f I had to choose one country other than Canada to live in, I would without hesitation choose Nederland, where I’ve spent the last few days. This is a country in a world gone mad that makes sense . The people are multi-lingual, well-educated and well-traveled, and have taken the best practices of living from the rest of the planet and applied them to their small but surprisingly uncrowded country. Here are some of the things they do, that we should all learn to do:

  1. Public Transport: It’s not perfect, especially around Amsterdam at rush hour, but you can get anywhere in Holland by train, quickly, efficiently, comfortably, and pollution free (the system is entirely electric).
  2. Private Transport: Bicycles are ubiquitous and practical (there are more of them than people in Holland, and they’re built well, and for touring, not racing). They have huge bike racks in all public places, and country-wide bicycle paths that make cycling everywhere safe and efficient even with children. There are even special traffic signals just for bicycles!
  3. Energy Conservation: Besides bicycles, Holland is of course known for its windmills, the original non-polluting, renewable energy. Today’s windmills are huge, dramatic, and powerful at capturing the wind’s energy. The Dutch put up with their eerie noise to save money and the environment.
  4. Building Things to Last: Apartments built over a century ago look new, need few repairs, and are nearly completely soundproof. They still build stuff like this today. Roads last decades, even centuries, without repair. Pay now, don’t pay later (and don’t add to the mountains of building waste in landfills) is their motto. 
  5. The Cleanliness Culture: The Tragedy of the Commons is less an issue in Holland than elsewhere because the common areas (parks, streets, washrooms) are so clean and neat that no one would dare mess them up. It`s a mindset that reinforces itself. Even the graffiti is art, not defacement.
  6. Intelligent Use of Space: There is no sprawl in Holland, but also no sense of over-crowding, because space is used so cleverly and economically it seems bigger than it really is.park
  7. Keeping an Open Mind: The Dutch are well-read and have strong political opinions, but political debate is a search for compromise and understanding, not the acrimonious, intolerant and adversarial rage of overstatement, attack and extremism that seems to prevail in North America.
  8. Understanding Trade Economics: The Dutch understand that trade deals are logical win-win negotiations, based on who can best do what, not wars to see who can deliver lowest-common-denominator products and services cheapest at any cost. And since the Dutch speak everyone’s language, not only do they facilitate trade debates, they control them, to their advantage.
  9. Enjoying Life Freely Without Guilt: It’s not uncommon to see a Dutchman walk out of church on a Sunday and go immediately next door to the SexShop. The Dutch aren’t hung up on doctrinaire moralities, and while they’re very strict about destructive behaviours (assault, murder, trafficking hard drugs), they otherwise live by the libertarian ideal that if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, feel free to do it and have fun.
  10. Be Green: Recycle everything. Treat animals with respect. Cultivate flowers and green spaces everywhere. Love nature. Teach people the importance of living in harmony with the rest of nature and of man.

I was just watching, on KLM Inflight News, pictures of the ‘progress’ of China’s Three Gorges Dam project, which is flooding millions of acres of stunningly beautiful land, condemning millions of animals to a watery death (including endangered species), and forcing millions of people from their life-long homes. The fucking Chinese government, a brutal and repressive totalitarian regime that hypocrite Bush is so cozy with, could learn a lot from the Dutch.

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13 Responses to NEDERLAND

  1. Rail travel is good but I was working in Groenigen (umlat ommited) 5 hours from Schipol by train around the Zuider Zee… 30 minutes by a commuter plane where you could look out the crack in the door to the land below… for me no contest take the plane. I like train travel on vacation work is a whole nother animal, when you charge $1500 a day plus expenses the key is to get on site ASAP. I do have to agree Holland is a great country and the Dutch a hospitibal people (assuming you are a WASP) not to say there is not a large liberal constituent but there is also a very racist element. You have to fit in and go along even the liberals….

  2. Ed Conboy, Jr. says:

    Where and how do they obtain their electricity for the train system?

  3. Jon Husband says:

    Couldn’t agree more – what a great country. They’ve got that “both/and” thing going – conservative and respectful where it’s appropriate, and wild and crazy where it’s appropriate.And since we’re humans, there’s lots of overlap, and they treat it with that good old gezellichkeit – a nice realxed way of not getting your knickers in a twist about anything that’s not life-threatening.have visited 5 or 6 times – I sure hope I get to spend more time there in the future

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Philip: Appreciate your perspective. As a WAS(P) I may be unconscious of the racism lurking beneath the surface. Certainly saw no evidence of it during my visits.Ed: No idea. I’ve heard that 22% of the electricity is now renewable-source, but how much of that goes into the rail system I don’t know.Jon: My sense exactly. It’s a delicate balancing act, but they’ve been at it so long they’ve gotten pretty adept at it.

  5. Anne Frank enough said, The Dutch were premiere slave traders. I worked there for a year or so and the crudeness in the workplace was astounding even for me.This was a high tech educated crowd I was working with but the freedom to speak one’s mind was pretty revealing, when everything goes….Now I am not accusing just reporting my experience. I had a fine time in the Nederlands and could live there with no problems. If you get the chance ask a someone about the “rude Dutch” it is a well known and understood stereotype.

