I was surprised to learn that the laws that are tolerated, i.e. allowing coffee shops, are also flexible in practice. For instance I would expect coffee shops to be under strict rules if what they are doing is technically illegal such as no advertising and no offers on drugs, for which a leaflet was shown in class and also I had seen advertisement for ‘free adam’ in Amsterdam. I however also see that these rules, which are being broken don’t really have victims, but I’m sure if the no sale of hard drugs rule was broken then this would be a different story.
I also joined in Carnival last weekend in Breda. I think this is a big part of Dutch culture, at least in the South. I really enjoyed dressing up and dancing in the street. However when it got dark it turned more into like a club night like at home where we would be dressed up for some social event and queuing in the cold to get into a venue. Except for the fact the scene here was bigger and the music playing was different from club music. It was also quite amusing to see the expressions of our Dutch friends when we said we quite liked the music, apparently you are meant to be ashamed that you’re listening to it!
We also looked up the reasons for Carnival and it is a mix of a Pagan and Christian tradition to celebrate before Lent. At home we celebrate Pancake Day for this on the Tuesday before Lent (Shrove Tuesday). The reason for this is to get rid of all the rich food in your cupboard before the fast. It seemed foolish for the Dutch and their mastery of pancakes to not have this holiday so I also did some sharing of my culture with my Dutch friends. They all agreed that the Netherlands should have carnival and Pancake Day combined.
Monarchy and Politics
This week we learned about politics and the monarchy. I have to say I don’t think I learned that much then I already knew, as my Dutch friends are very political and often discuss the situation in the Netherlands a lot. Although I did learn how the church plays a major role in politics whereas in the UK they don’t feature at all on the political scene. Dutch politics in general is very confusing as to start off with you would have to know about all the parties and there is just too many to be able to understand easily the situation. In the UK there a two main parties with a third who are semi-big, especially recently as they are currently in the coalition. I can just about understand this so the Netherlands is not comprehensible as I am not that interested in politics as much as other people seem to be, from home and in the Netherlands.
From my views on the Netherlands, I have changed to consider them as being very politically involved and interested, whereas before I just assumed it was the people I hung around with. Coming from the Maarten van Rossen talk and seeing how full the auditorium was and how much interest they are taking in the American elections I think it is bigger than our interest in it. To hear that so many vote consistently is quite impressive, 80%. However I do believe that they should get rid of the parties and start again as I don’t think being in constant coalition is a good thing as it was not what is originally planned for a democracy, though I guess when you have done it long enough you can make it work.
On the side of the monarchy I liked hearing more about William of Orange, but on the Netherlands having a constitutional monarchy it is not very interesting to learn as the UK obviously has their own monarchy. I feel sad however that the royal family does not have many official roles anymore for instance not being able to say what they like whereas Queen Elizabeth II gets to say that every year on Christmas day. I also enjoy how this royal family is more scandalous than our own with much more ‘juicy’ stories, whereas our best one is when Harry dressed as a Nazis for a fancy dress party which was ages ago and yet people are still going on about it. It was of course interesting seeing how another monarchy works but it is pretty similar to our own.