This is one of the hardest interviews I have done. People in Amsterdam do not like to be on camera, or maybe it was just the ones that I personally encountered. I cannot figure out if it was because they were too busy (work first mentality) or if it was because they were humble/shy. What have you experienced? Let me know in the comments below.
I personally found this interview with Emma to be compelling as My Heritage is largely Dutch. Emma is a receptionist at ClinkNoord, the Hostel I was staying at. She was a petite woman, tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes. After looking at her, I felt as if I compared to my Scottish Ancestors more than the Dutch as I am 5’4″ tall. She had a sweet unassuming smile with an open countenance, but also a professionalism that would make you not want to challenge her in a duel of wits. Although she consented to my interview, she did not want to have any photos taken of her, so I apologize I cannot provide more of a visual for you. Read the full interview below:
The People of the Netherlands:
Me: How do the people in Amsterdam identify themselves? Stoic, Kind, helpful, funny, laid back?
Emma: I believe that people here are open-minded, blunt, optimistic, and yet always in a rush. They are typically blonde with blue eyes and are very tall as well.
Me: Do you feel that your culture and traditions have changed in any way in the last 10 years?
Emma: The Dutch culture is fading away, the smaller villages still wear clogs, but it is very modernized and different than what it was.
Me: How can we as tourists help maintain your culture?
Emma: Clean up after yourselves! Please do not throw garbage on the street, the Dutch people are a very clean people, even in the streets.
Me: How many days off a year do people get in the Netherlands?
Emma: 20 days and if you work for a company you can get another 5 days, especially if you are a teacher.
Me: If I moved to the Netherlands, how would you suggest I assimilate into the culture?
Emma: Connect with people in the bigger cities as most of them speak English. You want to speak Dutch if you are planning to live in the smaller towns.
Me: What languages are spoken here?
Emma: Dutch, English for the younger people, and German for the older people.
Me: What is the best mode of Transportation here?
Emma: (laughs and responds with a grin on her face) You must use a bike or a bus. You can trust Uber, but it takes awhile to drive through cities.
Me: What are the major religions here?
Emma: Catholic, Protestant, Muslim
Me: Are people here devoted to their religion?
Me: What are the biggest Misconceptions people have about the Netherlands?
Emma: That the people are arrogant with strong opinions. The thing is, is that people in the Netherlands know their shit and it comes across as arrogant, but it really isn’t true.
Me: What are your favorite memories of this city and why?
Emma: The beach for sure, and the flower fields, cows coming into my backyard. This was usually at my Grandparents house that the cows would come into the flower fields.
For the Tourist:
Me: What are some Festivals that you think are worthwhile for people to visit?
Me: What are the biggest tourist traps that you see here?
Emma: The tourists come and get caught up with the drugs here. There is also an area that I would say to avoid called Bijlmer area, it is a homeless area and can be dangerous.
Me: Where are the best places to eat Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and get a beer?
Emma: For breakfast, I would say the Pancake Bakery which is here in the Netherlands about a 10 min walk from ClinkNoord. Then for lunch, we don’t really eat a lunch, just eat a snack or something. For Dinner, I would say Jordaan or Hannover streets you can find really great places to eat all along those streets. If you want a good beer, you can really go anywhere in Amsterdam but the type of beer is what will make the difference. So for the beers, I would suggest getting: Amstel, Heineken, Grolsch, Hertog Jan, or Bavaria.
Me: How do you tip at restaurants?
Emma: We don’t really expect a tip, but if the bill is 13.50 you might round up to 15 euro so that you don’t have change. We like the round numbers here, but I would say do not tip more than 5 euros for a meal for one person maximum.
Me: I have noticed that they charge you for bottled water here, and tell you that you cannot have tap water. How would you as a local get around this, or is there a way around it?
Emma: They tell you they can’t give you tap water, but it is not true. You can ask for tap water and they cannot refuse it, it is a way for the restaurant to make more money. So how I usually get around it, is to say, ‘Can I have tap water, to begin with’, and then you can bring a water bottle for in between meals.
Me: What is one of the best-hidden gems in the Netherlands?
Emma: Haarlem, it gives you a really good local experience and it is right next to the beach where they have fairs and different experiences for the tourist and for the locals.
Me: Are there places in the Netherlands that you would say are Romantic?
Emma: Romantic in Holland? (She smiles a huge smile and stifles a laugh) Dutch people aren’t Romantic….we just light a candle and call it romantic. (Laughs again).
Me: Where is the best place for nightlife in the Netherlands?
Me: Where are the best places to go for outdoor adventures and hiking?
Me: If you were to get hurt doing these fun adventures, what number could you call for an emergency in the Netherlands?
Emma: Call 112 for emergencies, or just ask someone to call the paramedics for you because they will know the area better and how to direct them to get to you.
