Aye, I agree with your assessment. As a "foreigner" (aren't we all EU members supposed to be brothers and sisters?) who worked three years for a big[gish] Dutch company, and made many a trip to headquarters, I was surprised by the intolerance lurking under the very thin film of nicety. The difference of treatment between Dutch (or at least Holland-based) employees and foreigners was blatant. Most ideas that deviated from the accepted, true-and-tried methods, although the company is losing market share and money, were snorted at.Although most of the meetings were held in English, the real important ones were held in Dutch, cutting off but a handful of foreigners.
It should be telling that while being an executive of the company, the only friends I made at HQ were the receptionists and some low-level staff, people who were also, somehow, at the receiving end of the stick -- apparently, the social castes are as strong as in India; ask that wonderful Surinam-born girl at the reception. And what is that thing Dutch have with age? You are young, so you should earn less money that an older person at the same level? What is that? Japan?
Oh, and that famous legend about the Dutch Labour Laws being so tough on employers, making it real hard to fire people..? Well, someone has found loopholes in that book...
"It doesn't take much digging to reveal that this tolerance is often just a thin veil, though."
Sure, agreed. However, we do still have said laws, unlike many other places. That must've happened somehow. The word is *tolerance*, note. Tolerance as a word that actually implies you're merely tolerating, not necessarily accepting, someone else's lifestyle.
I think tolerance is essential to modern urban civilisation. The Netherlands having been a small, urbanized trading nation with a number of (christian) religious factions for a long time, tolerance must've become important early on; you just have to get along in order to have a stable society and trade with those odd foreigners.
Acceptance would be better, but acceptance of different cultures and lifestyles is actually very hard on people psychologically, so tolerance may be the best we can hope for in many cases.
"Recently, Dutch society as a whole appears to have become harder and less tolerant."
Yeah, it seems to be that way. I can't really make much sense of that trend, but then I'm not an easily worried person myself.
In part there's a reaction to the perception (possibly not truth) that society is getting more scattered (and thus possibly less of a society). For a long time the 'tolerance' idea made it a taboo to discuss such issues at all, and this was broken open in recent years. That's not necessarily a bad thing by itself, and we can at least credit Pim Fortuijn with that.
Now there's a lot more debate about whether these trends are good or bad and if bad, what should be done, political actions are taken, and naturally some of the suggestions and actions are not the brightest ideas.
I think another part of this trend is a rise in individualism, so there is less caring for the weaker groups in society. Individualism has good and bad sides.
"Sociale controle (people checking if others behave in "proper" ways) is much less common in the US than in the Netherlands, where it's almost ubiquitous."
I think that this is an overgeneralization. Tell it to people living in the bible belt. Or in wider society, all the US politicians who have to profess their religion so devoutly. The US has different taboos, and different pressures from society. And there are regional differences in the US as there are in the Netherlands; the US north and south are not at all the same, and someone from the south living in the north may be feeling as alienated as someone moving country in Europe.
"Another example... What bothered me a lot when I was younger is that it's totally not acceptable for young people to stay home on a Saturday night. Everybody absolutely has to go out; people won't understand it if you don't, and will think there is something wrong with you."
Well, I was a geek (and am :) and didn't go out saturday nights. I didn't feel much pressure, but perhaps I'm just used to being a social outcast. :)
Again, I suspect that such social pressures exist in the US too; popularity contests in schools and so on. They're probably more felt by young people in general all over the world.
I suspect some of these things have more to do with comparing personal experiences of a person who is different now than then, has different friends, etc, than comparing cultures.
Some of it is comparing cultures though. The US has a grand tradition of individualism that, in its best expressions, I greatly appreciate.
"Anyway, the bottom line is that I think that the Dutch really aren't more tolerant than anybody else."
Agreed. Definitely not more accepting. But at least we have the more tolerant laws. :)
I'm probably biased as I live in Rotterdam these days. It has almost 50% non-Dutch population, so if I would be intolerant of different lifestyles, I'd be perpetually unhappy. Luckily I like the diversity. :)
Oh, note that another Dutch cultural trait you're still sharing is showing how you're definitely *not* proud of the place. Nationalism is another Dutch cultural taboo, quite different from the US. :) Of course people here still believe their place is better than anywhere else at least, so the pride comes out in odd ways (mostly by saying "those stupid Americans", but hey, we see Americans on TV all the time. and some of them make such a good target).
"""I'm probably biased as I live in Rotterdam these days. It has almost 50% non-Dutch population [...]"""
I wonder what happened. I mean, when I was in school, it was a rare occasion to see someone from the Antilles, or Suriname, or Turkey or Morocco. That wasn't *that* long ago; I am now 31. But these days I read about these percentages, and "black schools", and I think, what the hell happened? Where did all these people come from? Maybe this happened less in my region, but Heerlen has neighborhoods too that are predominantly inhabited by allochtonen. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, I just wonder how it happened so fast.
Maybe I was just too busy hacking to notice. :-)
"""Oh, note that another Dutch cultural trait you're still sharing is showing how you're definitely *not* proud of the place."""
Well... that might have been different a few years ago... but since then, I've experienced both living in the NL with Americans, and living in the US. I don't hate the Netherlands, far from it, but I've become a lot more critical, and notice things I used to be oblivious about.
"""Nationalism is another Dutch cultural taboo, quite different from the US. :)"""
Yes, patriotism is very common here, while it's a no-no in the Netherlands.
Yes, patriotism is a subtle thing here in the Netherlands, mostly about how the Netherlands sucks but all other places suck even worse. Now that you've been abroad for a while you have a more balanced view. :)
On the racial mix; "what the hell happened" happened predominantly in the Randstad, I think. I'm your age, and I grew up in Noord-Brabant, and the mixing wasn't as visible either. Rotterdam for instance got a huge influx of people from Surinam back when it became independent, which has been a while. Communities of non-native Dutch initially seem to aggregate in larger cities, as that's where you can find your fellow wherever-you're-from, including speciality stores selling, say, your favorite dish, more easily. Anyway, there are neighborhood differences in Rotterdam as well, so it's not like all neighborhoods have such a mix.