By Chris Smit

Most of the work I do consists of giving 1 or 2-day workshops and giving lectures (anything between 20 minutes to 2 hours, I consider a lecture) about cultural differences. And to ‘ease’ the delegates into to the subject of culture, I start talking about stereotypes; which are, of course, an incomplete representation of reality or a society. Sometimes they are true and sometimes they’re not true. Sometimes they’re in between.

Of course, I ask about what stereotypes people hold about the Dutch as well. Here are some: bikes, orange, marijuana (almost always immediately followed by the Red Light district in Amsterdam), cheese, and many more. And also always the word stingy or cheap (sometimes reluctantly or quietly, because they are afraid to insult me. Trust me, you can’t insult a Dutchman. We’ll insult you, though, or at least be rude to you, albeit unwillingly).

And so the word is out; the Dutch are stingy. But are they?

Are the Dutch Stingy?

When the people in my workshops tell me the Dutch are stingy, I tell them that it’s is not true. Instead, I tell my audience that the Dutch are… well, economical… Which almost always makes them laugh. But listen to my defense:

The Dutch, per head of capita, give more to good causes (such as a relief fund aimed at helping the victims of a hurricane disaster) than any other country in the world. Compared to our neighbors in the south, the Dutch, on average, give about three times as much as the Belgians. Using another source on this topic, the World Giving Index, the Dutch rank a respectable 13th place (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Giving_Index). Germany holds the 21st place, Belgium the 32nd place, and France holds position number …81.

For this poll, the following questions were asked: “How often have you…”

  • helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?
  • donated money to a charity?
  • volunteered your time to an organization?

The Dutch, per head of capita, give more to good causes than any other country in the world

Shops

Furthermore, the Dutch don’t have cheap shops either. There are many Dutch shops, that can also be found in Belgium, Germany, and France, that are economical, but not cheap. Here are some examples:

  • C&A (sells clothes)
  • Zeeman (sells clothes and assorted household items)
  • Kruidvat (sells anything from deodorant, candy, to protein powder)
  • HEMA (do you know what this abbreviation stands for? Hollandse Eenheidsprijzen Maatschappij, roughly translated: Single Price Company)
  • Blokker (sells random household stuff; but never what I need…)
  • Action (one of the recently most successful retailers from the Netherlands; they sell anything from light bulbs to towels to protein powder as well).

…To name a few.

These stores sell things that are reasonably priced and of reasonable quality. Which is different from selling cheap stuff.

From a Cultural Perspective

From a cultural perspective you could argue that these types of stores thrive here due to the Calvinistic nature or culture of the Dutch – who don’t do things that are over the top, work to live instead of the other way around, and believe in quality of life over quantity.

The Scandinavians even have a virtual law for this: “The law of John”. Whereby John shouldn’t think he’s better, more, richer, or above anyone else. The Dutch don’t use this saying, but do act accordingly. Which explains their love for economic shops mentioned before; why spend more when you can buy something of reasonable quality, for a good price?

Some Related Comparisons

If you look at the countries that surround us, Belgium and Germany, you will notice that overall, the houses in the Netherlands tend to be smaller. As well as the cars we drive; after all, a small car will get you where you want to go as well, so you don’t need a big car…

From a cultural perspective, the Dutch follow the same trend as the Scandinavian countries. One good example of an international success is IKEA. Reasonable to good quality stuff (who has an IKEA-free house?), for a reasonable price.

So, be honest; why pay more if you don’t have to?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Want to better understand the Dutch and learn how to work with them? Get in touch with Chris Smit at culturematters.com or send an email to chris.smit@culturematters.com.

Recently Posted on XPat.nl

If you’re an expat living and looking for work in the Netherlands then there are some vital differences you should know about in regards to your job applications. In the Netherlands, as with most places in Europe, the norm is a CV rather than the resume which is commonly used in the United States amongst … Continue reading "The Difference Between a Resume and a CV"
Now as an expat you have probably already noticed that the Dutch take their biking pretty seriously. They’re everywhere! Maybe best not to go into all the details of why the Dutch love their two-wheeler so much - but actually, most of the time, it is easier to get anywhere in the Netherlands by bike … Continue reading "How to Insure your E-bike"
Obviously, the decision to move to the Netherlands is not one to be taken lightly. A lot comes into play. Once you have decided to finally relocate, you could probably use some help preparing for your big move. A lot of companies have found a way to cater to the needs of expats coming to … Continue reading "Help me move to the Netherlands!"
People love to go into the countryside. Hiking, walking, running, cycling. It becomes more and more popular. So do outdoor brands. Especially one that helps keeping nature intact. And you can do also. We will explain this. Outdoor weekends and holidays are popular. After working fulltime at the office people want to go out. Mostly … Continue reading "Go outdoor, go Fjällraven! (and this is why)"
It is that time of year again; the new and annually-updated version of The Holland Handbook is here and ready to be enjoyed! Not only that, but this is the 22nd edition! More than twenty years ago, a modest group of three people sat around a table to discuss the possibility of creating a handbook … Continue reading "The Holland Handbook 2022"
Gardening has become a popular hobby in the Netherlands. It's not surprising, considering how green and lush it is outdoors! But what if you want to have plants in your home or office with little or no access to natural light? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about indoor gardening in … Continue reading "Your guide to Indoor Plants in The Netherlands"

What are the Benefits of Having Sim ...

When you have just moved to the Netherlands, you will have to take care of ...

Economical, Not Stingy

Most of the work I do consists of giving 1 or 2-day workshops and ... And to ‘ease’ the delegates into to the subject of culture, I start talking about ...

Getting Connected in the Netherland ...

There are several criteria that are important to consider when choosing a mobile phone service ...

The Media in the Netherlands

As an expat, you have a wide range of media outlets on offer to you ...

Dutch Gardens and Curtains

There are some specific and quintessential Dutch traditions, surrounding gardens and curtains in the Netherlands ...

Pets in the Netherlands

The Dutch truly love their furry friends, and have a unique way of treating them ...

Recycling & Waste Management in the ...

You might find that there are more rules and regulations surrounding recycling and waste management ...

Safety in the Netherlands

In general the Netherlands is a very safe country to live in. Drug-related crime ...

Household Help in the Netherlands

Getting some household help in the Netherlands can make your hectic life a bit more ...

Dutch Food

You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to food in the Netherlands. For ...