Why The Dutch Are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands is a book about a country unlike any other. The Netherlands is one of the smallest nations in Europe but also one of the most intriguing: a place where prostitutes are entitled to sick pay and prisons are closing due to lack of demand. It is also profoundly misunderstood. Tourists visiting the Netherlands rarely leave Amsterdam, and many expats manage to live in the country for years without speaking a single of word of Dutch.
Travelling the length and breadth of the country, Ben Coates takes readers into the heart of his adopted country, going beyond the usual tourist attractions and cliches to explore what it is that makes the Dutch the way they are. He dresses as a tiger for Easter, gets drunk in a world-famous art gallery, has a picnic in a former concentration camp, finds Noah’s Ark near the North Sea, watches small children dress in blackface and makes new friends in Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District. He also uncovers the hidden secrets of Dutch history: a bloody war against the Spanish, a devastating famine in the 1940s, an ongoing battle to keep the water out, and the poisonous politics of the Dutch far right. Along the way, finds a country full of contrasts, where euthanasia is legal for children but being rude about the King could land you in jail. He also finds that the Dutch are not quite as liberal as they seem, with worries over economic crisis, crime and immigration leading them to abandon many of the tolerant policies which made their country famous. Packed with little-known facts, Why The Dutch Are Different blends travelogue, history and memoir to explore the past and future of a country which is changing fast.
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