After nearly 3 years of writing this blog (and a very long list of all-things-Dutch) it’s high time to address the elephant in the room: Dutch
cheapness, er, thriftiness!
The Dutch are, no doubt, a thrifty folk. According to our handy dictionary, “being thrifty” requires
adj economical, frugal, prudent, stingy, careful, cheap, chintzy, close, close-fisted, conserving, mean, parsimonious, penny-pinching, preserving, saving, scrimpy, sparing, stingy, tight, unwasteful
So, the million dollar question is: are the Dutch really a cheap, penny-pinching, scrimpy bunch? Well my friends, the answer depends on whether you think theses are, in fact, positive or negative traits!
Many a Dutch pride themselves on their sparing/frugal ways, whereas others don’t see what all the fuss is about (doe normaal!).
Are the Dutch practical? Absolutely! Do they watch what they spend? Hells-ya!
This past December a study concluded that the Dutch spend significantly less than any other European nation on holiday gifts and celebrations. Germans spent the most, followed by Belgians and Italians. Dutchies are (not surprisingly) at the very bottom of the pack.
One thing is certain, the Dutch haven’t been able to shake their international reputation for being ‘careful with the cash’. Belgians and Germans have been making jokes about the Dutch and their relationship with money for decades (ex: the multilingual zinger: “Who invented copper wire? Two Dutchmen fighting for a penny”). Of course the infamous English expression ‘Going Dutch’ which has been a staple in the English lexicon for decades hasn’t helped curtail the Dutchies reputation…
…and apparently it doesn’t stop there: I was recently told a hilarious anecdote from a friend traveling in Greece with her Dutch husband. On learning their nationality the local shop owner shook his head and loudly proclaimed “The Dutch: Kijken, niet kopen”!
Dutch people, however, don’t seem to necessarily see their “money-saving” traits in a negative light, with many a Dutch expression praising the virtues of such behavior:
Ieder dubbeltje omdraaien (to turn over every ten cent piece)
Wie wat bewaart, die heeft wat (he who saves, has something)
I will admit that we were surprised to learn that, paradoxically, the Netherlands is actually a VERY generous country when it comes to individual charity and donations. The percentage of the Dutch GDP spent on development aid is 0.82% above the UN target, and only Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway donate more. Does clever money management result in more to give? Apparently so!
As we know, Dutch people are great sports at poking fun at themselves. In 2010, McDonald’s tackled the ever-present topic of the Dutch’s “frugality” with this ad (originally in Dutch):
Ultimately, we’ll let you draw your own conclusions! Have your say in the comments. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you!!!