Dutch Reputation

The majority of people still judge this nation by the old expression ‘going Dutch’. It derives from Dutch etiquette and means that everyone pays its own expenses when on a date or in company. Splitting the bill nowadays is also referred to as ‘going Dutch’, but in fact splitting the bill has a bit different meaning. In this case you don’t have to check what each individual ordered; you just pay the same sum of money as everyone else does. By the rest of Europe it is understood as greediness when on a date a man doesn’t take care of a bill. The most frequent and derogatory collocation is ‘Dutch Treat’ in this context.

As a result the Dutch have earned a unique, if not a paradoxical reputation. How can such a prudent nation be famous for a tolerant approach towards soft drugs and prostitution?

Social liberality and respect for each individual in Holland resulted in adoption of a number of progressive laws. Since 2000 prostitution became a legal profession and prostitutes started to pay taxes. A year later Holland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. Thus the Dutch became trendsetters.

The major disadvantage of being the first is that you usually get criticized. But this fact didn’t prevent the Dutch from taking further steps and making the adoption of children by gay or lesbian couples possible in the year 2009.

These are however only a few steps along the way to becoming the most liberal country in the world as it is very often called. In addition there is the fact that smoking marijuana became absolutely legal in coffee shops in Holland. They do of course strictly control the amount of drugs they sell because according to the law it is permitted to sell no more than 5 grams of marijuana to one person per day. In general it is illegal to sell, possess or produce drugs in Holland. The exception is only for marijuana.

With the adoption of these laws Holland didn’t become any less safe than it used to be. Its capital Amsterdam is ranked 19 out of 215 world cities for personal safety in the Quality of Life Survey. Such famous European capitals as London and Paris didn’t even make it to the top 50. 

What is more, the country’s budget has only benefitted from tolerance to soft drugs, as currently the country, and especially its capital, attracts more tourists than it used to before. Does the fact that you can casually smoke a joint in one of the coffee shops in the very heart Amsterdam along with the girls from the Red Light District seem appealing to you? I guess to the majority of people living in the 21st century it does. And the 15,749,000 people coming to Amsterdam each year only proves it.

So maybe the Dutch are not so prudent after all. Only the most tolerant nation could adopt such liberal policies without disrespect to its historical heritage. “Allow it so you can control it” – isn’t this the best philosophy for life in the fast-changing 21st century?