Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SERIES: Cultural ambassadors: NETHERLANDS (Cross-Culture Email Connection)

We will start the series off with the Netherlands, as I was just there to visit. I thank the fellow swapper for the great portrayal of his country. After an hour of formatting, here you go:

Hello swap partners & swap coordinator,

here is the Cross Culture e-mail connection SWAP from the Netherlands (or Holland, Hollanda, Pays Bas, der Niederlande etc.etc.)
As it is the second day of spring today I need to be carefull not to write a too sunny picture of our little country, the little bit of sun we allready got is making me very excited, but I will do my best :-).
A description of what we eat for breakfast:

We tend to eat slices of bread with butter and cheese, ham or chocolate sprinkles or .....anything. The bread is mostly accompanied with a glass of milk, buttermilk or tea.

a short description of a typical work day:

A typical work day .... that is a difficult question, it depends of course of your type of work.
A full time working week is 40 hours, but quite a lot of people work part time, certainly the women.
At my own family, both my husband and myself work 32 hours, so 4 days per week. Our 3 kids go to school & afterwards from 3 onwards to a post-school group where they play & sport.
I work as an industrial engineer at a big food company and next to that I have 2 websites with home-made product & a blog to maintain (see links below), so after a working day at the office & when the kids went to bed at 20:00 my next working day starts sewing & painting :-), but I love it all!!

a description of your favorite day off (weekend or holiday):

We wake up normal time around 7:00, do some games in our pyama, have a good breakfast & take the bicycle to cycle around the village, to the forrest, to a playground. We will have lunch in the village and cycle back to our country-side house. The afternoon we will spend in the garden, doing some light chores, playing with the animals, snoozing in the sun and finish with a BBQ with friends who will have arrived at our place during the afternoon. The evening is spend chatting, relaxing with a sweater next to the fire on the terrace.


a short description of your country and its position in the world, including something you like about it and something you don't like:

The Netherlands is a very wealthy little country in Europe (green circle in red square), next to the North Sea. Most of the country is below sea-level and protected by dikes & mills. There are 16mio inhabitants.
I really like that people are quite direct and straight forward, they would tend to be honest and not make things nicer or pretter then they are.
I do not like the fact that there is a political party which is becoming more popular at the moment who is very harsh on other cultures and totally not tolerant. This is not fitting our cultural history, our openess and certainly not fitting to my ideas!!

a list of languages (optional: dialects) that are spoken in your country:

In the Netherlands we speak Dutch. There are of course a few dialects and there is even one dialect which is now recognised as a language: Frysian, but that last one is only spoken in one of the provinces.

As the country is really small, the most people will speak at least one or two or three other languages, mostly English, German and French which we all learn at high school, but also spanish is becoming very popular and of course at university many other languages.

a list of the three most important holidays of your country and how they are cebrated:

This is a nice subject. Of course there are the Christian holidays like christmas and Easter which are big but quite common in Europe.
The two most special though are:

1- Carnaval. Celebrated in February only in the southern part of the Netherlands and a bit like the Brazilian carnaval. But where in Brazil it is sunny and people dress beatifully and dance beatifully, carnaval in NL is more about dressing fun, making jokes, drinking beer & having a parade with also fun cars, trucks etc. It lasts from saturday until tuesday and the people who are really in for it, they will really party 4 day long and will be busy preparing anything from 11-11 (11th of November) onwards when the new prince carnaval is elected (one prince per village)

2- Sinterklaas. Every year mid novembre Sinterklaas arrives from Spain with his helpers, the "zwarte pieten" (black Pete's) and one the 5th of December all kids will get presents from Sinterklaas and he goes back. Pls find a ppt attached to explain more about this tradition and for those who might have worries: there is no racisme related to this story & as it is such a long tradition nobody has issues with it here. Sinterklaas is pronounced approximately the same as SantaClaus, but remember for the future, the story is very different, the person is not the same & in NL we do not have Santa Claus (allthough the shops will try to introduce)
There are a few other countries who also have a version of Sinterklaas, like in Slovenia, Zwitserland etc. a list of that can be found on slide 9 of the ppt too!!!!

description of some national specialties/products:

Of course we are famous for cheese, mills, wooden shoes, Delfts blauw porcelain !!

* Wooden shoes are the traditional farmer shoes, warm in winter, cold in summer. It is still worn by some people during their work-day but then often in a version with a leather top.
* Mills & dikes, those are of course absolutely necessary to keep the water out. Not much more to tell about that. The traditional versions of windmills (see picture at the next subject) are still operated but often only for hobby, tourism or to make some flower for bread. The real milling to keep our feet dry is done by electrical big pumps.

* stroopwafels, a very nice type of cookie with syrup in between the layers, this a link to the recipe in english:
* A city in the West is very famous for its blue painted porcelain, allthough very old of course and for long only still popular for tourists, this kind of grahics is going through a true revival and it is an absolute trend to have products with these prints, sometimes made more modern and always use in a different way then in the past.

The old stuff:

The new trendy stuff using the old graphics:
Want to see more: look at this page.

a description of the role of men and women in your country:

there used to be a saying that the only right of women is to keep the kitchen clean, but times luckily have changed in the meantime.
In my generation it is now very common that men and women are equal & often both work 4 days per week only to also share more of the caring for the kids. We are not quite there yet, not 100% equal yet, but I think NL is pretty advanced in emancipation.

a famous person from your country and what she/he is famous for:

Of course there are plenty of famous Dutch people :-), but I will introduce to you MC Escher, not so many people know he is from NL

Of Course MC Escher is famous for his mathematical prints, but he also made more wonderful art during his lifetime.

a type of craft that is typical for your country (doesn't have to be typical ONLY for your country):

NL has a lot of tradition in textile making and one very old art is called "kantklossen", as you can see on the picture, you make a kind of lace but with wooden threadholders and using amazing complex patterns.

the role of religion in your country:

The Christian religion used to be most common in NL, split between catholics, protestants and some smaller Christian religions. But of course the islam, hinduism and many other religions are becoming more and more popular.
Religion is absolutely free in NL and is not present in eg. politics and also not so much on schools (with a few exceptions), everybody is free to practice or not to practice.

I hope you enjoyed reading more about the Netherlands and who knows you might be visiting it some day

I couldn't upload the Sinterclaas presentation. If anyone tells me how to do it, I will add it immediately. I think you really get a great picture of the Netherlands (and Holland is by the way just a province of the whole country). Here in Germany we often eat Dutch cheese, although we grossly misspronounce it ;-) We pronounce Gouda "Ghauda" while it is actually something like "Choouda" with a very guttural "ch"... The syrup waffles I loved as a child and still eat them from time to time. With regard to the festivals I was stunned when my Dutch friend told me their "big-exchanging-presents-festival" is Sinterclaas, not Christmas. Hope you all enjoyed the first part of the series.

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1 comment:

Maria Isabel said...

Bread and chocolate sprinkles for breakfast? AWESOME!
-mariaisabel "comments on craft/design blog swap"