There’s one thing which annoys me greatly being back in the Netherlands, and that is the overwhelming amount of rules, procedures, policies and people who make sure you keep those rules.
I’m not talking about traffic rules, I do understand about safety.
Rules like, what color my house should be painted or not; if I’m allowed to put sun panels on my roof; can my son (14 year) go to the movies (16+) with his dad.
In the Netherlands there’s a committee which approves (mostly disapprove) the color of your house and if the sun panels on your roof are allowed.
Like they are afraid I’m going to paint my house purple??!! Or put a heavy sun panel on my roof which it can’t carry??!!
Well, the thing is, in a very individualistic society as the Netherlands, where personal freedom is a big value, people would indeed paint their house purple, not considering the neighbours at all; or think only about their personal benefits of sunpower and not considering if the house can take this new technologies safely; children can go to movies for which they might not be mature enough.
In societies with more collective values, people won’t even think about painting their house purple, ‘what would the neighbours think? How hard is grandpa going to yell?’; or they will consider on forehand if the house would be safe enough for sunpanels as they aren’t insured for things that can go wrong; and when a 14-year-old goes to the movies he needs the permission from an adult, if they think it’s not suitable, they can’t go and don’t try to go because there’s always a cousin, aunt, neighbour or colleague of your sister who will recognise you.
Collective societies just don’t need al those rules and laws because they’ve got their own unspoken social rules. They don’t need civil servants (paid from your tax money) to make up new rules or maintain those rules.
For an outsider it might be hard to understand and know those unspoken rules and sometimes it might even be scary that you don’t know if you’re doing something unintentionally wrong.
My experience is that they will let you know when you do something wrong, not prohibiting, but just common sense and consideration for others.
When a very conservatively dressed Qatari lady started yelling at me, I didn’t understand a word she was saying but I understood perfectly well that she thought my dress with short sleeves was inappropriate for the mall, during Ramadan.
She wouldn’t have yelled at me when I met her in a hotel, because that’s not a public space, or when it wouldn’t have been ramadan or when she didn’t have her teenage daughter with her.
When rules aren’t nailed down there’s much more space for the particular and specific situation at that moment.
If those laws were not so unmerciful, the committee would admit that I don’t want to paint my house purple, but just an ‘off-white’ which would suit perfect in the surroundings of the house and the neighbourhood; That my roof is concrete and perfectly save for sunpanels; And that my son is going to a movie with his father and he knows this boy can handle some violence (it’s me who can’t handle that) and vulgar language (he knows how soap tastes when he uses that kind of languages**).
I realise now that I experience much more personal freedom in a collective society then in the ‘free’ dutch society, as I do consider my environment and the people around me naturally and I acknowledge that people, timing and situation are never the same to fit in one law.
** It a Dutch saying “go and wash your mouth with soap” when somebody uses not appropriate language.