A few years ago I won a scholarship to do my studies in The Netherlands. Coming to a country that is so advanced in equal rights, warm and open, was exciting.
Although I came from a developing country currently fighting against machismo I was raised in a house where both parents are highly educated and both support the family in equal ways: my mother, who struggled to make her career, always taught us about equality, and my father always prompted us to be gentlemen and believe in chivalry.
Once here I saw conational female friends getting in relationships quite easy and as a single man I also felt the desire to play my chances. Besides, Dutch women are well known for being quite beautiful.
You should know that I am not McDreamy but I am also not a character from the Big Bang Theory. I hit the gym, dress well, smell nice. I try to keep up on current topics and have been described as the owner of a charming personality.
At first I started things the way I used to in my home country: go out to a bar, check some interesting women, try to approach them and make conversations. Apparently it turned out I was wrong. Dutch ladies do not like being approached gentlemanly, so I had to change my strategy.
I asked for advice from colleagues and it ranged from learning Dutch to joining groups for activities and dating apps.
Once my contact with Dutch women improved, I saw myself as the subject of all kinds of racist discrimination, ranging from women implying that my interest was only in the papers to stay or thinking that I was only interested in playing them, to all kind of racist stereotypes.
Acts of a gentleman
I also discovered that Dutch take feminism very seriously, as they consider simple acts of a gentleman – like opening the door, helping her be seated, offering help with heavy stuff or walking her to her house – as an offense. It’s even considered as desperate and needy. Even offering to pay for dinner or drinks was seen as wrong. Perhaps new generations forgot that the term going Dutch was invented by the British as an insult because they regarded the Dutch as cheap.
Yet the advice that I found most surprising was given to me by Dutch women, ‘You are way too nice, you should treat girls bad.’ Dutch people are famous for being direct and honest, what a surprise it was to hear from these girls that my problem was not being ugly, undesirable or misbehaving, but not treating women as I thought they should be treated.
Bob Marley once said: ‘If she’s great, she won’t be easy…’
Has feminism killed chivalry and good old-fashioned manners? In current times, bang lists are appearing online. Are Dutch women fighting so hard for their well-deserved equal rights and still be falling for the bad boy? Are we forgetting that the feminist movement started because back in the 60’s, men were acting like assholes, not letting women vote, no equal labor rights, sexual violence etc.? It seems that the current trend is not changing that but going for a ‘let’s all act like assholes and let the biggest one win’ approach.
Of course I speak only from my personal point of view. I have seen a lot of Dutch people, both male and female, having wonderful relationships with international people. None of these relationships have been free of the cultural shock thought.
The truth is that the Netherlands opens its doors every year to hundreds of international students, from whom the country benefits in several ways. Many of them may have a wonderful experience, others like me might not be so lucky.
The world is more disturbed now, because politicians are building walls of division amongst us, and these walls are thriving because we allow them. Soon, instead of building physical walls, they’ll simply rely on the walls built inside of us.
And although my words might seem resented, please don’t take this as retaliation but as heartfelt advice.
As my time in this country is coming to an end and it’s time to go somewhere else, I would like to leave a message for all those who have been victims or perpetrators of inequality and xenophobia, for those like me looking for their place in the world and for a person to share it with.
Dear Dutch women, stick to your act. Although I encourage you to keep up the principle of independence and equality, I must say that you should see gentlemen as people who hold you in high esteem, not because he considers you to be lower or reliant on him.
Real equality comes from treating all the same, giving the same treatment you would expect for yourself. It is not equality if it’s wrong for a girl to ask her boyfriend to propose because it has to come from him, or if you think that someone is interested in you because of the papers to stay, as if they were not able to stand on their own.
False sense of pride
There is nothing more unappealing than a false sense of pride for things that one has not earned. Being born in a developed country does not grant you a special status and being from a developing country does not makes you less. You enjoy the fruits of the work and sacrifice of others before you and you must put in your bit.
Remember that we can all learn from others and that we can all share the love and pride we feel for the land that saw us grow or the land where we end up.
Perhaps if we stop closing the doors we can make this place a better world and those feeling lonely and unwanted wouldn’t have to.
So dear Dutch girls and boys, don’t close your heart, be open and receptive. True love knows no boundaries.
José from Latin America (full name is known to the UK), still looking for the right girl, Dutch or not…