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Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands Kindle Edition
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Vivid and informative. Coates intertwines the nationâ??s journey to its modern iteration with his own adaptation to the Dutch lifestyle. An accomplished debut.―Geographical
One of the few books on our near-neighbour, Coates gets under the skin of a nation renowned for its liberalism.―The Bookseller
In Why the Dutch are Different, a torch beam of scrutiny plays across the country's past and its lesser known foibles. Author Ben Coates has produced an insightful gem.―Scotsman - Books of the Year
I thoroughly recommend this book. Why the Dutch are Different provides the answers to all the questions I had but didn't dare ask about the Netherlands. I eagerly sat up late into the night reading, laughing often and enjoying the ride into my adopted homeland.―DutchNews
Fascinating. Thoroughly researched and well thought out, Why the Dutch are Different takes us on a journey that goes beyond red-lit windows and Anne Frank to the true depths of the country. Ben Coates's day-to-day life sits effortlessly alongside deeper dives into history and folklore. A friendly read that strikes the right balance between teaching and entertaining.―The Bookbag
A striking portrait of the Netherlands in the 21st century, offering a refreshing and long overdue update of the way the Dutch national character is described.―Edinburgh Book Review --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B014GBMMOA
- Publisher : Nicholas Brealey (September 24, 2015)
- Publication date : September 24, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 1275 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 278 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #116,525 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Ben Coates is a young Englishman who was formerly in the hectic political world of the UK. As a speech writer and lobbyist, I am sure he must have been used to viewing the world through a critical lens. This book is a reflection of his ability to stand back and look at the Netherlands without any rose-tinted glasses on, something I think I would find hard to do myself as I tend to want to focus on the positive aspects of life wherever I have lived it, and of course I've lived in the Netherlands for nearly seventeen years.
First and foremost, let me say Ben Coates is an exceptionally good writer. His flexible use of English in his keen perceptions on the Dutch, their history and their customs is perfect and I often stopped reading simply to admire a sentence or phrase that seemed particularly apt or succinct. There were, however, quite large sections of the book I felt tempted to skim over. For those who don't know much European, and specifically Dutch, history, this book gives a kind of potted summary of many of the important periods in the country's past. For these people, it will probably be useful; for myself, I could have done without quite so much straying into the activities of the VOC (the East India Company), King William's exploits into England and the history of the Spanish and French domination of the Netherlands. This was all background I studied at school and university and unfortunately, it didn't really strike me as anything more than just reeling off the facts; nor did it seem to have much to do with why the Dutch are different now, other than setting the historical background for the country's great reputation as a trading nation that supported the arts in its Golden Age. On the plus side, I learnt a lot of fascinating little gems, such as why the city of Breda got its name (the breede Ee, meaning the wide river Ee) and other such titbits. I found myself frequently asking my Dutch partner 'Did you know this?' and often he didn't, so for all those interesting snippets, I was very grateful.
Strangely enough, I enjoyed the section on the Dutch obsession with football. I'm not a football fan at all, but the fanatical devotion the Dutch have to soccer is a curious phenomenon in this country and I found the accounts he gave of the teams, the key players and managers and both the national adoration and criticism that the Dutch have for their footballers really entertaining.
However, most of all, I enjoyed the later chapters where he writes about how the intrinsic Dutch culture of 'anything goes' has been tested in recent years by what opening borders and increased immigration have meant to the Netherlands. He writes lucidly and honestly about how this has affected the traditionally relaxed attitude Dutch have had to drug use, prostitution, homosexuality, euthanasia and immigration.
All this quite intense discussion is set against the background of Ben Coates' own experience as he travelled around the Netherlands during his early years in the country and while he makes few personal judgements until quite close to the end of the book, he tells things like they are. I must say I quite often wondered if he even liked it at all; that was until I reached the final chapter, when I realised that he, like me, appreciates how much our easy, breezy self-confident and optimistic Dutch hosts have to offer. He also shows how fond we can become of these smiling, but direct people who fully espouse their 'philosophy of a flat country'.
As I said at the beginning, this book is part memoir, part history lesson and part editorial. Overall, it is a really good read and I learnt a lot from it and I am now looking forward to reading his new book about the Rhine, which is apparently due out soon.
