Five American things the Dutch secretly Envy

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The other day I found the following article (click here) via Twitter. It’s a list of 5 things Americans have that the Brits don’t and that the Brits envy not having, though they won’t admit it. I thought it would be fun to see which 5 American things the Dutch envy not having.


1. Space

For those of you who’ve never visited The Netherlands: it’s one of the densest populated countries on the planet. The country is the size of a pea compared to the US of A (roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts) and that’s it. That tiny bit of land houses over 17 million people. To say it’s a bit crammed and crowded would be an understatement. So one thing Dutch people would love to have is space. A freestanding house is a luxury not many people can afford and if it has a nice wide open view it is even less affordable. And IF you find a house with just that, chances are your view and space will become limited within the next 10 years as governments plan an air strip, more houses or designate that nice stretch of land for generating wind energy.

2. Complimentary

When you go out to dinner you will find that Dutch restaurants will always charge you extra for drinks, the mayonnaise on the side, the extra whipped cream, or that customized pizza. In the States getting a free refill is quite normal and service staff will even offer extra whipped cream without it being some kind of trick to get more money out of you. In Holland, however, everything ends up on your bill and customization, unless it’s for a medical condition, is usually charged extra wherever you go. I think that especially in simple establishments this should be possible over here as well. I mean, why charge for bottled water when our tap water is perfectly fine and would do in most cases?

3. Friendliness

This taps into what I said above: Americans are friendly. Over friendly according to some Dutch people, but I actually like that. They talk to you, ask you how you are doing and wish you a nice day, whether they know you or not. They will help you with your luggage and the biggest difference is the service staff. American service staff is much friendlier and helpful than Dutch staff, at least in my experience. It doesn’t mean that Dutch staff aren’t friendly. I just think that the Dutch can learn something about hospitality in general, especially towards strangers.

4. Individuality

The USA is a very individualistic country. This has its pros and cons, but one of the pros is that finding who you are, and aspiring to be the best person you can be, are high on everyone’s agenda. In Holland the general mentality tends to be: doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg (act normal, that is crazy enough). In other words: just walk down the well-beaten path so nothing bad can happen. Dutch people aren’t exactly risk takers in that sense and even though we are known to be a pretty tolerant and liberal country, this only goes to a certain extend. It’s definitely not an ‘everything goes’ kind of country. In fact, Dutch people can be quite narrow minded and uninspiring

5. Major player on the world stage

Holland once used to be one of the most important countries in the world. The 17th century is often referred to as the Golden Age and the Dutch pretty much ruled the seas and were an example to the rest of the world when it came to trade, art and politics. However, being as tiny as we are, hasn’t exactly helped up in the long run. Yes, The Netherlands are still a Western, rich country with plenty of influence, but when it comes to major decisions being made within the global arena we are far from a major player. It’s Germany, France and England which are the most important European countries, and we automatically look to the US whenever something needs to be done on a global scale.

I will post another article soon on 5 Dutch things Americans should envy, because this doesn’t just go one way. Every country has its up and downs and pros and cons, and these are just 5 things that sometimes annoy me about the Dutch way of things. For the Dutchies: what do you find annoying about The Netherlands? What do you think Holland has that no one else has? Let me know in the comments below!


9 responses to “Five American things the Dutch secretly Envy”

  1. Wesley King Avatar

    There are two sides to every coin, as they say. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the reverse; I have a number of things about Nederland that I find vastly superior to the US. I’ll make my remarks about that when you do.

    1. It’s nice to have space here in the USA. We’ve also spent most of the last century working really hard to sprawl over as much of it as humanly possible, ripping-up farm land at record pace with more malls and houses. You also have to get in a car to go anywhere, or do anything. Some urban centers here are better than others, but even with public transit, everything is so spread out that the chance of public transit stopping close enough to your origin or your destination are generally slim. We build mass transit largely so we collectively feel good that “we’re doing something,” being a part of the solution and not the problem, while still driving everywhere and expecting “other people” to use public transit. (Again, it depends on the region you’re in.) The nearest grocery store to my home, which is in the city itself (not the suburbs) is a 20 to 30 minute walk away. I could ride my bike, I suppose… If I want to take my life in my hands crossing two busy streets only to find that the store has no facilities where I can lock-up my bike.

    2. I’m not sure that extras work the way you think here, at least not in my experience. Yes, drink refills are complimentary about 75% of the time, yes, but generally only in fast-food or self-service restaurants, and only in certain regions of the country. Table service restaurants (with waiters) are another story. And broadly speaking, omitting things from your order is always free, while substitutions and additions are not. I just returned from a weekend trip to Seattle, and the hotel where I was staying (not my choice, I was put there by my company) charged for everything. WiFi? $25 a day. Parking? $45 a day. Bottle of water? $5. Coffee with breakfast? $7 a cup. Removing the greasy potatoes from my breakfast and having a fresh vegetable instead? $5 extra. Bottom line: This varies a lot across the US, but I didn’t find it to be that different from Nederland.

    3. You think we’re friendly? Seriously? Americans are some of the most arrogant, rude, obnoxious, self-centered people on the planet. I live here, I know. 😉 I’m totally baffled by this perception. Truly.

