In the podcast ‘Neighbouring country, what are you doing now?’ Daan Ballegeer and Han Dirk Hekking put the spotlight on differences and similarities between Belgium and the Netherlands. Episode 13: How Does the Outside World See the Neighbors?
There are well-known French people who do not hide their whole-hearted dislike of Belgium and the Netherlands, and that is allowed, because there are also many Dutch people who say that they think France is a beautiful country, it is just a shame that so many French people live there. But what exactly does the outside world think about Belgium and the Netherlands? Does that go beyond clichés?
It is clear that the image of the two neighbors outside the borders often leaves a lot to be desired. Do not start with an Italian about the Dutch tax climate (by the way, do not start with a Dutch person about the Italian tax more). The French writer Michel Houellebecq once wrote in his novel Serotonine that the Netherlands is ‘not a country, at most a company’.
That was not friendly compared to what Fransen wrote about Belgium. And some observers have no grasp of what Belgium is at all. They start ranting about absurdities. That Belgium has a decent collection is a cliché, but in general that clichés are often true.
To hear a neutral weigh-in from the Netherlands, ‘Buurland, what are you doing now?’ to an American-Dutch expert by experience: FD editor Ron van de Krol. He wrote columns about the Netherlands and its culture, bundled in the book growing Dutch. If you enter that search term on Google, you will receive a million suggestions for growing weed at home – perhaps that also says something about the image of the Netherlands.