Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

The Dutch

5 May 2016


A decade ago, former Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende described the Dutch identity as a “VOC mentality“. VOC is the Dutch abbreviation for the Dutch East India Company. This Dutch company is also known for the first ever Initial Public (share) Offering (IPO) in 1602, to finance Dutch global trade (Investopedia). The most important aspect of a national identity is a common language.

Today we have a Dutch society in which many people don’t care about the Dutch language, even Dutch kids. Many foreigners – some of them living in the Netherlands for decades – still don’t speak our national language. In any other society, this would have serious repercussions, but not here. In Holland we even accommodate foreigners by replying in English even if they take the effort to ask a question in Dutch. I suppose that allows us to practice our English.

Since 2015 my blogs are mostly in English in order to attract a wider audience. My audience is now almost of a global nature with 37% USA, 28% Dutch, 9% SA, 4% Ukraine, 3% Russia and many other countries. I still write Dutch blogs, especially on national topics. My English language blogs are not related to any disrespect towards my mother tongue. Essentially, the Dutch language is limited to Dutch Antilles, Belgium (Flanders), Indonesia, Netherlands, South Africa and Surinam.

Last week, I met someone from South America who is here for 20+ years. I have serious difficulty in understanding her spoken and written Dutch. At first, I felt embarrassed for frequently asking her to repeat her (Dutch) words. Later my embarrassment turned into annoyance. There was no option to change the language from Dutch to English as she has a Spanish background.

Today I envy the Germans. Seriously! Recently, the Germans decided that foreign migrants and refugees must integrate and learn German else they will lose residency (eg, FOX, Guardian). I wonder whether the Dutch government would even survive a similar proposal in Parliament. Probably most political parties would cry a river over this. Apparently, they don’t mind that foreigners will never really integrate in Dutch society, despite their crocodile tears.

Frankly, I am ashamed of the disrespect for our Dutch language. I still speak some kiSwahili following my (accumulated) 30 day stay in Kenya. I am proud of learning their local language. It shows my interest in another country and in its people. Kenyans are always positively surprised to hear a Mzungu (= white foreigner) speak their (original) national language.

People often complain that Dutch is such a difficult language. I wonder whether that is fair. Dutch is grammatically in between English and German. The older words are more similar to German and the newer words are more like English. Many technical difficulties in Dutch were already abandoned decades ago while the German language still has these. The Dutch pronunciation is probably the hardest part (eg, link 1, link 2) but so is German.

Apparently, there is a growing foreign demand for the Dutch language (eg, link 1, link 2). What do they see that we fail to see ?? Might it be the Dutch language books of the many famous Dutch scientists during the almost 200 years that the Dutch ruled the world?? Could it relate to the many international – Dutch – companies that trade all over the world?? Is it the unique combination of a successful monarchy and a political oasis??

Back then Jan Peter Balkenende struck an open nerve. Successful integration starts with a common language. A successful nation leverages on a common language. Belgium shows that the opposite is also true. The Dutch identity is something to cherish and not to ridicule. We should learn from the Germans – this time. Yes, I know it’s hard. If they can do this, we can do it even better.

The Dutch – This is Welfare (1983) – artists, lyrics, video, Wiki

This is welfare (This is welfare)

This is welfare (This is welfare)

This is welfare (This is welfare)

This is welfare, paradise


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