Monday, August 24, 2009

Lending a Sterotype-bustin' Hand

I hate to come back from my blogging break with another entry comparing Europe to the US, but knowing how many American stereotypes I've come up against in Mostar, I can't help but give my Dutch friends a hand with theirs!

I'm back in Europe after a long summer holiday at home. My first stop is at my rommmate's place in the Netherlands, a small country for which I had big expectations. As Isa says, it's known for featuring both ends of a spectrum: the traditional clogs, windmills, cheese, and cows versus the liberal legalization of euthanasia, marijuana, and prostitution. But I feel obliged to say that in spite of their presumed reputation, the Dutch do not have a noticably absent elderly population,walk around stoned all the time, or consider becoming a hooker a desirable career path for their daughters. In fact, as a whole the Dutch appear to be one of the most wise, healthy, well-informed, and amiably humorous nations I've visited so far. The government seems to be revising policies that don't work, and Isa's family at least seem to see their laws not as a guide to Dutch living but as a way to deal with inevitable issues and treat everyone as fairly as possible.

Obviously one can't always form an accurate impression in only a few days, and I am still ready to look with a critical eye at some of Holland's policies, but the naïvety of being too quick to judge was driven home to me last night while we were watching TV. There was a special on Dutch TV comparing attitudes towards drugs, alchol, and homosexuality in the draconian government of Singapore and...U of Chicago spring breakers in Cancun. I'll leave you to imagine what they had to say (and do!), but my Dutch hosts' disgusted reactions reminded me that while their laws might be more liberal than Americans are comfortable with, my own countrymen might learn a bit from their self-control.

1 comment:

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