Eastbourne has an interesting bond with the Dutch, writes Bart J G Bruijnen.
This is mainly because it was the home base of the No 10 Inter-Allied Commando during the Second World War. Making up that Inter-Allied Commando were the No 2 Dutch Troops; one of the ten groups of volunteers.
The special unit was one of the largest commandos in the British Army and, would of course, make very good use of the different language skills.
They, the soldiers, spoke many of the European languages of the countries yet to be liberated.
But language isn’t always the most challenging barrier. There’s a nice story about English liberators being told by their superiors, that when they reached the Netherlands, after the allied invasion in 1944, they shouldn’t be too funny in front of the Dutch.
The military brass operated under the assumption that humour wasn’t part of the Dutch DNA.
You can hear a Dutchman, like me, coming from a room away due to his phonetic difficulties with voiced consonants at the end of words, and you can spot the writings of a Dutchman, undoubtedly, by his stubborn mother tongue driven syntax – which this article shows pretty well.
But a far better way to recognise the Dutch is their arrogance and lack of sarcasm.
Don’t get me wrong; the Dutch ignorance in casual questions doesn’t make us Dutch really uninterested or impolite.
However, our national compulsion to be popular anywhere, just because of our nationality, does make us pretentious and pompous. Subsequently, the foolish attempts at playful mockery do make us sound blunt and rude.
Yes, we Dutch sometimes forget that our little country, Holland, is a soap. A wonderful but boring soap.
Making it seems cleaner than it actually is.
We, the former number one slave traders, are trying amazingly hard to be the best student in the classroom; the European and Global teacher’s pet.
This doesn’t lead to character. Sadder still; our own Queen stated a few years ago that the Dutch don’t really have an identity.
But is it all that bad? Is it too late? Couldn’t we just adopt the English ways?
After all, it was óur William III of Orange, (King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1689 until 1702 – note: the Netherlands themselves weren’t a kingdom yet), who shaped your history with the continual triumph of protestant and parliamentary causes.
By the way, those are typical Dutch values. Through him you have been able to get used to us Dutch for about 327 years and counting.
Acclimation to the Dutch may not have been planned but you kept him in England; buried in Westminster Abbey.
With the death of William III, a very, very soft boiled 100 years from that date could almost solely account for the almost general lethargy the Dutch have for their own national history.
And then, in 1813, King William I returned to the Netherlands from England; the land where his heroic father had fled in exile. Currently, we are harbouring the sixth generation of that crossing.
So the next time your Eastbourne lifeboat is called out to rescue a few reckless Dutch yachtsmen, don’t tell them: “hey now, that’s no way to start a glorious revolution”.
You now know the joke won’t be understood, on a variety of levels.
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