Acting Normally

Exhibit A: How to NOT act normally.

I recently learned an old Dutch expression: “Doe maar gewoon. Dan doe je al gek genoeg,” which means “Act normally, that is crazy enough.” I think it sums up the Dutch character extremely well.

The saying is similar to the Japanese adage “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” (It also happens to be the exact opposite of what my mother taught me, reflecting a much more American outlook – “The squeaky wheel gets oiled.”)

Foreigners tend to perceive Holland as a liberal country, but in my experience it is a very conforming place. Anything different or out of the normal – even seemingly inconsequential stuff like like what you eat for lunch or what you wear – tends to be noticed, questioned, and sometimes disparaged. If you aren’t going with the flow, you will stand out like a sore thumb and feel everyone’s eyes on you.

Despite the internationl reputation of a city like Amsterdam for counter-culture, your average Dutch person doesn’t want to stand out from the crowd; he or she prefers to conform and blend in. Dutch people are very down to earth and modest and don’t like to show off or draw attention to themselves. Even if they are rich or successful and have something legitimate to brag about, you’ll never see them flaunting it in the way Americans would. In Holland, being ordinary is a virtue.


About Home Strange Home

I first left the US in 1999, when I was 18 years old. Since then, I’ve spent 13 years living abroad - 3 in Canada, 7 in Europe, and 3 in Africa. Now I've finally returned to the US on a one-way plane ticket. I arrived home in late January 2014 and set foot in the US for the first time in nearly 2.5 years. In Home Strange Home, I blog about the ups and downs of my re-acculturation experience.
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5 Responses to Acting Normally

  1. Eefje says:

    I love your blog so much. 🙂

  2. Ed AVis says:

    “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

    I never heard that in England. I think it is from Japan. Wikipedia lists other wise Japanese sayings, including “Child of a frog is a frog”, and “Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants”.

    • africagrows says:

      OK, correction. Dare I ask what the significance of “Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants” is?

  3. You totally nailed this post. Nice job.

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