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- Tolerance (verdraagzaamheid)
The Netherlands’ open economy and history of social tolerance has given it a reputation as being a very liberal, globalised, forward-thinking country. The Dutch are taught to value and exhibit ‘verdraagzaamheid’, which essentially involves respecting people’s freedom of choice in their attitudes, beliefs and individuality. This mentality has led to social policies that some may consider to be quite permissive. The Dutch are proud of their progressive stances on ethical issues such as gay rights, euthanasia, soft drugs, abortion and freedom of speech. However, the country’s open-minded approaches have not created an over-indulgent society. Despite the deviation from traditional conventions and values, the culture remains fundamentally conservative.
The Dutch are relatively disciplined and formal people. The southern areas of the Netherlands have a reputation for being less reserved than the North; nevertheless, they are still often more careful and sensible in their approach in comparison to Australians. People tend to be moderate and pragmatic in their reasoning and actions, rationalising everything before proceeding with decisions. They do not like to limit themselves in searching for the ‘right way’ of doing something. Therefore, they often seek out new approaches and are willing to consider innovative ideas. This is possibly what makes the country so open to a plurality of lifestyles. Many Dutch also exercise a strong egalitarian belief that one should remain neutral until evidence is provided, thereby allowing objective assessment of proportionate responsibility in situations.
A person’s position in the social hierarchy does not hold much importance in Dutch society, as the large majority of people share the same benefits as the strong middle class. A person’s ancestral background and level of education will naturally affect their positioning and circumstances. However, the effects of class are fairly equalised by the country’s generous social welfare system. The Dutch prefer to think there are no divisions between classes, just minor distinctions. They believe one’s social status can be subject to change and is indicative of a person’s current context, but doesn’t limit their future possibilities. The Netherlands has the highest population density in Europe; the Dutch live in smaller spaces (by Australian standards) where privacy is protected and sought after. However, the value of privacy is not limited to the physical sense of it. Individual privacy is necessary to maintain the socio-relational boundaries between people’s professional and private lives. People who are friends outside the workplace often downplay or even hide their friendships while in the office, and individuals are expected to detach their personal emotions from business. This guarded demeanour dissipates during interactions with close friends and family members. However, privacy is also used as a way of maintaining a sense of fairness and equality in society. By keeping knowledge of one’s accomplishments or wealth from others, little hierarchical distinction can be made between peers and egalitarian beliefs can be preserved. Those who brag about their achievements/possessions or condescend are often cut down by the likes of tall poppy syndrome.