Everybody will at a certain time be curious about his of her roots and try to connect it to his or her personality, national identity and cultural background. Because what you are is a product of all that. For a lot of countries that identity is easy to see, especially when the country has a long history of existence and has developed is some isolation.
That illustrates the rather unique situation of Holland.
A lot of countries have seen changes of regime, foreign rulers, occupation, etc. that influenced their identity. But not many could equal Holland in that respect. About the whole of Europe gave us a “visit”!
Holland used to be a total swamp in ancient history where only few people lived, especially the parts near the seaside. In the ages before written history a variety of tribes came in and moved around and mingled or moved on. After that a variety of foreign rulers came to occupy Holland: the Romans, Vikings, Spanish, French, Germans, etc. About the whole of Europe forced themselves upon us for a longer or shorter period of time or sometimes simply to stay and mingle. This turned Holland into probably the first multi-cultural unity in the world and it became the freehaven for all of Europe.
In the middle ages Holland was turning even more towards the sea and became at a certain time the most powerful seafaring nation with worldwide trade and founded the first stockmarket-company in the world. Around 1700 it was by far the richest country in the whole world! And that attracted even more people to come and live in Holland where they had the freedom of religion, freedom of trade and a lot of other freedom. The real power in those days was not a strong government, but were strong companies. Holland was a trade-unity.
These factors surely had a lot of influence on the Dutch:
- personal freedom, clear language, being very direct and outspoken are highly valued.
- the Dutch are pragmatic and businesslike.
- the Dutch easily learn a foreign language and incorporate foreign words and habits.
- the Dutch are not “hungry” (because of the wealth there was).
Another important aspect of living in Holland is the constant struggle against water and the fact that it is one of the most crowded places on earth. If you have too much water on your ground, you cannot simple get rid of it, because your neighbour wouldn’t like that for sure.
So in Holland, with whatever you do, you cannot do it alone: you must compromise and work together to solve the problem. The problem ends only where the sea begins. All our polders, canals and dikes are a the result of working together, compromises and decisions of large groups of people. That situation invested a strong feeling for democracy in the Dutch.
The land in Holland is not very friendly; swampy at one place, huge moores, and barren and sandy on higher area’s. The seaside is salty. The Dutch had to work hard to get crop from it and were inventive in it. Our farmers are respected all over the world for their stubborness (not giving up) and dedication to work the land. Everywhere in the world you can find “Dutch” farmers and Dutch farming. These Dutch farmers are mostly very individual.
All in all that defines to a great extend the national identity of the Dutch (if there is such a thing): individuals that love personal freedom, are direct and outspoken, pragmatic, businesslike (we invented double bookkeeping), open for other cultures, ready to compromise, inventive (creative) and stubborn (dedicated). But in the end not “hungry” enough.
Of course nowadays the world has changed and surely in Holland, national identity is almost lost and in general the Dutch, like in many other countries, became more and more part of our “western civilization”.
The Dutch Chi (our “Spiritus Vitalis”) suffered a lot by this late development, but if you look good, you can still find some elements in some people.
Does it help our dancing?
Individuality, love for freedom, dedication and creativity can be seen as assets for better dancing. Openess for other cultures can be good, but also a danger.
Being businesslike, pragmatic and ready to compromise doesn’t really help.
But first and foremost you must be “hungry” to come to great achievements.
And real “hunger” (total dedication) is hard to find in western society.
One of the great people that Holland brought forward is Benny Tolmeyer.
Surely he was individual, loved freedom and was creative and dedicated (hungry).
He was not businesslike, nor very pragmatic an did what he felt was good to do.
He was a real Dutchman all his life.
If I would have to look for an example of Dutch Chi, he certainly would qualify.