Are you in for a high speed naturalization course on how to deal with the clumsy, boorish Dutch? Then this theatre performance is right for you! During a hilarious evening you will be taken on a witty, lively trip by the theatre group ‘Plankgas’.
On a drizzling, dreary typical Dutch late November afternoon, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Anna Nicolaï, one of the ‘Plankgas’ actors, and gain a sneak peak of their latest performance: ‘Dealing with the Dutch’.
The take off
The idea for this piece was born approximately two years ago, in collaboration with Camilla van Doorn. Camilla is a British guest actress who is married to a Dutchie and as she has been living in this ‘soggy country’ for quite some time already, has been immersed in the local culture, norms, beliefs…and oddities. Together with actor Mechteld Schelberg the cast was complete and Magali de Frémery generously offered her expertise as director.
Camilla engaged in pretty in depth research among foreigners and expats about their experience of living in the Netherlands, exploring what unexpected situations they came across, what puzzled them and what was mind boggling about the Dutch culture… and you wouldn’t be surprised it turned out that their examples, anecdotes, frustrations and laughter was overwhelming, enough to create many more theatre performances.
The check in
The one-hour highly engaging and lively play allows you to see the Dutch culture through foreigners eyes. As an expat living in the Netherlands, you will find a number of typical scenes very recognizable, just because they also annoy you, you can’t get used to them, or may simply don’t have a clue. By now you might be really curious so here’s a sneak preview.
Quite a trip
Central is the Dutch ‘directheid’; our direct, straightforward, and at times seemingly inconsiderate way of expressing ourselves. Another thing is our thriftiness and ways in which we are bold like going Dutch, splitting the bills. We even have an actual banking app service for this.
Our uniquely Dutch expression: ‘hé, hé’ – pronounced as ‘he’ in hesitante- of which the connotation is not so easy to translate, it comes down to something like, ‘pfff here we are finally and now we easily can sit ( for the rest of the day/evening) and relax.
Oh the Joy of ‘Pakjesavond’
And then of course a scene about Sinterklaas, is included in the performance.
On December 5th the Dutch celebrate the so called ‘pakjesavond’, when the family has gathered together, possibly around the fire and the children sing songs to call Sinterklaas. One adult family member will invariably get up to get more firewood, use the bathroom or just stretch their legs. This person is always the unlucky one who misses the magical moment.
When the person is gone, a sudden loud knocking or ringing at the front door will disturb the peace of the gathering. A clatter of pepernoten will sound against the window, and when the family dares to go and look, a bag of presents will be standing right outside.
When the loot has been dragged inside, do not expect to just dig out some presents and unwrap them. Each household has its own rules to open the treats in Sinterklaas’ bag. Some presents come in disguise as a so called ‘surprise’ traditionally accompanied together with a ‘poem’.
Surprise – pronounced surpreesuh
A ‘surprise’ present, pronounced surpreesuh, is a handmade creation in which the real present has been hidden. The receiver must first find the present by tearing open the ‘surprise’. This often proves difficult, as it may include layers of tape, nasty substances to dig through, and other tricks.
One way to go about opening the presents is to take one out, read who it’s for, and hand it to them. They will find a poem on the package, which they can read aloud. These poems generally consist of amusing and teasing anecdotes about the receiver, and sometimes give silly orders they must undertake before opening their present.
Culturally double Dutch
Camilla, the British actress, is featured in this Sinterklaas scene as one who does, not quite get nor like this in her opinion unflattering and shameful tradition. She of course receives a ‘surprise’. So we meet a culture-within-culture scene.
The tears shed might not just be tears of laughter. Vocally, we also will witness the challenging side of being expat as well, especially when moving with children around the world Third Culture Kids, as Pixar’s movie ‘Inside Out’ pictures well.
Insightful for the Dutch actresses to also look at their own country with foreigners eyes, and increasing their awareness of how people in countries all over the world all have their own oddities makes it easier to smile at your own.
Dealing with the Dutch has something for everyone; be you a native cloggie, ex-pat, love-pat or re-pat!
Dealing with the Dutch is English spoken, but is also hilarious for Dutch themselves!
The nicest way to attend a course on the quirks of Dutch culture: Very entertaining, enjoyable.
Feel inspired go get a tickect soon @:
CAST AND CREW
Actors Anna Nicolaï, Camilla van Doorn, Mechteld Schelberg
Direction Magali de Frémery
Music Michael Woudstra, Josef Rebbe
Costumes Quirine Bouma