Holland is a mass of contradictions. It is a straightforward-complicated, innovative-traditional, conformist-iconoclastic, supple-rigid, and altogether miraculous culture, a place of tolerated extremes, ancient trade, great learning, and surprising architecture.
The oversized, perpetually open, and unadorned windows with a perfect view of everyone’s private life within seem in opposition to the high and massive (and one hopes impenetrable) walls that hold back the sea.
The Netherlands is a monarchy, but P thinks that in many ways Western democracy was born of the common administration of the dikes since the middle ages. When you take turns being responsible for the safety of your entire village, you have to trust that your neighbor will take care of you in turn. The social contract is strong among the Dutch.
Amsterdam is a city in which pot smoke wafts everywhere in the air, but pulling the curtains will make the neighbors suspicious of your character; where the language can at times sound almost exactly like English, but in writing, every vowel is spelled exactly the opposite of what we expect; where your house may sink haphazardly at an angle, but your shutters and doors must glow with a slick fresh coat of the best paint in the world; where the cabs are all Teslas, but everyone rides old bikes; where beer and pickled fish are perfectly acceptable for breakfast, along with a strong coffee.
Maybe these are the proud contradictions one should expect from a people who pumped away the sea to make enough land to live on.
As they say,
God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.