    4. I am also baffled by the individuality comment. In my view, individuality is not valued here by many. It survives only under intimidation, and despite a nearly constant social assault. Anything outside the ordinary and mainstream is often looked at with contempt and disgust. Of course it’s different in urban centers, but not even all urban centers. If you venture *at all* outside major cities, the story is quite different. That United States is full of intolerance and puritanism, where conformity is the best plan. I suppose part of this is how you choose to define individuality; which element of life and living you’re specifically looking at. But the image of this which Hollywood generally paints is not remotely accurate in my opinion or experience.

    5. The US is still a “major player on the world stage” to be sure, but we’re quickly being supplanted by China (as is Europe in my view). This too is a double-sided coin. Being the big kid on the block carries with it a responsibility that can easily be misused or misdirected. The US has (in my view) a fairly honorable history — generally — in how it has conducted itself on the world stage, and perhaps that’s what you’re referring to. But recent history (Iraq, Afghanistan) is an embarrassing exception. Personally, I’d rather be… I don’t know, maybe Swedish? Respected, but generally flying under the radar in terms of world influence. In any case, in my view, we have a lot to be proud of here in the US, generally speaking. But a lot to be embarrassed about as well.

    I look forward to hearing how you feel about the reverse.

    1. indiequeen84 Avatar

      Thanks for your comment! I see your point of view as well. These things just don’t go one way. There’s always more.
      1. I don’t drive so I know about the pains of the vastness that is America. Dutch people would kill for a detached house with a view though and from that perspective you’re doing better in the US than over here.
      2. In my experience though the starting rate for a hotel room (depending on the city/ state you are in) is generally lower. Holland is one of the most expensive European cities when it comes to hotel rates and they charge you for water at restaurants. That to me is insanity!
      3. Americans can be rude, but Dutch people will NEVER start a conversation with a complete stranger unless it is absolutely necessary. I have yet to go to a place in America (and I’ve been to a few) whether it’s a big city, an airport or a small town where people will not just strike up a conversation with you. Granted, you may not always want that, but it’s better than everyone not caring at all. You should see the faces of some store clerks over here when you say something as simple as have a nice day. Common courtesy is what we lack here, if you ask me. And trust me, I live here ;-).
      4. The US is known for striving for the best and if it means you have to knock people down in the process then so be it. In Holland the general mojo is that everyone has to like you or agree before anything gets done. It’s just too time consuming and it also leads to people being completely unproductive. Dutch schools are blamed for having a zesjes-cultuur (where you just pass your test and that be that). The minute you score higher than sufficient you’re immediately told off for trying too hard. Why not always strive to get the best out of people and yourself?
      5. Sweden sounds like a great place actually. Or Norway, in reference to the comment above. Holland is just trying too hard without it being noticed by anyone else. Again: what’s the use in that?

  2. indiequeen84 Avatar

    Hey Kine! Thanks for the comment. Norway is a place I’d love to visit some day, so maybe I can do such a post by then. 😉

  3. Petra van der Heijden Avatar

    In my opinion the Dutch are not very hospitable at all. In the USA, while traveling alone, I have been invited to the home of the people I worked with to enjoy dinner together, I have been invited for a drive into the hills to enjoy a spectacular view of LA, for a drive into town and some icecream, plus I have been told to be careful and not talk to strangers 😉 In general, I found people in the USA very hospitable. They at least notice you, talk to you, want to hear your story, or keep you company for a short while. Our hospitality is not like that, at least not when it concerns people we barely know. We don’t let people in easily, I guess. Mostly we just ignore each other.
    And true, in The Netherlands it’s not done to be proud of what you are, or of what you have accomplished. It’s actually similar to Norway (interesting to read that!). Whereas in the USA my husband and I had some very different conversations with people who told us to be proud of what we were doing because it was quite an accomplishment. They were proud of their own heritage, and what they made of their lives, as well. We could do with some more of that.

    1. indiequeen84 Avatar

      Well said and exactly my point!

  4. AWildDog Avatar

    Read the article you linked and I agree with most of it – except maybe Hollywood. We do like the opportunity make our own films yes – as when something is made in the UK it does have that different tone to it but I wouldn’t say we’re jealous of Hollywood – much like the rest of the world, we look to it to entertain us but jealousy/envy, I think not.

    Had to laugh at the sarcasm one!

    I like to think we have a nice balance in the UK, but complimentary refills would be nice. Other things don’t tend to cost extra though.

    I think every country has things to be embarrassed about, no country is perfect be it war, slavery or whatever. Being a major player isn’t always good on the world stage – yes you get more weight given to your opinion but you also get dragged into wars. I’m all for being allies, and countries being at peace with one another, even helping one another but very often the UK gets grouped with the US and our opinions on things simply aren’t the same. Whilst I do often joke about Americans just being “British living abroad” (cus lets face it, we had a war about that and now we’re joined at the hip it seems) – we have different cultures. The British has far more close neighbouring countries than the US so in a lot of places we have a mix of cultures – we can’t always play “follow the leader” with the US. We have a balance to maintain.

    1. indiequeen84 Avatar

      Britain has some great movies that were made there and I think that especially through the Harry Potter series as well as James Bond productions the Brits have really shown their worth as a good alternative to Hollywood.

      1. AWildDog Avatar

        I think so too – hence I don’t think we will envy it. Admire it maybe.

  5. […] weeks ago I wrote a post on 5 American things the Dutch secretly envy. At the time I promised I would also make a counter post on 5 Dutch things Americans should envy. I […]

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