Book Review – “Stuff Dutch People Like” (Author: Colleen Geske)

From back cover:

Stuff Dutch People Like is a study of all things orange.  It investigates and highlights the idiosyncrasies of the Dutch culture and their uncanny ability to take on a mobile phone, while carrying 2.5 children, 5 bags of groceries, a television set, and a mattress on a gear-less bicycle.

Stuff Dutch People Like exemplifies, questions, celebrates and pokes fun at a nation of orange-loving, guttural-sounding, element-battling, culturally-bemused folk.  All in the name of fun.

 

My best friend Mendy, aka “Hot Cute Girly Geek” (please check out her blog – plug plug), bought this book… along with a lovely pair of Dutch Clog slippers (don’t laugh, they were invaluable for my sore feet after completing the Great Manchester Run last Sunday) for my birthday.

This book is based on the blog by the same name which aims to answer some of those lovely imponderables of Dutch life that we non-Dutchies may scratch our heads about such as why it’s customary to kiss Dutch people on the cheek three times… along with the rules of who to kiss (come on I didn’t kiss everyone indiscriminately whilst I was in The Netherlands), why the Dutch lifestyle is so intrinsically linked to the bicycle (something I will really need to get the hang of again before the next time I visit so as to prevent a diplomatic incident) and how to eat herring correctly (trust me, it’s an art form in itself.  Just don’t try to do it in the polite British manner like I did or you’ll end up wearing it rather than eating it).

The tone of the book is humourous, almost like a version of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” for Holland.  You almost expect the start to read “The Netherlands is flat.  Really flat” but hidden in this humour there is knowledge to be gained for the non-Dutchie to avoiding faux-pas or misunderstandings such as forgetting to take your own birthday cake into work (although, admittedly, this isn’t just a Dutch trait as I always take cakes into work for my birthday) or ensuring that birthday greetings are handled in the correct manner.

Throughout the book, the are pieces of feedback from readers of the blog which add extra humour and some thought provoking, and not thought provoking, commentary.  From a debate on the serious subject as to whether the Sinterklass character of Zwarte Piet should have a place in our multicultural society through to the phenomenon that is Red trousers (I can’t recall seeing those when I was over), no stone is unturned from this merry band of readers.

There is also an element of seeing that there are similarities between British and Dutch society.  For example:

  • Discussing the weather – Hello… it’s a National sport in the UK, second only to queueing (at which we are no doubt Olympic champions)
  • Eating meals where food is boiled and then mashed – Yep, we boil and then mash the hell out of carrots, turnips and potatoes as well

I have to admit, there are some things that still have me a little confused and will probably only work themselves out when I visit The Netherlands again such as:

  • What is the correct use for the word Gezellig and does it actually mean anything apart from an emotional response that can’t be defined?
  • How to use the word Lekker correctly in a sentence.
  • As for the chapter on “Dutch Directness”, let’s just say that my British reserve has gone into shock.

If you have a passing curiosity on all things Dutch or simply wish to embrace Dutchie culture and its little idiosyncrasies, along with avoiding the perils and pitfalls of accidentally offending or being offended, whilst having a good laugh at the same time, give this book a try.

NOTE TO SELF:  Next time I visit, try the Hagelslag.

Rating:

If you’re interested in The Netherlands, looking to visit and want a laugh – Buy It.

If you have a passing interest in The Netherlands – Try It.

 

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