The word “Dutch” has some negative connotations. In the 17th Century the English marked the word “Dutch” as anything they did not like or considered unwholesome. To name a few that survived to this day; “Dutch courage” (over indulging in alcohol to gain foolish confidence), “Dutch sale or Dutch Bargain” (a sale made at an unfairly low price after the goods were offered at a high price or a one-sided bargain), “Double Dutch” ( incomprehensible nonsense), “Dutch Alps”( small breasts) and my all time favourite and more in line with this article “The Dutch treat” ( to pay one’s own way or going 50/50 on a bill with someone ,be it your date or girlfriend.) I personally experienced the wonders of the “Dutch treat” on a date, on the evening of 31st December 2008. I have not forgotten. I was shocked when my date pushed the bill to me shortly after it was handed to him. How unromantic and cheap!
The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary( 8th ed.) defines ROMANTIC as “showing feelings of love”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary( 2015 ed.) defines it as “that which is marked by expressions of love and affection.” Are most Dutch men unromantic? Let us examine this, shall we. Take note that the following article is based on my personal experiences and talking to people. It is a pity I cannot write a longer article because I have plenty of stories and views an on this subject. I will only narrate those that immediately come to my mind as I go along.
A Dutch guy I met at a barber shop once had this to say on the subject of a Dutch Treat and dating, “ If the date is going well I do not mind paying the entire bill. I will offer to pay it. If it is not going well, I will make sure she pays half. It is fair. I will not spend my money on a bad date.” What immediately came to my mind was that this man was a cheapskate and clearly lacks a romantic bone in him. However, I later realized that this is not very strange in the Netherlands. Even if a supposedly romantic evening is going well it is not unheard of for both parties to share the bill. Perhaps I am old-fashioned but I cannot see or feel any expression of love or affection in this scenario. It is a great cause for shame and embarrassment to let a woman (even if she is a heartless vamp) pay a part or all of the bill where I come from.
I came across this excerpt from an article I was reading one day, “Dutch Men” Article from Radio Netherlands, 20 April 2001.
“Dutch men have no sense of romance. They don’t buy their women expensive gifts but they do treat them as equals and they are faithful. For him diamonds are not a girl’s best friend-he is.”
For the record I am happily married to a wonderful Dutch man whose idea of romance may sometimes differ from mine but he treats me very well and loves me. I believe however, the above quotation has some truth. I think the reason most Dutch men are not romantic is rooted in the fact that the Dutch women are more emancipated compared to women in other countries. It is a nation of liberated women. Dutch women prefer to be treated and to treat men as equals. There is no need to validate your love for her. You do not have to say the words “I love you”, buy her flowers and tell her she is beautiful or even use terms of endearments when talking to her. Treating her in the true spirit of compromise and equality is enough to validate your undying love to her. You just have to be faithful and respectful. This is the recipe for a good working “intimate” relationship for Dutch women and men. But most of us non- Dutch women expect to be treated with more romance, expect more presents, more compliments and more acknowledgment just for being women. We want to feel valued and special. A few may perceive our expectations as being shallow, one-sided and selfish but in our defense , this adds a certain flavour to the relationship that makes it more pleasant, magical and rewarding to both parties.
As an African woman I know from experience that African men can be quite romantic in terms of showering women with attention, gifts and compliments. Perhaps it comes from past tradition of men being the provider in the home and ensuring your wife or wives lack for nothing. One who built his woman a beautiful house, clothed her in the best clothes, adorned her with jewellery and fattened her up with rich foods (fat women were a depiction of a wealthy man) was the envy of the village. A man who can keep his woman or women happy was well respected. This instills a sense of pride in the man and envy in other men. I believe this culture seeped into the minds of modern African men and that is why most inadvertently romance their women, with some not even realising they are doing so. I remember my father surprising my mother with the gift of a car she had long admired when she obtained her Driving License. I remember him adding a little bit more to my mom’s grocery money every month so that she buys something nice for herself. My mother was and is a working woman with a steady job but my father continued to do so throughout. He provided absolutely everything in the home. I remember my mother telling me that my father always volunteered to change poopy nappies (no diapers in those days) when we were babies. Perhaps psychologically and on a subconscious level one cannot escape that which is or was traditionally and culturally ingrained despite generations of change.
Dutch women make the Dutch men this way
Last month, K, a Dutch woman friend of mine was telling me how she hates it when a man she is dating calls her or sends her messages during the day telling her he misses her and is thinking of her. She would rather he did not because she would rather use that time concentrating heavily on her work or activity instead of listening to an overly sensitive(her words) and emotional man. It is distractive. According to K there is a time and place for everything. She would rather appreciate it if he called her to make an appointment (afspraak) for a date. In which case, she would have to consult her diary for a suitable date and time. I thought she was insensitive, crazy and overly practical. I would love that! I always looked forward to receiving those kind of calls and messages from my partners, whether extremely busy or not, and in all of my relationships except one, I expected and received them. It made me feel very special.
