am now in Holland. Don’t look so surprised: I don’t lie. Well, not most of the time, anyway.

Moving on, I am here to talk about Holland—or the ‘Netherlands’ as it is sometimes (bizarrely) known. (Why do they call it that? I should look it up, but, well, I can’t be bothered.)

For those of you who—for some strange reason known only to you—follow me, you may be thinking: ‘Geez, I know he’s in a foreign country and all, but shouldn’t he be talking about bloody writing instead of this gobbedygoop? And what the hell happened to the poem of the week? Has he forgotten about us?’

Rest assured that I have not forgotten about you, dear reader. It is merely that I have not had access to the Internet; in the instance that I do (as in, now) I have immediately started writing you this weird post (for your personal viewing pleasure, of course). I could have read another article on hardware, or watched porn, or do all that other crap kids my age are supposed to do. But I didn’t.

The Poem of the Week, by the way, is delayed up to the point that I can give you an analysis. I am leaving Holland on Friday, so I should certainly be able to give you something after that. Hopefully, I can get off my lazy arse and do it prior to that, but I digress.

Anyway, I am in Holland, I have lived in Holland many years ago, and; I have some opinions on it. Indeed, some of my opinion is based on fact, instead of the usual anecdote that plagues such things. Point is: I have the view of both insider and outsider. I can tell you a thing or two about this country. And maybe you’ll pay attention and learn something—it could apply to your country, you know.

Alex, We’re Getting Bored…

Okay, I’ll lay out this post in the quintessential Good–Bad–Ugly structure. If you think that too cliche, well, get over it.

The Good

I’ll begin with a grammatically incorrect statement: this country rich.

And as I’ve said, I’ll be using fact as well as personal whingeing in this weird blog post/essay/update thing.

According to the IMF, Holland had a nominal GDP per capita of 47,633 USD in 2013. This puts it in 13th place on their list.

I can tell you that GDP per capita is not the most accurate measure in the world, for reasons which I shall briefly summarise (as you may be able to guess, a more detailed explanation would require too many words. And an econ degree):

  1. GDP measures transactions, not wealth. Basically, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is defined as ‘the sum of all pecuniary transactions officially recorded in a nation’s jurisdiction’. If a country has a propensity to consumerism (which this one doesn’t)—so if its citizens prefer to eat at restaurants over cooking their own food, for example—then its GDP will be higher than that of an equally wealthy country that prefers to spend its money going on holiday, let’s say.
  2. GDP does not record the quality of services/products. It does not, for example, take into account the fact that modern cars fail less and look better than cars made 20 years ago—it only detects a change in the number bought.
  3. GDP does not take into account grey economies. This will be of great pertinence to the likes of Spain and Italy, among others.

Okay, let’s leave the economics aside and say this much: this country rich. (Yes, I know I’m repeating myself. Shoot me.)

The roads are perfectly asphalted. The trains are fast, comfortable and generally run on time. Dutch houses are nice (unlike those of a certain country I know). The Dutch have short working hours, and go on holiday regularly. Their education system is world class.

So, Holland is rich. What’s new?

This Country Pretty

In continuing with my abuse of English grammar, I have started to use headings like this. You don’t mind, do you?

Anyway: the place is filled with greenery. There are lots of parks, forests, flowers (a national pride) and waterworks. You do know they had to build a massive dike to keep out the North Sea, don’t you?

Bikes

Another national object of pride. The bikes are almost as numerous as the cars (the latter of which are very expensive, due to the massive tax they stuck on them) and people here do love their bikes. Heck: I love my Dutch bike. I can’t stand the English ones anymore.

Orange Carrots

‘Alex!’ you say; ‘Aren’t all carrots orange?’

Well, they are now. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, every carrot on the planet used to be white. Yes, white people. White. Not orange.

But you see, the Dutch farmers bred orange carrots because they had the same colour as that of the royal family. These carrots were very popular (they had some advantages over the vanilla white) and so they ended up killing the benevolent white carrots and replacing them with crazy Dutch ones. So there you go.

The Bad

Honestly, there’s not much to speak of here. They have one of the most democratic countries in the world. They have tons of civil liberties. They have money (though not nearly as much as the likes of Luxembourg and Norway).

It rains a lot. I suppose that is a disadvantage—though, mind you, I would take rain over infernal heat any day. But that’s just personal preference.

The Ugly

The Arrogance.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve seen other arrogant countries. France, for example. The French believe that although their country ain’t perfect (the cause of which is usually laid squarely upon the shoulders of the politicians. Grrr. Politicians.) it’s still better than pretty much anywhere else.

This arrogance usually expresses itself through the fact that some of them like to go in front of you in a queue, or through the fact that others refuse to speak English even though they clearly do understand some. Heck, some even pretend not to understand your French because it isn’t perfect.

You won’t see any such blatantly bad behaviour here in Holland. They’re too subtle a bunch for that.

My metaphor for Nederland (writers love metaphors, in case you didn’t know) is this a: an imperfect diamond suspended perfectly in diamond-hard ice.

Holland is a very nice country. But like the diamond, it is there to be admired; coveted; and never owned. In France, if you adhere to most French principles (good breakfast is croissants avec lait et chocolat, not bloody British sausages; and you have to speak ill of the politicians—even if you are one) then you can pretty much become French.

Heck, even here in Angleterre—we get it that we’re not the richest, and that our houses suck, and all that; but we are, on the whole, a pretty accepting bunch.

The Dutch are not accepting. Tolerant, yes; very much tolerant. But not accepting.

And don’t think that this is just my opinion. Holland got voted Most Unfriendly Country for Expats. (Though one is wont to question Forbes’ neutrality and criteria.)

The point is, after living here for two years and visiting the country multiple times after that, I’ve never once felt ‘Dutch’ or indeed ‘included’. A more accurate description would have been ‘weirdo foreigner on the sidelines’.

Don’t let this deter you from visiting though. It really is very nice.

Just don’t think you can easily become part of it.

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