Dutch people like normalcy. The Dutch expression Doe Normaal roughly translates to “just be normal already!” Doe normaal is the kind of statement your Grandma might say to you in church if you were blasting Hip-Hop tunes from your iPod during the Lord’s Prayer. But — it’s not your Grandma saying it, and you certainly aren’t 12 anymore; it’s your Dutch partner saying it, your colleagues thinking it, the shopkeeper whispering it under their breath, and your neighbours tsk tsking about it behind your back.
So, just what does “being normal” actually mean in the Netherlands? Well, the easiest way to define acceptable normal Dutch behaviour is to list the biggest offenders of non-normalcy. They are, in no particular order:
2. showing off or acting pretentious
3. discussing money (or how much you have)
4. showing a little too much personality
5. showing avert public displays of anger or emotion
6. not following the ever-important rules and regulations
7. acting or being anything else perceived to be “weird”, “different” “disobedient” or “foreign”
If you are out and about in the Lowlands and you hear the phrase niet normaal uttered under someone’s breath or said in direct conjunction to something you have just said or done, you can safely assume you have crossed some boundary of important cultural norms, have grossly offended, and congratulations: you have officially been deemed “not normal”. Better re-trace your steps and see what exactly the fuss is all about – or – just get on with your business and accept it as a Dutch person’s bizzaro stamp-of-approval.
So yes, as you can see Dutch people like normalcy. And, I can prove it: when asked to define the Dutch character, 9 out of 10 Dutch people will quote the following saying: doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg. Translation: just act normal, that’s already crazy enough!!