Dutch women are unfriendly and unfeminine

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

“Ungainly, messy and unsociable.” These are a just a few of the 'qualities' of Dutch women, according to some foreigners. Luckily they are also described as intelligent, not out for money and – last but not least – attractive.

Journalist Santje Kramer asked 24 foreigners who live in the Netherlands for their views on Dutch women and collected her findings in a book: Het Poldermodel (The Polder Model – a reference to the Dutch term for concession politics).

Kramer interviewed men and women from all over the world, many of whom have lived in the Netherlands for many years. They often have - or have had - a Dutch partner and may, therefore, be "experts by experience".

Natural look
Most of them are positive about the way Dutch women look. They are tall, blond, good-looking and 'well-built'. They also have a natural look. “All those pretty girls on bikes, with their open and positive expression and wearing little make-up,” sighs an Australian.

One British person calls them the “most beautiful girls on Earth”. They are also reported to be easy to approach.

But there's criticism too. How can they let their appearance go the way they do? They don’t wear jewellery or enough make-up, or brush their hair. A Greek gasps: “If God gives them such beauty, they should do something with it”.

The ‘polder’ woman appears to prefer not to wear high heels, but picks cumbersome flat boots instead, even in combination with a dress or skirt. They prefer to look tough rather than feminine. So it is not surprising that chunky Australian Ugg shoes are so popular in the Netherlands, preferably combined with plain jeans and a T-shirt.

A Russian woman complains that she felt like a whore when she used to venture out in the Netherlands as she would in Russia - in a short skirt and high heels. Nowadays she conforms to Dutch dress sense.

In rural areas it is even worse. All the women have short hair because “it is so practical”. A Frenchman says he often wonders which one is the women when he stands behind a couple.

Free spirit
But the foreigners also have some nice things to say about Dutch women. They have a free spirit, are nice, not jealous and you can have a decent conversation with them because they are intelligent.

They are not golddiggers (something one Israeli claims cannot be said about his female compatriots). They are strong, do their own DIY and are not spoilt.

Rude and direct
But then there’s their behaviour … which has become dangerously similar to that of men, it seems. They are rude, dominant and far too direct. A Belgian film director remarks: “She wants to be the boss and prefers to work with small men.” People also complain that Dutch women do not know how to flirt, only work part-time and put their children on a pedestal. And another thing… sometimes they are just plain unfriendly.

No sympathy
The author of the book, Santje Kramer, does not have any sympathy for Dutch women. On the contrary, she completely agrees with the criticism. Dressed elegantly and wearing high heels herself, she says “The climate here does not help women dress more elegantly”. 

“We women go out on our bikes in all weathers. But in the summer you often see women wearing ugly cowboy boots with their short skirts.” She says it is not true that you can look tough and feminine at the same time.

Nevertheless she was shocked to hear from foreigners that Dutch women are so off-putting. “They criticise us for not being able to flirt. The book has made me pay attention to things like this and I see that people here never look at each other. Everyone stares at the ground. It is as if they want to say 'don’t bother me and I won’t bother you'.”

Perhaps it’s a sign of Dutch individualism – a subject you could fill another critical book with.