Are the Dutch modest according to their life style?
A few months before a relocation to the Netherlands, I tried to prepare myself for a new period of life. A move to a different continent, with a different weather and a highly developed infrastructure across all fields of life. A country which may pride itself on holding such a high score on various quality-of-life scales. Indeed, a beautiful land which offers superb service in the private, commercial, and governmental sectors.
I took a course in order to learn the Dutch language in advance. Also, I read about the country from various sources in order to enlarge my knowledge of it as far as possible prior to my arrival. It appears that the Dutch are known in the world for being very decided, entrepreneur-ish, industrious and modest. All of these I have experienced to be very accurate descriptions that match the local reality. Except, perhaps, for the last one. The Dutch are no more nor less modest than any other nation or people. When it concerns the purchase of car, or of a new kitchen or bathroom, the average Dutchman’s need for extravagance is just as great as in any other nation.
Why? Perhaps because these are the local measures of one’s status. Of all expenses, from clothing to food and to education, it is a car and an expensive-looking kitchen and bathroom that matter most in terms of how other people rank your status in this society. And how others rank your status appears to have been important in all societies, from the most primitive tribes in early history and up until the most modern nations today.
Why then was this characteristic of modesty attributed to the Dutch? Perhaps because, more than many other nations, the Dutch are willing sacrifice some of their own comfort in order to spend less – and to do so to a greater extent than anyone. Whereas others would insist on having a certain abundance or quality food available (as for instance their German neighbors do), or perhaps more fashionable clothing (e.g. the French, the Italians), the Dutch appear more willing to settle for less in these seemingly basics-of-life departments than anyone else. It is not for nothing that the Dutch cycle to work, regardless of the weather, rather than take the car.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing? No one can deny that the Dutch have created a modern, successful and independent country that many in the world would justly dream of living in. It is very commendable. But no can deny that so did some of their other “non-modest” European neighbors, too.