Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's all made up

Originally uploaded by Manchester Snapper.
On Tuesday evening I took part in a wonderful evening at the Frascati Theatre here in Amsterdam. A theatre group called Dood Paard (Dead Horse) organised an evening on the state of the Netherlands. In a well built-up setting they showed three documentaries of public space in the Netherlands and invited six foreigners living in the Netherlands to make a statement of the country. I was one of those people.

In my own statement i talked about the difference in handling public space in Finland and in the Netherlands. I pointed out that at the same time as the famous Dutch ignorance (I don't care what the people in the next table are doing if it does not interfere with my evening) leads to diverse settings and relaxed atmospheres, it also turns easily to arrogance like very often on KLM flights back to Amsterdam (I can be as loud as I want to because it is my right). That is one of the things that at the same time disturbs me and charms me in this country.

From the other statements a phrase stuck to me head: land van mens. For the non-Dutch people, it means the land of man. One of the speakers rightly so pointed out that the Netherlands has no natural attractions. All the things that people come here for are things built up by men (not in the gender-specific sense).

I kept pondering that all through yesterday. In Finland we are always very much linked to the nature. Whereas the Finns live from their natural resources, the Netherlands lives from interaction. Somehow that also explains why the Dutch debating culture is so much more developed than the Finnish ones. If we would have been forced to negotiate everything and everywhere (plus make our income from that), maybe we would also be less awkward in the presence of others. As a Dutch historian Geert Mak once pointed out in a discussion about Dutch tolerance:"It is based on a business model. It is not economically wise to make people with money and connections feel that they are not welcome." I guess he is right. We all know that from a nice salesperson you end up easily buying more.

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