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Dutch Tolerance Political Correctness and Racism in the Netherlands

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Political Correctness and Racism in the Netherlands

One of my favorite songs by the late, great, David Bowie, has the line “turn and face the change ch ch changes.”  I mention this because there’s a hell of a lot of changes going on in the Netherlands at the moment. Finally, a taboo subject, racism in Dutch society, is being openly discussed in the media. Which brings me to the subject of today’s post, Dutch Tolerance, Political Correctness and Racism in the Netherlands.

The Shallow Man was recently interviewed by a Dutch publication, and they asked me to define a typical Dutch characteristic. What I told them was that a typical Dutch characteristic is creativity. Some Dutch people are incredibly creative when coming up with excuses to deny that any form of racism occurs in the Netherlands. In fact, not only do they aggressively deny that racism exists in this country but actually blame the accusers of being racist, as the Dutch are ‘tolerant’ and can’t possibly be to blame.

“We have people from all over the world living here so there you go. They must have an inferiority complex.”

Now, this post will no doubt annoy some, but the Shallow Man is all for providing solutions to problems. Those that get upset by this post should do the following:

  1. Go to a beach
  2. Dig a hole big enough for your head and hands
  3. Stick your head in the hole along with your hands and a smartphone
  4. Participate on the Nederland mijn Vaderland Facebook page
  5. Keep denying that there is any racism in the Netherlands and blame the problems on ‘nieuwe Nederlanders’
  6. If you’re really creative, create a MEME featuring the KKK and a witty comment about black Nederlanders

Probleem opgelost!

The things I do for my readers!

denial of racism
How to deal with racism the Dutch way

Tolerance, Political Correctness and Nieuwe Nederlanders

During the many social media discussions related to race, Zwarte Piet and Sylvana Simons the terms, tolerance, political correctness and nieuwe Nederlanders are often thrown about, like rubbish blowing in the wind in the Vondelpark after a barbecue. These terms are used a lot, but are people even aware of what they actually mean?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines tolerance as:

The ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with’

The definition of political correctness is:

conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated’

Nieuwe Nederlanders

Nieuwe Nederlanders is a term used to describe people that are not native Dutch and from a non-western background. It has the same meaning as allochtoon and is never used to describe white foreigners. There appears to be no limit on how long they need to have lived in the Netherlands in order to no longer be classified as a ‘nieuwe’ Nederlander.  So for example, even people whose grandparents were born in the Netherlands, can still be classified as newcomers.

political correctness and the Dutch
Newcomers need to learn patience


Political Correctness

I hope that you’re sitting down as you read this (not cycling that doesn’t count), but the Dutch are not politically correct. Those of you who like me are from countries like the US, or the UK, have been force fed a non-stop drip feed of PC nonsense by the media, and then we come to the Netherlands and try and force our political correctness down the throats of the Dutch. Well, I tell you, they don’t want it!

You see, the big misunderstanding with expats and many others not from Holland is that the Dutch should care about offending people, which is nonsense. What’s important is to say what’s on their minds, like a seven-year-old at a family party commenting that Aunty Anouk’s skinny jeans appear to be two sizes too small. Or why Uncle Jeroen’s trousers are so high above the ankles.

In the Netherlands, they’re not afraid to call a spade a spade, or a neger a neger. Do you know how shocked they were when a harmless Dutch magazine article called how to dress like the Nigga bitch Rihanna was accused of being racist?  The editor of the magazine tried to explain that the N-word isn’t offensive to people in Holland. That’s just political correctness gone mad! Only the Dutch know how to use the N-word in a non-offensive way. She resigned shortly afterward. The publisher of the magazine was angry that she actually apologized as he didn’t see anything wrong with the article. No racism here folks, move along.

A common sentiment on Dutch social media when discussing such matters is as follows:

We say if you don’t like it, then you should leave. Who is forcing you to stay?  We have the right to say whatever we like.

Freedom of speech in this country is often a one-way street. If you criticize Muslims, then great! You can run for office and even win quite a few seats. But, whatever you do, never, ever criticize any aspect of Dutch life, that’s just not on, it will get you death threats and lots of abuse. You better watch what you say about the Dutch and their ‘tradities.’