  6. O RLY YA RLY says:

    Philip: if you think that’s bad, try asking for directions in German ;)

  7. O RLY YA RLY says:

    Some remarks:1. Groningen is a far away provincial town. Public transport is best where it matters most; in the Randstad – the area around A’dam, R’dam, The Hague, Utrecht.2. Did you notice the big expensive locks?3. Not everyone like windmills. It’s called ‘horizon pollution’.4. The housing market is a sellers market. Everything that can be inhabited will be inhabited by someone in need.5. Two words; dog poo.6. Space is used cleverly because of a sense of overcrowding. You are not allowed to say the country is ‘full’ (in the asylum seekers discussion), but Pim Fortuyn broke that taboo by saying the country is ‘busy’.7. That’s not because we’re so sensible, but because the US is such a crazy place.8. We don’t speak EVERY language. Mostly Englsh – and not always that well. Try French or German the next time you’re around.9. Did you actually see that?10. “Nature is for the satisfied or the empty/ And then, what is nature in this land?/ A piece of forest, the size of a newspaper/ Or a hill with some villas against it” (J.C. Bloem)

  8. Rebecca says:

    I spent two weeks in Nederlands (traveling alone) and would definitely move there given the opportunity (Canada’s also high on my list of preferred countries). The Dutch are a bit reserved but my impression is that it is more from politeness than anything. Now living in NYC where everyone seems to have to thrust their individuality upon you while you pass on the sidewalk, I even more appreciate the space that Dutch citizens provide each other in public. Interesting anecdote: My first night in Amsterdam I was walking around just absorbing sights and sounds (and trying to stay awake long enough to overcome jet lag). I noticed that so many of the apartment windows at street level had no curtains and also had lovely huge vases of flowers in the windows. It was impossible not to look, and therefore also see in past the flowers to the living spaces beyond. The next morning over breakfast I described my walk to the B&B owners and they (Americans) told me that what I had done (peeking in people’s windows) was *not* done by the Dutch – people trust others to respect their privacy so much that they leave their windows uncovered! I’m not sure this is so for all Nederlanders, but it right away pinpointed a major cultural difference between us American rubberneckers (even me, I guess) and the Dutch reserve and respect for privacy.

  9. Dave Pollard says:

    Harald: Methinks you are too modest about your country. Re: your comment #2 and #9, yes, and yes. I spoke French with a couple of people with no problems, and in Winterswijk you hear almost as much German as Dutch (heard some Friesian on this trip, very odd language). And never saw dog poo once on the trip. Maybe I don’t hang out where you do ;-)

  10. Bryan says:

    sounds like an excellent place to live. anyone that’s been there for any amount of time have more info on the racism? some people mentioned it.

  11. O RLY YA RLY says:

    I think the racism is a strong undercurrent. Last year’s rise of right-populist Pim Fortuyn was partly powered by simmering racist feelings. For those who don’t feel like following the link; he was shot. I live in the same neigbourhood as he, and was there in the crowd the night he was shot. There was an intense feeling of shock and awe. And many people thought the same as I did; “I hope it wasn’t a Moroccan who did it”. It turned out to be a fanatic environmentalist called Volkert van der Graaf (he got 18 years). His funeral was at the cathedral on the other side of the neigbourhood. It’s a very colourful neighbourhood, with a lot of minorities. Mainly Turkish, Moroccan and Caribbean/Surinam people. At the funeral many fans and voters showed up. They were people from the suburbs, the people who left this neighbourhood when the “guest workers” (cheap labour) came in. They talked about how badly the neigbourhood looked and how glad they were they didn’t live here anymore. Unlike the Belgian city of Antwerpen where the rise of the Vlaams Blok – and later the Arab European League – took place, here these feelings some from the middle class. The people in the affluent suburbs. The same people scared of crime at a time when the crime figures are falling. If you ask me, it’s still the babyboomers setting the agenda. They have now arrived at the cynical stage. My dad told me “life will never be as good as now”. Others put it more bluntly – “the country is falling to pieces” (het land gaat naar de klote). Yeah, tell that to the people in Argentina. Above we have seen many generalisations about the Dutch. But, probably as everywhere else, it’s a patchwork of subcultures. And this is a big one. A big group of people with low education, at the end of their productive life, who do nothing but cycle around and work in their garden. They are obsessed by the local news – we’ve had a lot of new succesful tv programs on this subject in the recent years. It’s the ideal of a quiet, simple life. And that’s where these feelings are born. A yearning for the past, a fear to lose what you’ve built up in life.Anyway, that’s what I think.

  12. I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade but technically speaking ALL trains are electric. Yep. I’ll betcha.regards – rich

  13. xian says:

    I’ve long thought the Dutch represent a model of how to retire from superpower status that the US may do well to emulate in the multilateral future.

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