After my first month here in the sunny green fields of Holland I have come to no conclusions whatsoever, as it simply isn’t possible to do so in such a short space of time. If I want to be honest with myself, and let’s be honest – who wants to do that? – then I reckon I’d probably need a few decades to be able to get a handle on things. That’s the way it is with assimilating into foreign cultures, even with a culture that has similar roots and pedigree to your own.
It’s why the entire multicultural charade is simply that: a charade. I have old Australian buddies who have lived for over 20 years in Japan. I love Japan; it is one of my favorite cultures on the planet. But they’re not Japanese, they will never be Japanese, and the kids that they have with Japanese wives are doomed to some half-breed existence, forever wandering between two half closed doors.
But while I have come to no conclusions, I have made a few brief observations of these Dutch folk. One of them is to do with shopping. The Dutch are quite possibly the tightest people on earth. As a consequence they like to shop around. They like to get a bargain. If they have the choice between a piece of merchandise of good quality and something that will fall apart a couple of minutes after you breathe on it, they’ll take the piece of rubbish if they feel like they’ve got a good deal. Afterwards they will proudly show you the junk that they purchased while boasting of how much money they saved.
However, the internet and internet shopping have taken this to new lows. I am living in a modestly sized town. It has a nice shopping hub with a number of creative and interesting shops. But the number has dwindled in the eight years since I first visited this area. The locals tend to use the shops to inspect what is on offer, but once they have decided on something they rush home to buy it cheaper online. Even more bizarrely, the same company will charge you more for an item if you purchase it from their physical location as opposed to getting it from them on the internet.
Another strange aspect is that anything purchased online has a 2 week grace period where it can be returned for a full refund with no questions asked. This is an actual law. But get the same deal from a physical shop of the same company and all bets are off; you signed the contract, it’s all yours, buddy.
I have always been of the opinion that you get the community that you deserve. With that in mind I have always tried to support local businesses as long as they were making some effort to provide me with a modicum of service. As I said to a Dutchman the other day who was boasting of buying something online after he inspected it in a shop from a different company, what happens when there are no more shops to go and look at this stuff? It’s not just the shops that won’t be there. Your children or grandchildren won’t be able to find a part time job after school where they can learn their first skills in the workplace. You won’t have a nice center to walk through and look in the windows because there won’t be any merchandise on display.
But I fear that it is already happening in this area. The most ubiquitous businesses are hairdressing salons and barbershops. They’re everywhere, there’s excellent competition, and as a result I’ve discovered the best barber I’ve ever had the pleasure of frequenting in my life. I’m rocking a cut right now that is stratospheric, man.
So if you’re a young person thinking about what part time skill you’d like to pick up, go for something that can’t be ordered online, like being a barber. Just try not to be a total cliche and turn into a raving queen while you’re at it.