Netherlands, here we come

April 29, 2013 | 5 comments

I was invited to lecture in Den Haag, so Kathy and I packed up our bags and headed to the Netherlands in mid-April. 
Since we’ve never been to that part of the world, we added a few days into the trip for sight-seeing, and our first stop was Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is a busy city. 
When we walked out of the central train station and headed for the center of town, it felt like we were walking down a busy New York City sidewalk. People everywhere! It was a sunny warm day, so maybe that had something to do with everyone out on the streets. The Netherlands was coming out of a long cold winter.
And what did we find? Canals everywhere! What fun. Bridges, boats, canals and more canals, by the hundreds, are everywhere you walk in the city. Much of the Netherlands is below sea level, so managing water is a major issue for this country.
One of the bigger canals in Amsterdam

Another canal in town
From what I’ve heard in news reports, Amsterdam has a well-known reputation for liberal laws allowing legal prostitution and activity that goes along with this trade. News reports would mention women posing in window shop displays located on busy city streets, displaying their wares with scantily clad bodies, and so on. And yep, it’s true. It really happens.
I was curious as to what in the mental make-up of the country allowed such a public display of sexual promiscuity. Later that week, a resident I was speaking with wondered out loud if the influence of Calvinism (Calvin had substantial influence in this country) in centuries past with all its “Thou shalt nots…” produced a reactionary effect in the public consciousness causing a pendulum swing to, “It’s okay to do anything.” 
Very thought provoking!
It made me think of parents who raise their children on a “Thou shalt not,” basis, always telling them what they cannot do, and not helping them understand why they want to do the right thing. Then, when the child leaves home, they are so sick and tired of hearing all the things they can’t do, that they do a pendulum swing to the opposite extreme, trying out anything and everything, often leading to a self-destructive life-style. 
Hmmm…something to think about.
The Netherlands is a beautiful country and filled with beautiful people. No obesity problem here. Residents are fit and trim. The Dutch we met were friendly, happy, and so willing to help. And most of them speak English quite well. A big plus for us!
It was easy to travel in this country, and much to see and experience…
Haarlem Canal in the evening

Canal in Delft

Canal in Delft with children having fun in their raft

5 thoughts on “Netherlands, here we come”

  1. Thanks for the post. Certainly riding kids too hard can make the opposite options seem more attractive. Thanks also for the lovely photos of Amsterdam, a city I know well.(If the people are trim, it’s because bike riding is the norm–no room for cars in that tiny country. But tourists unfamiliar with the transportation plan must be careful of bike lanes on sidewalks–Amsterdamers are without pity for those who wander onto “their” territory!)Aside from that the people are warm and friendly–I love it.

  2. So happy that you are lecturing over there and they get to hear your wonderful message too.

    Just last week, PBS ran an episode of Rick Steve’s trip to Amsterdam including Delft. He also pointed out the legalized marajuana use, available in designated cafes, and stalls where prostitutes offer their ‘services’ which openly line the streets.

    It will be interesting to learn from you what you pick up regarding their cultural mindset. Europeans have always had a freer thought regarding sexual mores. You are correct, earlier rigid training may have indeed caused them to live more freely once adult. Its not just the Calvinist training, Roman Catholicism has its ‘thou shall nots’ also.

    As a parent I felt discipline has to have built-in flexibility or one’s child will stop listening and rebel.

    Have a wonderful trip and stay safe.

  3. Dear Evan; I am so glad that you put in this Blog about the Netherlands and their extreme open mindiness. I can not stand the mind set of “Thou shalt not.” Although it’s in the Bible. I also believe in a built-in flexibility that insures democratically free thought that doesn’t lead to dictatorial actions. I see nothing wrong with Legalized Prostitution, for even in the Bible, Jesus forgave the so-called Adulterous from being stoned by a mob who committed practically the same as the Adulterous. Our country, with it’s “Holier than thou” attitude towards Politicians cheating on their wives is just as hypocritical by making them step down, even thou they are doing a good job for their Country, State or City.

  4. I know an American teenager who was raised in a very libertarian family, allowed to do pretty much anything she pleased, the exact opposite of “thou shalt not”. And she too is now a rebellious teenager dipping into a range of destructive behaviors.

    Let’s not make parents afraid to say “thou shalt not”. There’s nothing wrong with having some standards for civilized behavior. The point is that it has to be sincere, the parents have to live what they teach.

  5. My understanding is that harbors and ports of bustling trade from all over brought the liberal necessity to serve the sailors. The pot shops that are everywhere were thought to be liberal, but now are being reevaluated, as they have brought a lot of undesirable activities to their reputation as a place where “anything goes”. The billboards shocked me. They are the same brands we have, but our ads are modest, and the corporations pull out all their stops to advertise their product there. We sometimes forget our forbears were puritans.
    All said, the museums, the tulip auctions, the great engineering to keep the sea out, and more is not to be missed.

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