Putting the Netherlands in Perspective: The Identification of Alleged American and Dutch Traits in Dutch Travel Accounts of America, 1948–1971

Jesper Verhoef*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

100 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Between 1948 and 1971 more Dutch travel books about America were published than ever. Since America in this era was the prime model that was used in search of an ever-elusive Dutch identity, these books informed deliberations on the Netherlands as much as on America. This article details the topics that travel writers addressed to identify supposed traits that distinguished Americans from Dutch people. Highlighting how these traits were constructed in the past contributes to fierce contemporary debates about national identity. It is shown that travel writers consistently depicted Americans–who were regularly essentialised–as childlike, high-spirited go-getters. They were deemed efficient, pragmatic and self-critical. Their generosity was lauded, their alleged gullibility decried. Supposed Dutch characteristics were framed in contrast to these attributes. Most travel writers were rather critical. Dutch people were made out to be not as kind, dynamic, energetic, ingenious and open-minded as Americans. Various travellers targeted a petty-bourgeois mentality or narrow-mindedness in particular. As much inspiration as America provided, the prevailing attitude was that Dutch people should be cautious when it came to adopting American ways. Moreover, they should cherish their distinctive modesty, even-temperedness and level-headedness (nuchterheid) and their knack for conviviality (gezelligheid).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalDutch Crossing
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Research programs

  • ESHCC HIS

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Putting the Netherlands in Perspective: The Identification of Alleged American and Dutch Traits in Dutch Travel Accounts of America, 1948–1971'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this