Culture of Netherlands

The Netherlands’ culture reflects regional and international influences which define the Dutch spirit. The society of the country is modern and egalitarian. The Dutch are tolerant, modest, independent, self-reliant and enterprising, and value education, ambition, hard work and personal development.

The Dutch basically dislike the nonessential; pretentious behavior is something to be avoided. Saving money is good, but spending money may be deemed a vice or something highly considered as ‘showing off’. ‘High Society’ may be viewed with suspect, or considered wasteful. An unspoken code of ethics and etiquette govern the behavior of the Dutch, and their cultural heritage is richly represented by art, music and involvement in international affairs.

The official language in the Netherlands is Dutch. The Frisian language is also known to be used by the government in Friesland. According to the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, several dialects of Low Saxon, in the north and east of the Netherlands, are known as regional languages. Limburgish is another regional language in the Netherlands, which is spoken in the south-eastern province of Limburg. The Netherlands is known as one of the most secular countries in Europe, with 40 percent of the Dutch non-religious, 31 percent Roman Catholic, 21 percent Protestant and 4.4 percent Muslim. The Protestant faith was once the largest religion in the Netherlands, but in the past century old Protestant churches have decreased in numbers.

The first significant Golden Age in Dutch architecture emerged in the early 17th Century, due to the large-scale boom in the economy of the cities. Many new storehouses and town halls were erected, and merchants increased their fortunes and built new houses with rich and ornamented façades as a symbol of their status. Many new transport and defense canals were constructed in various cities. The landscape was also enriched with new country houses, although on a smaller scale. Famous architects of the period include Lieven de Key, Jacob van Campen and Hendrik de Keyser. Dutch architects of the 20th Century have played a major part in the development of the country’s modern architecture. The Rationalist architecture of Berlage, of Beurs van Berlage, gave rise to three separate groups in the 1920s. Each group strove to direct modern architecture down their own path. The Expressionist architects included M. de Klerk; the Functionalist architects included Mart Stam, Johannes Duiker and L.C. van der Vlugt; and the De Stijl movement was represented by Gerrit Rietveld and J.J.P Oud. In the 1950s and 60s, a new Forum Generation of architects appeared, which included J.B.Bakema, Aldo van Eyck and Herman Hertzberger. From the 1980s onward, Rem Koolhaas, and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture, became one of the leading architects in the world. Koolhaas gave rise to a whole new generation of Dutch architects, creating works in the Modernist tradition.

The Netherlands has a rich tradition in painting and the Applied Arts. The Dutch and Flemish were considered as one people until 1830. Today, the Dutch and Flemish artists are still hard to separate. Most of the artists of the 1830s were referred to as Flemish, although they spoke Dutch. Before the 17th Century, some of the most famous Dutch artists included the painter Hieronymus Bosch, and the brothers de Limbourg, who were three miniaturists famous for their work for the duke of Berry. The 16th Century saw many painters relocate from Flanders to Northern Netherlands for religious reasons and because of the booming economy; a time when both regions experienced a golden age of painting. The best known Dutch painter of the time was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. The artists of the 18th Century in the Netherlands were not so popular, with paintings mainly of seascapes and landscapes. At the end of the 19th Century, the most significant Dutch painter, who won international recognition, was Vincent Van Gogh. The 20th Century ushered in such flourishing painters as Piet Mondriaan and CoBrA-painters Corneille and Karel Appel (‘CoBrA’ stands for the initials of the members’ home cities of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam).

The Netherlands also boasts a well-developed comic tradition. Although a tradition of American, Franco-Belgian and Flemish comics is well known, the Dutch created a more literary kind of comics, with the most famous author Marten Toonder and his work Tom Puss.

The Dutch have a varied music tradition as well, which ranges from dance and folk to ballet and Classical music. In the last century, Dutch men and women with African and Middle Eastern origin have had a lasting effect in the Rap and Hip Hop genre. Since the 1950s, the Netherlands has kept in step with many British and American trends.