Samba Mini (Neger) Zoenen 3 smaken in doos 060329 Deurne 2
Dutch society was almost destroyed by the decision not to call a brand of sweets negerzoenen anymore due to political correctness

In the good old days before political correctness

I asked a Dutch journalist, Theodor van Ontlasting, what the problem is with political correctness. This is how he responded.

“Back in the good old days, before political correctness, I had a close friend who was a neger called Sammy. Oh how we used to laugh and joke about his color, and there was never a problem. When he was crossing a zebrapad for example, I used to say, “hey Sammy, now they see you, now they don’t.” Or one time, Planet of the Apes was on TV, and I said to him, “hey Sammy, they made a film about your home country.” Oh how we laughed. Well ok, I did most of the laughing, but I know that he saw the funny side.  Now with political correctness, we’re not supposed to make such harmless ‘grapjes.’ The world has gone mad! Strangely enough, we haven’t spoken for years now, I’ve no idea why.”

Nieuwe Nederlanders and Political Correctness

Nieuwe Nederlanders is the term that has been forced on the Dutch by the tyranny of political correctness. Without political correctness, they’d be allowed to call these people what they actually are, dark skinned or lightly tinted minorities with a Dutch passport. That’s why in the media they always describe them as Marokkaanse-Nederlanders,  Turkish-Nederlanders etc. It’s to make sure that people know that they’re not native Dutch.  This is also why they have black schools,  in the Netherlands where they can put all the minorities from a non-western background, along with poor white working class people who lack the political influence and lobbying power to do anything about it.

Nieuwe Nederlanders are Ungrateful

Another common complaint on Dutch social media is about how ‘ungrateful’ nieuwe Nederlanders are.

“Their ancestors arrived in this country to provide the Netherlands with cheap labor, which was fine, but then they started having children, and stayed here. If it had been up to me, I’d have said to our ‘gastarbeiders’ that they can stay and work here, but the moment they started having children, they should have gone back, but no, that wasn’t allowed. So instead, we’ve ended up with the descendants of these people, who show us no gratitude, or respect, yet demand to be treated as equals!”

Where’s the respect for onze culture?

I asked Theodor why people get so angry when the traditional black or brown  Zwarte Piet is criticized as being racially offensive.

We Dutch are very open and tolerant. That was until five years ago when some cheeky minorities started complaining about ‘onze’ highly developed culture and traditions. Incredible that some dislike a tradition that has existed here for THOUSANDS of years. Even before slavery we Dutch celebrated blacking our faces and wearing afro wigs every November and December.

You can imagine how shocked the Dutch kingdom was when the first black people were discovered. We had no idea they actually existed. Yes we promptly took over some of their countries and made them slaves, but that was such a long time ago, who cares about that nowadays? So you see, Zwarte Piet has nothing to do with racism, as our traditie was celebrated even before we subjugated and exploited black people. By the way, there were never any slaves in the Netherlands, (even if some paintings in the Rijksmuseum contradict this) so shut up about slavery, nobody cares about that! I’d also add that black people kept slaves too.

political correctness
I wish people would shut up about blackface

Bad Guests

My following question for Theodor. There appears to be a lot of anger on social media towards nieuwe Nederlanders, why is that?

The nieuwe Nederlanders are bad guests. How would you feel, if you invited some people to stay with you? You’re even kind enough to give them keys to your house, and allow them to use of all the facilities. You don’t even complain when they turn the heating up in winter above 18 degrees. Then suddenly, completely without warning, they say to you, “Theodor, you’re a great host, but I don’t like you wearing an SS uniform at home, it’s a bit offensive. Well of course you’d be angry, being told what to wear in your own house! You might say a few things that you wouldn’t usually, or make death threats, or even create an event on Facebook to kick them out of the country, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not tolerant.

We didn’t ask you (well ok we asked your grandparents) to come here.  You lot just turned up, and started selling kebabs, slaughtering goats in the street, and stealing our bikes. Did we ever complain? (yes) no, of course we didn’t, but when you started criticising, that loyal, funny, harmless friend of children, Zwarte Piet, yes we behaved in a way that some people, such as Mark Rutte called disgusting, and racist. What about racism against white people, dressing up as black people, who are actually white, and pretend to not be black, as part of a tradition? That’s also racism!