My Dutch Civil Integration (Inburgering) teacher had an English boyfriend. During one of our practical interactive activities (Nederlands gesprek oefenenen) she revealed that her gentleman friend whom she had been seeing for just over a year was too sweet and too fond of romancing her. She found it strange and uncomfortable to be pampered and spoiled by a man. She felt he did not need to get her small thoughtful gifts or constantly remind her of his love for her. She admitted that she preferred the Dutch way of romance and had tried telling her English boyfriend to tone it down a bit. It concluded that her previous relationships with Dutch men were casual, practical and more impersonal. She simply could not cope with a man opening the door for her and pulling out chairs for her because, in her view, she is not helpless and unable to do so herself.
Dutch men are practical
A girlfriend of mine, E, made me laugh when she narrated her story. E is not Dutch. She told me she was getting increasingly sick and tired of the lack of romance in her relationship with her Dutch boyfriend, T. That she had talked herself hoarse in telling him over and over again ideas on how to romance her and how important it is to her. T loved E and he put in some effort in romancing her. E is a lover of architecture and had on numerous occasions mentioned to T that she loves the structures in Amsterdam. T took this clue and on the next special occasion (an anniversary) he got her a jigsaw puzzle of one of the buildings in Amsterdam. This is not romantic at all! E exclaimed to me. It was special that T had remembered her love for Amsterdam architecture but she expected at the very least flowers to come with the gift. However, she did not mention this to T and graciously accepted the gift even though she hates jigsaw puzzles.
Foreign women do not understand
On my first Valentine’s day with my now husband I was expecting to be complimented, spoiled and romanced. It was a work day and we were both at work. I remember waiting patiently for him to call me or send me a sweet message during the day. Part of me even expected flowers to be delivered to my office. By 17.30 hours I was ready to call it a day and later give him a tongue lashing for being so inconsiderate on a day meant for lovers. At 17.45 hours he calls and asks if we can meet for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants. This is it! I thought, berating myself for being angry at the poor man the whole day. We arrive almost simultaneously at the restaurant and proceed with the usual niceties and ordering of drinks and food. Meanwhile, I am waiting for something romantic to happen. At the very least I expected a compliment on how good I looked because I had taken special care to groom myself that morning and had a killer of a fabulous outfit to top it all off . I looked very good, if I do say so myself. Fifteen minutes pass and the man has not uttered a word about love or Valentine’s day. I can’t take it anymore! Are you aware that today is Valentine’s day? Do you really love me? I blurt out angrily and painfully. He casually replies that indeed he is aware of the day but thinks nothing of it other than a day commercialized in the guise of love. He shows his love for me every day and does not need to celebrate it on a specific date. He goes further to ask me why I did not do anything romantic for him myself since I believed in celebrating the day. Huh, has he been smoking grass?!!! was my silent inward reaction. Typical Dutch. Alles moet gelijk zijn. Everything has to be equal. Women should put in the same effort as a man, no matter what. Lesson learnt. Let me state however that my husband has since gone on to spoil me every Valentine’s day and he enjoys it. He realized how important it was for me.
A former expatriate acquaintance of mine, S, was taken by her then potential boyfriend, F, to Paris. She was touched and looked forward to what could be a romantic time in the so called, city of love. After three days in Paris they came back to the Netherlands and I was waiting almost impatiently to hear about the romantic session in Paris. Well, for starters she was not very eager to talk about the whole experience. Later she said Paris was fine and that she shopped a bit and experienced some sights and sounds but that was it. I asked her what romantic thing F did for her and she said and I quote “F only carried shopping bags for me and showed me unromantic places he found interesting, he didn’t even offer to buy anything for me or do anything for me”. Well, she obviously was not impressed. In her mind he was cheap and did not put in any effort to show her she was valuable. Indeed, romance is not about getting presents or expensive wining and dining. I got a slight feeling that in S’s world that was what defined romance more than anything. However, the obvious fact was that F was not spontaneous nor did he take the time to find out the type of things and places that may impress S.
My good friend B told me that what surprised her when she first started dating Dutch men was that she was hardly ever picked up from her house for a date. It was almost always the case that she would have to transport herself to the agreed venue of meeting. She hated this because she had to rely on public transport and sometimes had to walk a bit of a distance in her mostly high heeled and expensive shoes. She was used to being picked up from home and driven to a location. In her view, it ruined the whole spirit of a date if one had to arrive on their own and leave on their own. It would spoil the sweet private goodbyes on the doorstep that are common on dates. I must admit, this concept baffled me too. I had never been asked to get myself to a location by my date or boyfriend. Sometimes I would offer to do so because it would be out of the way for my partner but in my experience, I mostly got strong resistance for my offer from the men from other nationalities that I dated.
I love Dutch men. I have never had reason to doubt my partner and I appreciate his mostly practical way of showing his love for me. At the end of the day I would rather have a man who loves and respects me and above all is faithful to me than a man who romances me 24/7 but is lacking in those aspects. The aspect of being equals is also appealing. A Dutch man will almost never flex his muscles at you to make it clear who is boss or more powerful. Oh and yes Dutch men are very good looking! I have not gone through any town in the Netherlands without coming across some eye candy. Not that they should be forgiven for their unromantic ways because of their good looks but it sure helps, especially with romantic fantasies.
Hahaha, what can I say, I understand.