Progressive policies have made the Netherlands a liberal, socially tolerant society, which has given the Dutch many accomplishments to be proud of. The country has passed legislation creating
- Lenient drug laws—making soft drugs illegal, but not criminally punishable if a short-list of restrictions are followed;
- Legal prostitution (as mentioned in the previous post);
- Legal euthanasia, carried out by licensed physicians;
- Legal abortion, offered on-demand until the seventh month; and
- Holland was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
[NOTE: Opinions on these issues are highly volatile in the United States. I acknowledge that. Numerous cultural, social, and political factors influence how individuals interpret the contentious subjects listed above. In support of these policies, I am writing based on my own personal persuasions.]
Apart from social issues, another feature unique to the Netherlands is that it is home to numerous organizations concerned with international affairs.
The majority of these entities are located in The Hague (The second stop on my study abroad trip.) While in The Hague, known as “The World’s Legal Capital” and “The International City of Peace and Justice,” we are scheduled to visit just a handful of the +150 international organizations based in the city:
The International Court of Justice (ICJ): The judicial branch of the United Nations established to settle conflicts between states and provide advisory opinions on legal questions.
The International Criminal Court (ICC): Founded to try individuals for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY): In operation since 1993 to try crimes in the former Yugoslavia (modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) committed from 1991 to 2001 during the Yugoslav Wars.
Europol: The European Union’s law enforcement agency.
Eurojust: Conceived to facilitate cross-border communication of investigative and prosecutorial agencies within the European Union.
On a lighter note, residents of the Netherlands are mad about sports. Approximately two-thirds of the Dutch population participate in team or individual sporting activities every week.
International success of the national women’s field hockey team, national baseball team, national volleyball teams, national cricket team, Dutch K-1 kickboxers, Olympic speed skaters, Olympic cyclists, and various Dutch football players are a strong source of pride in the Netherlands.
If in need of a conversation starter, some cursory information on Dutch sports will take you a long way on your next visit to the Netherlands.
I have yet to try the “local” food. “Hollandse Nieuwe” (Holland’s new herring) stalls have popped up all over the country since herring is only allowed to be caught between mid-May and mid-July.
According to an online source on the Netherlands, the Dutch have been eating raw herring for over 600 years. Long lines at herring stalls in the afternoon demonstrate its continued popularity with the locals.
Instead, I’ve been eating crepes, salmon, and sandwiches for lunch. Breakfast and dinner has been provided by the hostel. Believe it or not, it’s been good, too!
Stayokay, the name of the hostel chain, prides itself on serving only organic, farm-fresh ingredients; a common theme shared by many restaurants in the Netherlands.
I wish I could eat this healthy in the States!
From progressive social policies to organic food, and everything in between, the Dutch are justifiably proud people. A few folks on my study abroad trip theorized denouncing their American citizenship and moving here permanently. It’s just that nice!