Dutch island culture

I have extremely fond memories from my childhood of visiting islands off the coast of Scotland. It was always so exciting to take a boat – or sometimes a tractor – across choppy waters to some desolate and windswept island, where whisky seemed to be the staple diet. Moreover – and this is a point that became more and more important as I left my childhood behind – the locals always seemed so totally pleased to see us. Wherever we went – the local shop, the post office, our holiday resort or campsite – we were always greeted with genuine smiles that seemed to say: we’re really honoured that you chose our island to come and stay on for a few weeks. It was an alluring quaintness that is absolutely impossible to replicate in the city, and it is one of the reasons that so many people favour the countryside for their holiday.

Compare this to the Netherlands.

This weekend, we took a trip up to the islands in the north. Part of the reason for this excursion was to do wadlopen, which is basically wading through knee deep mud for a few hours wishing the sun would come out. Well, it sounded fun. The other point of the excursion was to go camping.

We turned up at a campsite on the north coast of Ameland, the name of which I will not mention, and were curtly told that campsite policy is to allow stays of no less than three nights – and we just wanted to stay for one. We tried to politely persuade them, in a mixture of Dutch, German, French and English, but they were having none of it.

“Do we look like the kind of people that will cause trouble?” said one of our number in Dutch.

“Quite frankly, yes,” was the quick reply.

In the heated discussions that followed – and, quite frankly, the manager we were speaking to was being shockingly rude – threats were made to call the police. We told him to go ahead, for we were doing very little wrong, and so he did so.

I’m not too sure what he said to them – it was obviously in Dutch – but he must have painted a pretty thuggish picture of us because, as we were walking away from the campsite in search of another place, we saw two police cars whizz past.

Not only did the campsite think it necessary to call the police, simply because we were foreign and wanted to stay on their land, but the manager also called all other nearby campsites and warned them not to accept us. Seeing as the last ferry for the mainland had already left, this was a despicable act. What were we supposed to do? Pitch our tent at the side of the road?

If the police hadn’t been professional about the whole ridiculous incident, and vouched for us at another campsite (“I don’t think you’re criminals,” one cop said, which was nice), we would have had problems.

And this isn’t the first time that we have encountered such hostility in the Dutch countryside. When Violetta and I camped on Texel some months ago, I tried to use the toilet in the reception. But because we had already checked out of the campsite and were just coming to pick up our stuff, they wouldn’t let me. An argument ensued and I promised them that they would get a negative rating in our guidebook.

When we stayed in a lovely little town in Zeeland, the owners of the Bed & Breakfast were unacceptably rude because we stayed just a few minutes after the official check-out time.

And on the list goes.

It is a real shame. You have such beautiful nature in the Netherlands. Why can’t the people that surround themselves with this nature take some of its beauty into their heart? As they do in other countries.


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