Behave like guests and the problems will be solved

If our guests, would behave as such, then we would welcome them with open arms. A good guest shouldn’t go on TV and criticise the habits and preferences of their host. Yes the Netherlands is a democracy, but you and your family can’t just live here, and pay taxes for over forty years then demand equality, you have to earn it. If you think things are bad here, you should look at the US, they have much more racism there. Ok they have a man who looks black as President, but so what? Just look at #blacklivesmatter we don’t have that in the Netherlands. Instead we have #minorityopinionswhocares?

It would be nice if a Moroccan, Antillean, or Turkish person would stop me in the street and say “Theodor, I’m so happy that my Grandfather came here as cheap labor, and that my parents and I were born here, and given the same opportunities as you native Nederlanders. Dank u wel jonge” That would be so nice, yet it’s never happened.

Last words from the Shallow Man

There’s more to tolerance than simply possessing a Dutch passport, and being a native Nederlander. It’s fantastic that finally the subject of racism in the Netherlands is being discussed on TV and in the newspapers, it’s long overdue. Yes, racism exists in just about every other country, it’s a fact of life. The difference here being, that there’s long been a denial that racism actually exists in the Netherlands.

Even yesterday, there was a story about a black rapper, who the Police admitted was stopped while driving his car, for being guilty of driving an expensive car while black. Lots of comments appeared on social media denying that this is somehow racist. Even though the Police have admitted that this was wrong, and they would be taking steps to prevent this in the future.

Does racism exist in the Netherlands? Yes of course it does. Is it as blatant as parts of East Germany where people of color are regularly attacked? No. Racism in the Netherlands is often subtle, insidious, and does certainly take place. Things can only improve if they’re openly discussed and there’s more awareness about it. Simply sticking your head in the sand and shouting “THERE’S NO RACISM HERE, WE’RE TOLERANT” Is not the way to address the issue.

I’ll finish by saying that the Netherlands is a fantastic place to live, but nowhere, including my home country, is perfect, and such debates are good for society as a whole.

No houseguests were hurt during the writing of this post.

Till next time, hou je snavel!









About Simon Woolcot

Infamous blogger, annoyance and self confessed Shallow Man . Simon is a British expat who has lived in Amsterdam for over 11 years, and due to Brexit may soon be applying for asylum. As well as writing this blog, Simon also has a YouTube channel of the same name, writes and directs videos, and hosts seminars about life in the Netherlands

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  • I honestly do not get the double-standards that you are displaying. You quote article 1 (in previous posts) of Dutch law, and talk about political correctness. Yet, … then turn around and basically do the same load of b*llocks, as that you are basically trying to condemn in your articles. And, then I’m not even pointing out the false “facts” you are using to prove a point. I’m not sure whether they are honest mistakes, or its pure manipulation. Is this a satirical / joke article? Am I taking your articles too seriously?

    • Well it obviously provoked a reaction in you 😀 Your perception is your reality 🙂

    • The reaction of wondering about double standards and twisted/manipulated facts (obvious lies)? Because you obviously wrote this article to confuse me about your motives? So its not satire right?

    • Christopher Brendan My motives are simply to reflect the discussion that’s been taking place in the media the past week or so and to add my own perspective.

    • But, manipulating facts (the situation) does not concern you? There is obviously a Mr. Ontlasting in the Netherlands. 🙂

    • Hi Cristopher, would you care to mention which “false facts” written by Simon in his article?

    • If I get some time tomorrow I’ll make a list of quotes especially for you! Just skimmed through his article…. I might have to quote 50% of his work. 😀

    • please do

    • Was a bit busy, sorry for the delay. But the following is complete and utter b*llocks:

      1. Nieuwe Nederlanders is a term used to describe people that are not native Dutch and from a non-western background.
      2. It has the same meaning as allochtoon and is never used to describe white foreigners.
      3. There appears to be no limit on how long they need to have lived in the Netherlands in order to no longer be classified as a ‘nieuwe’ Nederlander.
      4. Theodor van Ontlasting
      5. That’s why in the media they always describe them as Marokkaanse-Nederlanders, Turkish-Nederlanders etc.
      6. This is also why they have black schools, in the Netherlands where they can put all the minorities from a non-western background, along with poor white working class people who lack the political influence and lobbying power to do anything about it.

      • fly

        Trust me, #6 is indubitably correct, personal experience, also of several others whom I know.
        Theodor Ontlasting is obviously a joke.

