Since I moved to the Netherlands I developed a theory: the autochtones have a lack of self-esteem and they react to this showing how secure and proud of their country they are and how great and beautiful it is.

If this unconscious self-esteem mechanism works for them, I’m glad. Still, it’s delusional.

Let’s be honest: if it wasn’t for the money, few futuristic lows they made and an amazing way of dealing with the water due to survival reasons, nobody would care about the Netherlands. Even the Romans, a population not really picky about conquering lands, when they came here they were like: “ WTF, what are we supposed to do with this swamp?”.

There’s honestly not much to see here: most of the glorious historical past of the Netherlands has been played overseas, the golden age is gone since a few centuries and most masters of the arts are not even known outside the borders.

Let’s take Rembrandt for instance: you have no clue how many people I met convinced he was French (usually the same kind of people that think that Colombo was Spanish).

For a second, think about what you had in mind when you thought about the Netherlands before coming here… Think fast…Let me guess…Weed, sluts, windmills, flowers, mostly tulips. If you go further, maybe cheese, euthanasia, gay rights, dams. Anne Frank and Van Gogh if you read at least one book in your life. If you like technology and design, you probably know that Philips is Dutch, not German.


Do you recognize yourself if this portrait? Personally I recognize most of the foreigners I met inside and outside the country.

Now, think about a Dutch person: they discovered and they were used pretty much to rule the World…Then they lost everything and, after some dark times, they managed in the end to become a pretty decent and wealthy country. Being sailors in the DNA, they usually travel a lot and they notice how small they are, how average their country is beauty wise, how nobody knows a shit about who they are or what they did or what they are still doing. I’m not talking about stereotypes here. Generally, nobody cares about the Netherlands.


Coming from a country where if you dig in your garden you might find a pre-roman tomb (true story) and with so many different landscapes, I feel bad sometimes for them and I understand all this entire “being proud to be Dutch” thing.

It’s like the toad when it’s in front a potential threat: it has to make itself bigger and maybe a bit arrogant. No matter if they are going to be smashed in the comparison.

Are Dutch people aware of this self-defense and unconscious mechanism? Probably not.

A friend of mine, Rosanna, an Italian woman married to a Dutch guy, helped me to support this theory with a very funny and peculiar fact: lots of autochthons hide a little secret in their handwriting (which, I’m convinced, it’s a way of expression strongly connected to personality).

I leave you to her words:

“ …If this time I don’t learn this tricky language…”

I just signed a contract with ROC, the School of Dutch Language, which witnesses the voluntary sacrifice of my Tuesday and Thursdays’ evenings for the next year. In between of a Godverdomme and some swearing in romagnolo’s dialect I’m going to my first lesson.

I walk in and I sit in front of Cees, a Big Dutch, tall and skinny guy, with a long nose and the glasses hovering the forehead.  He’s waiting for the group of people, a melting pot of nationalities which arrives in drips and drabs.

I’m between two guys from Nepal, that obviously talk to each other all the time (I’m a genius) and I look at the good Cees that ate too much kaas and hangop and he suddenly found himself, unwillingly, in a Lilliput world, with normal sized creatures.

We talk about Dutch eating habits, and Cees (still sitting down), writes on the blackboard some words in lower case letters:


Here we go, three years of weekends sacrificed to the study of Graphology start buzzing in my brain, like when you’re next to faint and your ears start to whistle before you collapse.


One of the signs that you can observe in the handwriting of a person is the R regularly written in uppercase on a word written in lowercase. It’s a very funny sign, because it’s easy to notice, it’s called “Le Petit Roi” (The little king) and it indicates an equally funny meaning.

If you find it in the handwriting of somebody, you might have in front of you a person that has usually the tendency to compensate with his behaviors a lack of self-esteem. It’s a bit like people that underline their signature: I have no clue how you haven’t noticed yet that I do exist.


So, after I saw Le Petit Roi appearing in my Dutch partner’s handwriting, his Dutch mother and his Dutch sister, I was convinced I walked in the life of a Dutch family lacking self-esteem and in need of attention. I had no clue that this family went from Maastricht till Schiermonnikoog.

If the poor Cees, which the last name is not Janssen as my relatives, writes in the same way, would it be possible that this is a common features of the natives?

I think it’s now time to clarify something, I don’t want to be misunderstood: I love to live in Amsterdam and I don’t miss Italy. I appreciate the locals (and with this I mean the autochthones) , the way they do things,  ‘cause I really like the fact that they don’t lose time to stab you in the back: if they do it, they do it in front of your face (with an implosive effect for yours self-esteem).


Conscious of the fact that I’m trying to be a very cheap sociologist, I thought that if there’s a Country that needs to compensate the fact of being small in front of the Universe, this is the Netherlands.

A piece of land that you can cross in an afternoon by car, populated by formal sailors that live of lactose products and abuse of the hormone of the growth  present in the milk, it’s by itself an antithesis.

Inevitably there’s a need to compensate something in front of the World, that cares about them just when you hear talking over drugs, indoor ice-skating races and sex-workers.

I’ll try to remember this all those times that my father-in-law wants to teach me how to do a risotto and says that ALL the Italians take every day a pennichella (power nap) after the lunch-break at work.

Talking about stereotypes, try to picture the pure blood Dutch: driving the car on holiday, in the southern France, the roulette in the back and the blond family in the front. He’s found the cruise speed that will allowed him to spare 20 cents per hour and he drives smiling and optimist, because he just cashed the 8% “vakantiegeld” and the French camping gave him a discount as loyalty bonus for the fifth year in a row.

No doubt, a “gReat Roi!”

Marco Alf