Schooling in the Netherlands:
Me: What are the school systems like here?
Emma: At 3 years old the parents decide if they want you to go to school, from 4-6 the kids go to Kindergarten, 6-11 reading and writing school, 11 years old and older is High School until 17-18 where you decide if you want to go to a higher education. We have here MBO, HBO, and the University. The MBO is a practical industry school, HBO is the economy school and you must be smart to go here, and then the University is where the smartest people go.
Me: Does it cost anything to go to a lower level school?
Emma: Yes, the parents have to pay to send you to school. The government can give you money for this, but you have to pay them back in 12 years.
Me: How do they advance grades?
Emma: You have to pass a test after each grade. If you do not pass you can take it again, but after you fail the second time then you go to a lower level.
Me: What about higher education, how are people able to access that?
Emma: it is much harder because you have to have money to do that….lots and lots of money.
The Family Unit in the Netherlands:
Me: How does the family unit work here?
Emma: It depends on how close the family is. Young kids go to the city & leave their parents. Some stay and buy a house if they have a good job.
Me: Who wears the pants in the family, or who is in charge?
Emma: Mom definitely wears the pants in the family. Dad is the money. Dad typically goes to work, eats, sleeps, and repeats day after day after day.
Me: Where do the elderly go when they can no longer walk? Who takes care of them?
Emma: They go to the old folks home where their family can visit them. They do not move into your home because you have to work and then take care of them all the time and it just creates a bad situation.
Me: What is the view on feminism, gay, or minorities here? Are they treated equally or do you notice a societal difference in how they are treated?
Emma: It is an unusual thing to separate them, but I see that the younger generations are ok with it. The older generations are still traditionalists and have a hard time, but if you look at forms that people fill out there is options for man, woman, or other. We were actually the first country to approve gay marriage.
Me: Is having children common here?
Me: Do people get Maternity leave here?
Emma: Yes, you usually get 5-6 months of maternity leave.
Me: What age do people here get married?
Emma: Typically in their twenties.
Me: Are their customs associated with marriage you would like to share?
Emma: Not really, they just go to the church, they might have a reception and eat some cake. Then there is a party in the evening with a dinner and a DJ. The party typically lasts all day.
Me: Is it common to live together prior to getting married?
Me: What is the classic place that people get married here?
Emma: The city hall (laughs), there is no special place, you go, you get married and it’s done. If you go on Monday morning actually you can get married for free at City Hall.
Politics, Stereotypes, Citizen Rights:
Me: What are the common stereotypes that are encountered here?
Emma: It is always the immigrant’s fault, and people feel it is always those from Serbia, Turkey, or Morocco.
Me: What are the different political parties here?
Emma: There are a lot of different parties that represent different things like the animals, religion, elderly, economy, immigrants and religion.
Me: Can you vote?
Emma: Yes, from the age of 18 you can vote.
Me: Are the citizen’s allowed to do demonstrations? Who are the people that typically do this?
Emma: There aren’t usually demonstrations here. There was a time where Kindergarteners were demonstrating because of the low salary for the teachers.
Me: What are the Police and the Military system like here? Do you have confidence that they would protect its citizens in the event of a terrorist attack?
Emma: You don’t want to call the police because they will want to do a ton of paperwork. The citizens take care of the problem themselves and just beat the people up because they don’t trust the police.
Me: How do you say thank you in Dutch?
Emma: Dankjewel (sounds like Dunk-ya-vell)
Me: Well a big Dankjewel to you Emma for taking the time out of your day to answer these questions I really appreciate it.
Emma: No problem, they were interesting questions and some of them made me think a little bit.
Emma was so kind in answering my questions, and I was so grateful that she was willing to do so as it was so difficult to find someone to Interview in Amsterdam. I personally found the Dutch people to be a people motivated by duty. Duty to make their lives better for themselves, their family, and their country. There is a certain pride within them from being Dutch, but I felt that it was not as forthright as other places I have encountered like Texas. They are a quiet, clean, kind people as a generalization and humble enough to not want to be on camera or have photos taken.
I really enjoyed my time and all of the cities I was able to visit while in the Netherlands. Stay tuned for more posts on Edam, Haarlem, Zannse Schans, Den Hague, Delft, Jordaan, Kinderdijk, and Dordrecht. If you would like my full itinerary please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Should you ever visit the Netherlands, make sure to stop by and say hello to her at ClinkNoord, she is a receptionist there and like most of the Dutch, is tall, blue-eyed with blonde hair and looks like she stepped out of a magazine.
Have you been to the Netherlands yet? What was your favorite place to visit?
For more locations to visit in the Netherlands read:
Windmills of the Netherlands: A Marvelous Engineering Feat of Days Past