Ben Coates did a very good job in his book to give us the highlights of the Netherlands from an expat perspective. I enjoyed learning about the Golden Age of the Dutch empire, the impact of the German invasion & the second WW (particularly important for my wife!), multiculturalism, and the current social challenges (not seen from the scope of the atrocious News and Media in the US).
I’ve had fun already sharing/confirming Ben’s learnings with my Dutch friends (particularly their views about the Belgians).
I look forward to read the Rhine as soon as it is available in Amazon.
Top reviews from other countries
This is a very well written, very balanced, very easily accessible and very digestible but comprehensive presentation of the history and development of the Netherlands and its people, the current state of its society and the issues now confronting it, all of it in a light, generally humorous style, with a few good jokes and anecdotes along the way.
There is, however, one matter on which I take great issue with the author, Dutch cuisine, about which he is quite dismissive; back in the day, when I was on my way to Amsterdam, I used to aim to arrive at the Amstel Inter-Conti hotel between 15.00 and 16.00, to have the delight of sitting on the terrace with a beer and a dish of bitterbollen (bitterballen?) and mustard - HEAVEN!; other than that, there is erwtensoep, white asparagus, hotchpotch, grey shrimps and loads more.
This book has filled in so many gaps in my knowledge, for instance: I was well aware that the Low Countries were a colony or whatever of Spain for quite a while (particularly as one of my favourite spots in Antwerp [yes, I know Antwerp is in Belgium but it was all part of the same kingdom back then] was the Elfde Gebod, round the back of the cathedral, where the Spanish troops used to congregate for a few bevvies, before going out for a night of raping and pillaging) but I never understood why the Spanish would bother to invade what was then a big peat bog; now I know that it was a sort of reverse, reverse takeover; plus so much more.
Sometimes, I feel that my reviews, with so many four and five stars, may be skewed but this is because I generally rely on the other reviews on Amazon before buying a book; I discount the ones where there are a handful of only five star reviews (normally by the authors wife, children, mother father, granny, next door neighbour, etc) and go straight to the one and two star reviews.
In this case, there is really only one big negative review, by Sarah, and I almost avoided the book because of it but, on looking further, I saw that it was almost a complete outlier; it is based on three accusations, sexism, racism and perversion of the experience of Dutch Jews under Nazi occupation.
The last is based on fact and, regardless of how Sarah wants to reinterpret history, fact is fact and the comparison between the experience of Dutch Jews and Danish Jews is fact.
The second is based on "....in which he writes that he unfortunately has come to agree with the obscene general insults (a direct quote was not allowed here) so often directed at people of Moroccan decent living in the Netherlands, and that all the incidences of antisocial behaviour that he lists were 'always [acted out by] someone of Moroccan descent.'". This is presented as a quotation but, having searched the book, the only instance I can find in which the author uses the word "agree" in anything like this context is when he says: "Fundamentally, when it came to multiculturalism, I was inclined to agree that the Dutch had lost their way." Who can disagree with that? Certainly, in the UK, it is now almost universally accepted that we fell into the same trap. Nowhere can I see that the author has referred to "obscene general insults", Twice, the author refers to "antisocial behaviour": first, when he says that: "Living in various cities in Britain, I had become accustomed to a degree of petty crime and antisocial behaviour."; second, when he says that: "....locals were increasingly concerned about the side-effects of growing drug tourism: antisocial behaviour, noise, drunkenness and petty crime."; so, where are the Moroccans?
The first is based on the expression "leggy blonde"; the author only uses this expression once and it may well be the case that the lady in question was, first, leggy, and, second, blonde and I, for one, am disgusted if he lied about this.
I am reminded of the very old joke about Mary Whitehouse, not the "tits like coconuts" one, the other one: Mary phones the local nick and complains about the activities of the folk in the house over the back from hers, having sexual intercourse in full view, an affront to decency, an aberration, a crime against public order; the plod send a rookie PC around and, having looked out of the window, he says that he cannot see anything wrong; Mary tells him that you have to hang onto the wardrobe, put one foot on the windowsill, the other on the dresser, lean right forward and....
Great book, great country, great people - ignore Sarah, read the book, book the trip and enjoy (especially the bitterbollen and the beer).