Some people talk about the Dutch being the most open-minded nation on our planet.
So, as a Dutch person, do I concur?
Usually when people talk about the dutch and their open mind, they think of our (soft) drug policy and tolerance of all sex related topics. I believe the ‘Expatriate Guide to the Netherlands‘ has an interesting point of view by stating:
‘The dutch are a nation of sex-crazed liberals who snort drugs with their morning coffee while recovering from the night’s sexual-deviant orgy’.
Wauw! Wouldn’t that be something? Can a person even survive this kind of lifestyle??
Given the fact that we are tolerant about sex and drugs, it’s not strange that other countries look at us as if we are indeed sex-craved. Since most of us stopped wearing wooden shoes and don’t live in windmills anymore, even I might have been tempted to believe that this is indeed how we live our lives…sort of.
But being open-minded comprises more than this tolerance towards sex and drugs. A true open-minded person is tolerant to all change, questions everything yet rules out nothing. Basically this person must be receptive to new ideas.
How are the Dutch in that perspective?
Well, my opinion is that we are generally open-minded but with strong opinions as well. Hmm, that doesn’t quite answer the question, does it? Let me rephrase that: I believe the Dutch are no more open-minded than any other nation, but we have learned to be more relaxed and easy-going which has resulted in more tolerance towards a lot of topics (same-sex-marriage and freedom of religion for example) and ultimately to the Dutch being open-minded.
Were we always this open-minded?
Well, yes and no. If you take a look at the golden ages (16th and 17th century) the Dutch ruled the world by overseas trading. For that we colonised various parts of the world (i.e. Indonesia, Suriname etc) which is not exactly tolerant behaviour.
But at the same time we had to be tolerant and open-minded towards ‘any foreigners’ simply because being intolerant would be bad for business! Bear in mind that back in those days we were at (trade) war with the British and Portuguese.
And so being open-minded and tolerant is something we have learned ourselves the hard way. This skill also proved to be quite useful in politics. Just think about it, we Dutch always search for some kind of compromise.
Q&A with myself:
Are the Dutch the most open-minded persons on the planet? Perhaps not, but I do believe we are more tolerant than most other nations.
Then who do I think would be the most tolerant nation in the world? Hmmm, don’t know actually.
If I were to pick one nation? Well, I would probably choose the Dutch.
So my former conclusion was incorrect? Indeed. In my humble opinion the Dutch ARE the most open-minded people in the world.
But am I biased? As Dutchman I probably cannot be objective enough to make a solid conclusion. My knowledge about tolerance in other countries is virtually zero and I also see comments on the Internet from foreigners (living in the Netherlands) who state that we Dutch are not as open-minded as we let others believe.
Could this be true? Analysing the current ‘zwarte Pieten’ discussion makes me believe that it isn’t about ‘zwarte Piet’ at all, but merely a discussion platform for deeper issues; Most likely tolerance-related.
So do we give ourselves too much credit?
Maybe, but who am I to either confirm or deny this? Perhaps it’s better to have a loony scientist get to the bottom of this. He probably won’t reach a solid conclusion but he should have fun trying.
Writing this article however has made me realize that this topic is very much in the eye of the beholder and that’s exactly why I should stop writing now.