I work three days a week and two days I am at home with the boys (so I work even harder!). As a twin mama I have come to terms with the limitations I have with regards to the activities I can do with two babies. While other mums go to playgroups or have coffee in cafes, I pretty much stay home. I attempted coffee once in a cafe with other mums…it was a total disaster. I had two babies howling and in my lap and I made no conversation with the other mums who sat coolly feeding their one (quiet) baby. I never attempted the cafe again. Instead I take the boys out for walks on my own, let them crawl/walk on grass in neighborhood parks, do grocery and play with them all day. During my two days I hardly have any adult conversations and it gives me time to reflect on things like Netherlands and what this country symbolizes for me.
On one of our walks through the beautiful suburban neighborhood of The Hague (where I live) there is a little farm house. Outside the gate of this house there is a rack full with eggs, fresh vegetables, plants etc. and prices next to each item. You pick what you want and put money in a money box that hangs at the end of the shelf. This concept though quite common in Europe and other ‘first’ world countries still amazes me. It is a simple little thing (that most people wouldn’t even think about) but it encompasses for me the values and ethos of this country and its people. Honesty.
True you could argue that in a country where wealth and good standard of living is abundant, such a simple system that relies on trust works. But it goes beyond that and I believe it has more to do with values. I think first you develop values in a nation and then develop social structures upon that to have a good working system. It is why education is so important and crucial.
Having good basic values sounds simple enough yet I believe speaks volumes through the behaviors and actions of a society. A simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or courteousness such as orderly queuing, etc. can help to instill in citizens good behavior. These qualities shouldn’t depend on income, race or place in society. In fact even in developing countries with high status families, these qualities are not always distinctive. Many a time completely absent. Somehow the wealth gap in some countries has the opposite effect where by the privileged, by right of wealth, feel they are not obligated to simple courteousness to others not equal in their social setting (and queues don’t exist for them! They bypass and get full service).
Recently I read an entire chapter in Pamela Drukerman’s book, ‘French children don’t throw food’ dedicated entirely to teaching children to say hello and goodbye. She analyzes that this creates the order of mutual respect between adults and children (not just establishing respect in children for their elders!). And what a key difference this is culturally because where you have polite adults and children that start their very first contact on this basis surely paves the way for all future interactions?
I know I make a general statement about the how things are in this country but so far, I have come across many examples of the good values that I see instilled within the citizens of this country. So much so that I can only hope to pass on as well as I can the same to my little boys so that they carry on the tradition of honesty and good behavior that I come across many a times in my encounters here in the Netherlands.