“When I was about 11, we had an American boy with us for a week, an exchange student,” she recalls. “And my mom said to her, make your own sandwich like you do in America. Instead of putting one sausage on his bread, he put five. My mother was too polite to say anything to him, but she said to me in Dutch: “We will never eat like that in this house.”
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At school, Ms. Verkoelen learned from friends that American children at home all ate the same way. They were stunned and a bit jealous. At the time, it was said in the Netherlands that putting both butter and the cheese on your bread was “the devil’s sandwich”. Pick one, went the thought. You don’t need both.
Build the largest sailboat in the world and dismantle a city’s beloved landmark? It’s the devil’s all-you-can-eat buffet.
The streak of austerity in Dutch culture can be traced to Calvinism, locals say, the most popular religious branch of Protestantism here for hundreds of years. It emphasizes virtues like self-discipline, frugality, and conscientiousness. Polls suggest that most people in the Netherlands today aren’t observant, but norms are entrenched, as evidenced by Dutch attitudes towards wealth.
“Calvin teaches that you are entrusted with the management of your money, that you have the responsibility to take care of it, which means giving a lot, being generous to others,” said James Kennedy, professor of Dutch history modern in Utrecht. University. “Work is a divine calling for which you will be held accountable. It is considered bad for society and bad for your soul if you spend ostentatiously.
There are billionaires in the Netherlands and a huge salary gap between CEOs and employees. Statista, a research company, reported that for every dollar earned by an average worker, CEOs earned $171. (The figure is $265 in the US, the largest gap of any country.) The difference is that the wealthy in the Netherlands don’t flaunt it, just as the powerful don’t show off their stamp. The Dutch once ruled one of the largest empires in the world, but there’s a certain pride here that the country’s prime minister rides a bike to visit the king – yes, the Netherlands has a royal family, which is also relatively discreet – and locks the bike outside the palace.