Two 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 thought today would be a good time to do that. Please note that this is just based on my personal experience. Yours may be completely different.
1.) Good health care
I don’t care what people say: the Dutch health care system isn’t all that bad. The American one is decidedly worse. Costs are much higher than over here and just to get a simple prescription you will have to shell out some serious dough. The number of Americans I have met that have not dental care and thus the most hideous teeth ever are a lot greater too. I mean, which Dutchie on here doesn’t know at least a handful of people who got a complete set of braces which was completely covered by insurance? I know I have to include myself in that group, not to mention the fact that we only pay 200 euros a year out of our own pocket before insurance pays all your meds at full price. In the States people pay 4x more for insurance which only covers as little as 25% of the cost of medication. So the Dutch situation isn’t that bad (yet) if you ask me.
2.) Lenient laws
The Netherlands are best known to Americans (and anywhere else really) as the country with lenient laws against well, pretty much everything. While that isn’t actually true as our system isn’t fool proof and legislation is becoming more strict as we speak, but I still think there is a bottom line to it. We are allowed to drink at 16, can drive at 18, are allowed to use drugs (within limits) and have legal prostitution. And there is actual logical thought involved in it too. Take drugs for instance: the theory is that at least when you can buy weed semi-legally (it’s not 100% legal as possession with intend to sell is still illegal) you won’t have to get it in dodgy back alleys where it might have been tampered with. Sounds quite logical to me. One question I have been asked by Americans numerous times is: you must be doing pot all the time right? Well no. It’s legal. Smoking pot isn’t per se a cool thing to do anymore when you can do it on every street corner.
Even though I think Americans are overall more friendly, I think that The Netherlands are a lot more free when it comes to being able to speak your mind and being who you are. I am still horrified by the fact that something as simple as gay marriage is still such a big issue of debate in the US of A. Proposition 8 anyone? Granted, not everyone in Holland agrees with it, but at least there is the possibility for people, straight or gay, to say ‘I do’ to the person they love. Also, anyone can say anything, anywhere, and at any time. It might cause you to get into a rut, but definitely not legally. As America is known to be a country where the line ‘I sue you’ is about as common as ‘Have a nice day’, I like that you can still speak your mind without too many repercussions.
When it comes to history, The United States aren’t exactly number one on anyone’s list to discuss. Most Americans are proud of their history, but what they often forget is that in the early stages of the continent it wasn’t the English but the Dutch that got everything started. A good part of the people who were on the Mayflower may have been English, but they lived in Holland before the set off for the big journey. The only reason they left was because their children were becoming too Dutch. Or how about New York? The flag for the city of New York is STILL Orange, White and Blue: the original three colors of the Dutch flag as it was part of the colony of New Holland. Names such as Staten Island (stateneiland), Coney Island (konijneneiland), Flushings (Vlissingen = town in NL), and of course Harlem (Haarlem = another town), Bronx (family name) and Brooklyn (from Breukelen) are all reminders of the time before the English got a hold of it. Last but not least: the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson got the idea for it in France and, that’s right, the Dutch Republic. Give us some credit next time will ya? 😉
5.) Public transportation that works
As much as I complain about the Dutch National Railway, it is not that bad compared to Amtrak. Trains in the US are useless. Planes are faster and cover more ground in less time. Buses are okay, but then again the country is so vast that the nearest bus stop will be miles away, meaning at least an hour long hike till you get there. I don’t mind doing this while on vacation: I have plenty of time so who cares, right? That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to do it on a daily basis if I’d ever end up living there. Trains in Holland are convenient, well-organized and run most of the time. A bus will get you very far and if not, we all know how to ride bikes properly enough (and have the facilities for them too) to get there anyway. And for someone like me, who hates driving with a passion, it is very very convenient.
So, Dutchies (and anyone who has ever been here): what do you like about our small country on the North Sea? If you haven’t visited Holland: Does your country have these things too? What do you like about your country?