    • I’m not going into the quotes he used to paint a certain picture…..

    • Christopher Brendan you disagree with these points? I don’t have the time to respond. Will do so later this evening

    • It’s not a matter of opinion…. but facts. I honestly have no feeling / opinion in regards to terms etc, but I am able to point out when terms are twisted / manipulated or missunderstood. But, you’re free to respond in whatever manner you wish.

  • Thank you for posting this, man.

  • The word tolerance has come to mean something different. It’s almost like, “we are a tolerant society, therefore, you should tolerate ME.”

  • In Dutch society nothing is tabu (except, of course, for what is tabu) and therefore everything can be said about anyone (almost). If you get offended, it’s totally your choice. There’s freedom of speech here! You’re probably not used to it because you’re not from a delevoped country such as Holland.

    It is such a beautiful country full of contradictions, it will never fail to amaze and amuse me.

  • LOL
    Thanks for the laugh again 🙂

    Though I do have to wonder…was that a fiction reporter…if so he is not well versed in the history of colonisation by the VOC or WIC.

  • Oh it’s good that somebody wrote about this. I think everyone living in NL is already grateful, there’s a reason that they r here. (And we need to keep in mind that grass is always greener outside. )
    On the other hand, sometimes society forgets that in a real democracy all humans have the right to comment; and if somebody comments, it doesn’t mean s/he is ungrateful.

    this is a great country but you have to know the culture very well and the ways to deal with it.

    I think what frustrates the newcomers the most is when the people say “we are open and tolerant” ; and then they act 180 degrees of what they tell, in an (un)open and (in)tolerant way!

    So I think the reactions of newcomers would be less if the society also accepts that “we are not open and we are not tolerant”. (Luckily there are dutchies who accept that.)

    However all the newcomers need to know that this society does not like conflicts! Dutchies will always avoid conflicts for all, that’s why the society will repeatedly deny that they are intolerant and unopen.

    (of course there are always exceptions, we need to be fair)

    Speaking up is good! Like that! That is what a real democracy is about.

  • You lot just turned up, and started selling kebabs, slaughtering goats in the street, and stealing our bikes. Did we ever complain? (yes) no, of course we didn’t!

    Ha ha ha ha, You should be on stage.

  • Shakuru Tajiri

  • This article is long overdue and only mildly covers what’s going on behind closed doors. I do not deny that there is racism in every country on one level or another, but what irks me is that most Dutch (notice I did not say ALL) vehemently deny there is any racism here. Just own up to the fact there is racism here and quit being overly defensive about it’s “non-existence” in the NL. And really, if you can’t believe what’s written here, just talk to the average Turkish, Moroccan, Antilles, etc here. Listen to their countless stories. Their stories and experiences are even better when you step outside of Amsterdam — the real NL.

  • Great post. I, too, am glad to hear these discussions taking place. I’ve only lived in NL a few months but I was really surprised to find how much the Dutch (generally speaking) do tend to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to issues of race and discrimination. Coming from the USA, I already know how that sort of behavior will play out in a few generations. The Netherlands is changing rapidly. I hope citizens will chose to address and not ignore systemic racism and discrimination. We see this problem in all societies but it doesn’t mean it has to be swept under the rug. Thank you for continuing the conversation.

    • Yes! They’re all like “nooo, we’re not racist! Racism is over!” ….So then how come you don’t know any black people? How come you think blackface is okay? How come black people from other countries are advised not to come here on holiday or to live? How come the word for black people is uh, a really offensive if you translate it directly into English? (As is the word for a gay person, although I suppose it’s less offensive.)

    • Helen Lambert There’s nothing offensive about the word neger. It doesn’t mean the same as the American N-word, and there’s a country with racism the US, our negers were happy until that Quinsy Gario stirred them up 😉

      • fly

        OUR NEGERS? you’re kidding, right????

  • Thank you for writing this, the discussion of racism in the Netherlands is long overdue in my opinion. However, I feel forced to point out that whenever you are discussing Dutch people, you only mention a certain kind of Dutch person: White, upper middle class, higher educated, from certain neighbourhoods in certain cities. I find your articles incredibly amusing and they are usually spot on, but I would like it if you yourself showed more awareness for and payed more attention to Dutch people who do not match these criteria.

