Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dutch views

Author A.C. Baantjer's DeKok and the Dead Harlequin includes some nice bits about Dutch habits and human geography. Here's DeKok on the trail of a person of interest:

"It was not difficult to find Pierre Brassel. He was, so to speak, on display. The Dutch have a peculiar habit of never closing curtains, except sometimes, bedroom curtains. Tourists make it a point to walk the streets of Dutch cities, peeking into rooms as they pass by. Nobody takes offense. On the contrary, the Dutch take great pride in their interiors."
(Jan Vermeer, Street in Delft, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

That's an accurate observation, acknowledged by the Dutch themselves. It calls to mind those great seventeenth-century Dutch paintings in which a viewer is invited not just to peer into a house or courtyard but to do so in depth. (Space being at a premium in the Netherlands, Dutch houses tend to be narrow and thus to seem deep.)

I especially like this observation, evocative of the distinctive Dutch settlement pattern in which there are few American-style suburbs and lots of rural village/bedroom communities:

"The place was pleasantly crowded.

"Farmers came from the outlying areas around the village. Civil servants and businesspeople came from the bedroom community. Shopkeepers came from the small town. All had responded to the invitation."
Oh, and this:

"Then he thought cynically that his path, at times, seemed to be literally strewn with beautiful blonde women. But of course, there were a lot of beautiful blonde women in Holland, and a lot of them looked alike."
© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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16 Comments:

Blogger Dorte H said...

I knew about their curtains.
Did you know Dutch women are the most houseproud ones in the world, and that they wash the pavement in front of their houses regularly :)

I knew that from books, and once when we drove through Holland on our way home from Belgium it was so clear that we had crossed a border LOL

March 15, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

It becomes clear to me that I have not a drop of Dutch blood in me.

March 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorte, I have some experience with that. I had a Dutch girlfriend whose housekeeping skills were vastly superior to my own. I first picked up Janwillem van de Wetering because of her. Alas, I picked up none of her housekeeping skills or interests.

March 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the Dutch celebrate Queen's Day April 30. You could mark the occasion by throwing your curtains open to the world.

March 15, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I could, but for the fact that I have Venetian blinds. Hmm--wonder where the Venetians stand on these matters? As I'm currently making my way through the Donna Leon series, I may be able to figure this out...

March 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suspect that Venetians are careful about leaning over too far to peer in one another's windows.

March 15, 2009  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

I picked up on this trait in a book called "The Undutchables" about Dutch culture. I have read that if you go to work in the Netherlands, it's possible that your employer will give you a copy, or at least recommend it. It was all over the book shops at Schipol airport last November, so I bought a copy from Amazon. It's a really good and funny book and I intend to write about it some time.

Peter, thanks to your posts I have ordered a couple of Baantjers. I am going Dutch this year. Having tried a Simone van der Vlugt, Saskia Noort is next on the list and Esther Verhhoef will follow later in the year.

As I write this, it's far too easy for me to remember how quick it is to get to Amsterdam from Cardiff airport. And to remember a certain cake shop and chocolate shop (on the Singel canal)... Bliss. And not good for the figure. Thus I shall remain in situ and continue applying for jobs!

March 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have that book. I don't remember if I got it in the Netherlands or here, but I remember it was both funny and a serious guide to Dutch life. I spent enough time in the Netherlands to become aware of other Dutch traits. In groups, for example, the Dutch love to carry on and sing and make speeched.

Good luck with the jobs.

March 16, 2009  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

Thanks Peter. I hope you have the same email addy as I've emailed you an idea for your forthcoming trip to the UK. And as you are venturing into my territories, let me know if you need any travel assistance.

March 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, I got your note, and I've replied. Thanks. I look forward to exploring that part of the world!

March 16, 2009  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

Lucky enough to live there in 1997, and will forever be drawn to all things Dutch due to their rationality.

March 16, 2009  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

And yes, that book was pressed into our hands on arrival.

March 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Patti, my favorite example of Dutch attitudes involved a public computer, a hotel lobby and two pornographic Web sites. The sites were listed along with sites of tourist interest on a laminated sheet at the public computer in said hotel lobby. The disarming openness of the listing went a long way toward alleviating any salacious eagerness I might have felt to call the sites up. If a given object is not forbidden, folks might be less prone to salivate and lust after it.

Did you live in Amsterdam?

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If I recall correctly, a Dutch person of my acquaintance had gruding respect for the book's bluntness and accuracy.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Probably not very much on point, but as I was sitting here yesterday, I idly happened to notice that I have a galley of Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory by Lisa Jardine. Her brief bio indicates that Jardine is a 'Commander of the British Empire', so I expect she knows at least a little bit about subject.

Probably one of those books I was and may still be destined never to get to, but at least this topic has bumped it a good ways up the to be read pile.

March 19, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'd have to wander far to get off point here. That book sounds very much worth reading, if only for the astonishing rise of the Dutch to the heights from which the English knocked them.

March 19, 2009  

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