Dutch urinals, windows, elections and height

A Flemish friend reminded me from my post on May 30 about my name having many meanings in other languages that “Kent” is also a Dutch word meaning “to know” (2nd and 3rd person singular). And as you can see below, “Kent” also means “lung cancer” worldwide.

I have been to Holland maybe 15 or 20 times and it goes without saying that I love it, but I have to admit I always feel a little uneasy here. This country makes me feel unprepared for the future. It is so socially progressive and innovative I feel left behind.

Here’s an example of Dutch innovation: have you ever noticed in a urinal a picture of a fly at the bottom? (Were any women nodding their heads? Or did I just open the door to man’s inner sanctum?). That’s to improve your aim. That’s Dutch. Think it’s not a big deal? New York City hired the geniuses behind that idea to implement it in their airports. They probably paid millions, too.

For me nothing is more Dutch than having a giant, curtainless window on their house right next to the street so it is almost impossible to walk by without having a look inside. The Dutch are nonplussed about this, of course, which has the effect of making me feel insecure that I felt the need to peer into someone else’s house.

Someday I will have a photo here to show the giant window. In the meantime, a photo of a pancake machine.

At the same time, Holland is very quickly becoming a less tolerant place. I arrived in Holland on the night of national elections, a big event as the right wing party did extremely well. It’s led by Geert Wilders, an inciteful firebrand whose manifesto is based on only one-issue: keeping Holland Dutch, meaning kicking foreigners out, particularly Muslims. It’s funny that Wilders himself is half Indonesian and his wife is Portuguese, but apparently no criticism sticks to him.
Lots of Dutch travelers I have met recently say they will emigrate if Wilders becomes president or influential as part of the government, which appears very likely as they horse-trade to put together a coalition.

So, with all this tumultuous electoral upheaval, the nation at a crossroads, a time of reflection as to where the country is headed, what was the second biggest story in the news on TV after the historic vote? That the Dutch, the tallest nationality in the world, have leveled off in height. I only heard about it from a friend.

I would have loved to see a sweaty anchorman with a melodramatic, “This just in, breaking news from the Bureau of Statistics…”

I do feel short here, the only place in the world I am self-conscious of my height and not slouching. I am a formidable 187cm tall in other countries, but here, I’m a runt.

It’s a shame I only have a couple of days here and then have to blow east, but it’s great to relax and do nothing in my friend’s cozy, renovated farmhouse.

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