    • Well the tokkies that posted all that filth about Sylvana Simons were probably not only from the white upper middle classes. But fair comment.

    • The Amsterdam confessions of a shallow man , that’s probably true, but it’s the first time you’ve mentioned them in one of your posts (that I know of) too

  • Finally! Any Dutch talkshow you can recommend where I can watch Dutch people/politicians talking awkwardly about racism in their country?

  • You, my friend, are a hero. Always glad to see that a ‘buitenlander’ with a neutral view is able to hold up a mirror to society. And yes, surprisingly we only get shocked about our physical state once we look in the mirror in the bathroom of a club on Saturday night 😉

  • Cemil Yilmaz haha lees dit eens

  • Brilliant!!!!! At some points I could listen that voice of one of my inlaws!!!!😂

  • The Shallow Man went a bit too deep on this one. Please return to being shallow.

  • Well said, nail on the head and all that, thank you!! 👍

  • I hope you will survive this article. Totally to the point!!!

  • Rhys Thomas Elliott

  • Thank you for writing this!! Love the surname of Theodore LOL

  • Boudewijn De Gooijer

  • Great article! Thanks for writing what I was thinking you years but don’t dare say anymore, because the few times I did I was told some of the things Nieuwe Nederlanders were told in your article.

  • Walked into the country, now, I’m not even going there on the Zwart Piet subject, but to an outsider, the character looks like a Robertson’s golden shred golliwog. Which obviously got a lot of stick back in the UK.

    Then, I’m buying chocolate teacakes and find out they used to be called Negerzoen. Granted. No idea what it meant. Asked. Nearly knocked me flat on my arse.

    I’m not saying the entire country is racist, not at all, actually I think it’s great that the issue is being addressed head on, but does it exist? Fuck yeah, in the most passive sinister way I have ever seen.

  • Thanks, I really enjoy the witty way you have to talk in a light way, of heavy issues. I agree with the main things you say.

  • My clientele are 80% xpats and this topic is discussed almost daily by customers when I’m doing there hair
    I’ve experiences both racism and homophobia since living in holland and it’s Dutch people who have the abusive mouths in the streets towards us not the nieuw nederlanders!
    Some Dutch are charming to your face though

  • Rick Heere Any take on this?..:)

  • Michel Harry Gareth Gilbert

  • Djanira John

  • I’m a bit confused here. Was that a real person interviewed or Theodor was just created (imagined) to emphasize author thoughts? It’s difficult to believe that anyone would seriously say something like “Theodor, you’re a great host, but I don’t like you wearing an SS uniform at home, it’s a bit offensive. Well of course you’d be angry, being told what to wear in your own house!”. Or may be that person was trolling?

    • Ok to Theodor was based on the kind of comments that I’ve read on Nederland mijn vaderland, ZP is geen racisme and other social media sites. All of his views have been expressed many times on social media by people who consider themselves ‘tolerant

  • Monique

  • Via gladiola

    I completely agree with this article. As a Dutch national I sometimes have discussions about these topcis with my friends, I see my friends as smart, educated, open-minded people. HOWEVER, when I am having the ‘Zwarte Piet-discussion’ or another discussion about racism with them, a lot of my friends just reply: “come on, compared to other countries, we are NOT a racist country at all, we are not in Saudi Arabia here, in fact we are the least racist county in the world”.As this writer explains, this is TOTAL BULLSHIT. There’s a lot of (subtle but unfortunately, due to all the debates in the media such as Zwarte Piet discussie, increasinly explicit) racism going on in the Netherlands, but a lot of people just don’t see it. We don’t see it partly because of the fact that other countries view us as ‘tolerant’- which has become our identity. As a result, we have become arrogant, and also just lazy about the topic- It seems like my friends don’t even (want to) think about this topic. We are tolerant, that’s a given, a FACT and therefore we are not discriminatory either! A famous Dutch writer once wrote that the famous Dutch tolerance is a dangerous thing. Tolerating only means: “I am not physically hurting you but actually I don’t like you very much”. For instance: I can tolerate a bug in my room. What a society needs, is not tolerance, it is one step further, acceptance. I hope I will see more respect and acceptance for people from other cultures and backgrounds in the Netherlands in the next years..

  • Kaz Yengeç

    Thank you so much for this article, I needed it.