‘Dutch humour can be quite rude’
Dutch students do not always seem to know when a joke about nationality goes too far. What do international students in Nijmegen think about the Dutch’ infamous humour?
During orientation, international students get a workshop called ‘Dealing with the Dutch’. They learn that Dutch people fry a lot of food, that the structure of the kingdom is pretty complicated, and they use a lot of weird words. But one of the most important things the students learn, is that Dutch Directness can be quite confronting sometimes.
In Groningen, international students know all about that. University magazine Universiteitskrant conducted a survey there amongst 300 of them. The results show that 42 percent of all respondents has experience with jokes about their nationality and stereotypes of that nationality. National newspaper NRC also interviewed a group of international students, who confirm that a Dutch joke can sometimes hit you like a rock.
But what about the international students in Nijmegen? Around campus, many students recognise the stories from Groningen. Three British students, who want to react anonymously, say: ‘Yes, the humour can be quite harsh. But when I think about it, I don’t have any examples.’ One of them adds: ‘Maybe it is our stereotype of them, because we were warned that the Dutch are direct. And we make fun of others as well.’
A Spanish student who walks by, says he has encountered some examples of offensive Dutch humour. ‘My teacher once joked about Spain in class, about it being a poor country. I found that quite offensive. I can understand jokes about the weather, but not about our nation’, he says.
In front of the Erasmus Building, American Studies teacher Markha Valenta is talking to one of her students. ‘He is from Limburg, so you might want to ask him about these jokes as well’, she says with a smile. She adds, more seriously: ‘I have heard students joke about other students’ accents. There is a general habit in the Netherlands of using certain racial and ethnic caricatures that, here, are understood to be funny, whereas for many people from outside the Netherlands can be deeply offensive.’ Valenta says this Dutch habit has been very slow to change. ‘Too slow if you are also trying to be international.’