8 responses to “Five Dutch Things Americans (Should) Envy”
Well, it applies to pretty much all of Europe, doesn’t it? I’ve lived in the UK, Germany, and now France, and except for the pot part, the rest applies to at least these three countries too. I guess it must also apply to other Euopean coutries
In my experience it does go for many European countries. However, trains in the UK have been a mess ever since they privatized the sector and many of the Southern European countries aren’t that economically stable.
I think one of the comments on your previous post said it well: We all have things we can be proud of with our respective countries of residence, and many things to be embarrassed about. No single country is perfect.
Somehow I missed your responses to my reply on the earlier post, but liberty and friendliness seem related, at least on the surface. Quite frankly, I would prefer to just be left alone, to live my life as I see fit. I don’t seek interaction from others, except on my own terms. I don’t really want a conversation with a total stranger. I am courteous in professional settings (stores, etc.), and I expect the same. But generally, I just want people to leave me alone, and instead, many of the things I enjoy are looked down upon, criticized as strange, resented, hated, or whatever. Thus, I have learned to keep my mouth shut, keep to myself, and don’t talk to others much—unless I want an “encounter.”
I suppose my experience in Nederland is limited, so I didn’t pick-up on the lack of friendliness. Plus despite virtually all Dutch people speaking quite perfect English, I felt it was arrogant to start speaking English in the name of courteous behavior, in the manner to which I’m accustomed. It was easier to say nothing, because at the time, I didn’t know much beyond “goedemiddag,” “ik wil graag een ______” (then say what it is in English), and “dank u wel.”
Of course, even though I could have written 75% or so of this reply in reasonably passable Dutch, I still can’t understand spoken Dutch worth a crap, and thus probably still wouldn’t try to say anything to anyone in Nederland, but that’s another story entirely. *sigh*
One final comment: Healthcare is a disaster here. An absolute, utter disaster. And that such a huge percentage of the problems we’re trying to treat are a result of poor lifestyle choices (smoking, drinking, obesity, etc.), only makes it more frustrating. Alas, the problems are very complex, and there is huge resistance to change. We’ll see what happens. But I’m not encouraged.
Als altijd, ik vind je blogberichten leuk om te lezen. Nou, duidelijk weet ik niks over cosmetica, maar ik je blog nog steeds leuk vind. 😉
I love traveling by myself and then it is always nice when people actually make the effort to make smalltalk. At least I like it. As for people getting into each others’ business, I guess that happens everywhere. Dutch people can be nosy too!
You should go onto skype an practice Dutch speaking with your friends ;-).
And: dankjewel voor je comment over mijn blog. Dat vind ik leuk om te horen.
Yes, I *should* go into Skype and practice with my Dutch friends. Alas, I am so self-conscious, and find the experience so incredibly difficult, I avoid it like the plague. When I do rise to the occasion, I inevitably wimp out and switch to English to ask some questions, and then just stay there. *sigh*
I’m considering getting the gear needed to receive BVN (see: bvn.nl), and just try and watch as much Dutch television as my schedule permits. Perhaps just even keep it on during my workday. Maybe it would help.
Finally, on your advice, I did order Jip en Janneke from bol.com, en de eerste twee delen heb gisteren aangekomen. Very cute. 🙂 I understand perhaps 95% of the text without looking anything up (yay me), and the text is simple enough in structure it’s easier to see things than with “adult” text (e.g., de kranten). It’s also a great opportunity to see simplified uses of the bane of every Dutch learner’s existence: particles (e.g., toch, wel, eens, nog, even, enz.). If I ever master them even slightly, I’ll be amazed. For now, they make my brain hurt.
All the best, as always.
Any type of exposure will help. I learnt English by watching BBC and CNN while studying on Thursday afternoons! As for the speaking: it’s hardest and usually the last hurdle to take. Just cross that bridge when you get there.
Jip & Janneke are very cute indeed! Particles are hell in Dutch. Again, one of those things we just ‘do’. Good luck with the learning process en natuurlijk ook veel plezier. Because if there was no fun in it, it would be much harder. 😉
I love my UK health care! I can’t claim that it’s 100% perfect but I’m so glad that I can get treated and not have to worry about insurance.
I know right!