Hello again, everyone! This post happens to be a continuation of this one. Transitions are something everyone goes through, and they’re simple for some, difficult for others, some are sudden, and some are gradual. But that everyone goes through transitions, is a fact. In this post, I’ll pen down my thoughts about some of the cultural and social differences I observed here in the Netherlands, and also some other random observations that fascinated me!
Part III : Cultural Differences/Observations
India is a land of diversity, and there is no uniform “Indian culture” to characterize people there. However, when it comes to certain facets, there appears to be a gentle stroke of unity that binds the people together – cricket, festivals, and the spiciness of food (more or less!). Thus is formed a basis for comparing this loose version of Indian culture to my perceived version of the Dutch culture!
In the Netherlands, there are festivals aplenty spread throughout the year (a quick search on the internet yields this), and having been to a few in the past couple of months (the Delft Jazz festival, the Embassy festival in the Hague, and the GLOW festival in Eindhoven), I can vouch for the exciting times they provide!
The main difference can be seen in the motive – back home in India, most festivals are celebrated as a matter of ancient religious traditions and are hence considered to be sacred times when people gather socially and perform rites and rituals in accordance with the various mythologies. But here, in most cases the festivals seem to be held to cherish the different artistic aspects of being human – through forms of music, dance, paintings, etc. There seems to be a lot more stress on the “being in the moment” aspect of daily life, and that celebration doesn’t really need a reason per se. Both forms of festivals are really exciting, and provide different ways to look at celebrating life, whether through traditions or art!
Moreover, the Netherlands being home to people from almost all over the world, one also gets the opportunity to witness mini-versions of lots of festivals spanning various cultures, and there’s no dearth of excitement anytime!
In India, cricket is one game that unites almost the whole nation. Wherever one may roam, whether in cities or in villages, there’s always a makeshift cricket pitch that can be seen somewhere within the horizon! There are other sports played too, but cricket is the dominant one. Here in the Netherlands, I can find that it’s the case with football and (field) hockey. Not a day has gone by without my spotting a kid with a hockey stick, riding on a bike! But I can see that the popularity of other sports is also fairly high (including tennis, my favourite one!), and some sports I got to know about only after arriving here (I had no clue what lacrosse was)!
Part IV : Social Differences
Gezellig – a word one would certainly come across if they spent enough time in the Netherlands. It can be loosely translated as “cozy”, but it is a subjective feeling of warmth, friendliness, and belonging felt by one when they socialize. The Dutch culture emphasizes this feeling greatly, with the various borrels that are held from time to time. But back in India, given the sheer number of people, social gatherings are much more “social”, in that there are far more people and there’s always pandemonium at such events. It is even more so in big cities!
I have also noticed that the number of employees in shops and restaurants in much lower than in India – this is probably because of high labour costs in the Netherlands. Similarly, given the population of (urban) India, one would also see a lot more people shopping and roaming around in shops, and restaurants filled with people even at late hours. People here seem to really enjoy getting a good night’s sleep! (Maybe the cold weather has something to do with it.)
Some Random Observations
- Candles seem to be particularly popular here for some reason – every supermarket has candles on sale all the time!
- Stray cats are seen roaming around quite frequently. In general people seem to prefer having dogs as pets.
- People seem to love endurance sports – running, rowing, biking seem to be quite popular, and there are lots of parks, canals, and biking tracks which are made use of quite well.
- There are no mountains around! Travelling around in the country may make one believe that the earth really is flat!
- People are quite tech-savvy here. Automatic streetlights, automatic doors, contact-less payments, almost accurate weather predictions, dikes…