The UnDutchables Review
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I grew up in a land of tulips and windmills, where we ate things like pea soup and oliebollen. At Christmas, we sang songs about Sinterklaas in school. I have several pairs of wooden shoes that are actually worn right through from so much wear. Yet, believe it or not, I grew up right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Growing up in a town called Holland, I’ve always been very aware (and very proud) of my Dutch heritage. Though I always swore I wouldn’t, I even married a Dutch guy. And when my husband got a job for a Dutch company, I was thrilled to get to visit The Old Country.

On one of my many visits, I heard about The UnDutchables: An Observation of The Netherlands—Its Culture and Its Inhabitants, a sort of newcomers’ guide that’s gained almost cult-like following among English speakers for its perceptive and often hilarious observations of my kinsmen and their tiny, water-logged land.

  
 
In The UnDutchables (which is now in its fifth edition), authors White and Boucke go into great detail about the Netherlands, its customs, and its inhabitants. They discuss everything from the government to the public transit system to the food to the people’s love of complaining (and bargain hunting). They explain various types of Dutch toilets (which is actually quite helpful), and they rant about spoiled Dutch children (no comment). They examine the plentitude of Dutch inconsistencies and contradictions. And, in the process, they pull absolutely no punches.

Since I come from a strictly Dutch background (and a town that’s so intensely proud of its heritage that its unofficial motto could be: “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much”)—and I’ve spent time in The Old Country—not a whole lot in The UnDutchables came as a big surprise to me. Yes, I know that the Dutch are ridiculously stubborn; I’ve even been called a stijfkop (“stiffhead”) a time or two. I know that the Dutch are notoriously cheap; I used to work retail in my hometown. I know about the food; I’ve eaten most of it. I know about the bikes; I’ve come close to being run over by them. Still, The UnDutchables often had me laughing out loud—because, though we Dutchies (or, as the book calls us, Cloggies) don’t really care to admit it, it’s funny because it’s all so very true.

If you’re planning a move to the Netherlands—or if you’re planning to stay there for an extended period of time—The UnDutchables will most likely scare you to death (and perhaps make you rethink your move). But it’ll teach you a whole bunch of valuable lessons, too. In fact, it’s quite informative. And it doesn’t hurt that it also makes for a highly entertaining read.

For those of you who grew up eating banket and speculaas, you’re sure to get a laugh out of the book’s striking observations (and you just might learn a thing or two about your people and The Old Country in the process). Just be sure to bring your sense of humor. After all, the authors aren’t really laughing with you; they’re laughing at you.

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