The other day I read a very interesting post on a Facebook Expats site. A young woman was questioning and seeking clarification as to whether Dutch people made use of tissue paper. She personally noticed that she had not come across any Dutch person using tissues [to blow their nose]. In her opinion, Dutch people seem to avoid using tissues. Kindly bear in mind that she was most diplomatic and meant no disrespect with her comment. I believe she merely wanted answers approving or disproving her observation. Her observation got a lot of reaction and I shall discuss a few below.
This article is not meant to scorn, minimise or in any way belittle the Dutch but merely put forth observations made by certain individuals.
Let me begin by putting my two cents in the conversation that ensued from the post.
My first impression was wow, what a dawning realisation! It occurred to me that I have never (as far as I recall) seen a Dutch person carrying or using tissues. I have lived in the Netherlands for more than five years but have not seen this. How come I didn’t notice this?! Well, a point of correction, my Dutch husband uses tissues but only because I hand them to him. Below was my comment on the post of the young woman.
“Well, I have never seen a Dutch person carrying tissues. I can’t say it’s annoying because it doesn’t bother me. However, parents carry wet wipes or cloths for their children. I don’t think the tissue industry makes much money here. And no, it’s not a Hungarian thing (some thought perhaps only Hungarians use tissues). I am from East and Southern Africa and we carry and use tissues all the time.”
I got so used to carrying tissue paper that Kleenex became synonymous with the name tissue before I came to live here. Anyway, in reiteration to my point. The following comments were made;
“We in California use tissues too! but—what is it about tissues that someone would not want to use? If you have a runny nose, what would be your other option?”
This is indeed a good question, I thought. I would personally like to know the answer to this. I have noticed that I have not seen handkerchiefs in a Dutch person’s possession either. However, Dutch people are clean and certainly not snot-nosed. The question is, do they suck it all in? God forbid, they use their jackets and shirts! Perhaps there is a secret to keeping a dry and clean nose the rest of us tissue carrying people don’t know about. We certainly wouldn’t mind saving money by deleting tissues from our budgets if we knew the secret.
A man of Australian origin put forth another point of observation which also shocked me because it had a ring of truth. He stated that he had not seen any tissue boxes in a Dutch home. I have not either! Funny, I never thought of it.
Another man of Hungarian origin stated that he encountered a pretty awkward situation on a bus when he offered someone who clearly needed a tissue one. It appears the person offered the tissue was shocked, insulted and pretty much thought the tissue offering stranger was a weirdo.
Interestingly enough a Dutchman responded by merely saying that the Dutch are too lazy to carry tissues. I take this to be a joke. Dutch humour can be confounding. What I love about the Dutch and the same is true for Africans, is that we tend to make light of situations by laughing at ourselves in jest.
Take note however that not everyone had the same opinion. Some people countered the observations. A woman of Russian origin stated that she had been offered tissues by Dutch people and has come across Dutch people carrying tissues. Another person of Indian origin was of the view that perhaps the people some of us encountered merely forgot to bring their tissues. That he has not noticed any of which is being stated to the contrary. It is not a far-fetched coincidence but coincidence it is because most of us, and I speak for myself and those who responded to the post, have encountered scenarios where tissues are not in the picture. It is not a bad thing, just strange for us.
The fact is, it really does not bother me whether someone uses tissues or not. As long as one does not continuously sniffle and has an unruly running nose I have no problem. As earlier mentioned, in my opinion, Dutch people are clean and well kept. I do not know how most survive the winter months without tissues or hankies but they manage. I can’t imagine they use the back of their hands! This article is not meant to disparage Dutch people. I love them (married one) but I cannot help but notice certain behaviours or habits that are dissimilar to my own. This is not necessarily a bad thing but just a different thing.