Ethnicity Paper: The Netherlands

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Americans today are a mixture of many different cultures and ethnicities.  Over the course of our ancestor's lives there DNA has been placed in a blender and mixed up like a smoothie to create who we are as individuals today.   If you really think about it, it is amazing how many different "flavors" each of us can have in us.

Like millions of others I am a mixture of ethnicity.  The one I have picked for this project is my Dutch heritage.  A portion of my ancestors originate from the Netherlands although I was not able to find exactly where in the Netherlands they came from.   The Netherlands is a Western European country that is bordered by the North Sea, Belgium, and Germany.  It is divided into twelve different providences and is often called Holland.  Although Holland is not the countries name it is frequently mistaken because North and South Holland are two of the countries twelve providences.  The name Netherlands means low lands and almost ¼ of the country is below sea level.

Dutch people came to the United States mainly for a better opportunity.  I could not find exactly when my ancestors moved, but the best I can figure from my research is sometime between 1830 and 1890.  During this period of time around 250,000 Dutch people came to this country.  One reason for this mass movement was failing potato crops.  Another reason they left was revolt against the Dutch Reformed Church.  Another major reason for movement was the Second World War.  After the war was over The Netherlands was the most densely populated country in the world so the Dutch government encouraged its people to move to America.

The Dutch have a mixture of different subsistence strategies.  They do a little bit in the agricultural industry, they hunt and gather, and they do horticulture and also are industrialized.  Only 2% of the country is involved in agriculture.  The major crops they produce and export are grains, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits, and vegetables.   This portion of the industry is highly mechanical.  Most of the agricultural industry is owned and operated by large corporations instead of the family run farms that used to make up the industry.  Another portion of the agricultural industry is dairy and livestock.  I think the dairy and livestock fall under agriculture because they are raised to produce milk and beef mainly and is a highly sophisticated and technological industry.

Another strategy the Dutch use is fishing.  Although the fishing industry is declining due to declining fish stocks, lower quotas, and is increasingly more difficult to make a profit.  The industry harvests around 490,000 tons a year of various varieties of seafood.

Horticulture is also used as a subsistence strategy in the Netherlands.  This is also one of the things they are known for.  The Dutch grow ornamental plants and flowers; they also export cut flowers and blubs to grow tulips around the world.

The Netherlands is also an industrialized country with about 25% of the economy based on it.  Some of the industry is involved in food processing, producing chemicals, and fuel refining, and producing electrical machinery.  All of the industries are specialized and use a variety of different tools to produce.  The Netherlands is a very modern society and use the same tools we use hear like combines and tractors for farming.  The division of labor is divided up by specialty and ability in all of the industries.

The political system in the country is based on a combination of a Parliamentary Democracy as well as a Constitutional Monarchy.  Although there is a Monarchy in place the queen has very little power and is mainly symbolic.  The majority of the power is in the parliament, and is given to them by the people that elect them.  The government is divided by the Monarch who is the chief of state, the Prime Minister who is the head of the government and the cabinet.  The legislative branch is made up of a bicameral parliament.  The cabinet is accountable to the parliament who is elected to 4 year terms.  The parliament is divided into two chambers.  The second chamber makes laws and is elected by the people ever since 1919 when they were given the right to vote.  They are elected by proportional representation or what we call the Electoral College.  The first chamber either ratifies or rejects the second chambers laws.  Its members are elected by an electoral staten.  Each of the twelve providences has one electoral staten.  The electoral staten is headed by a "chair" that is appointed by the government.  Each member of the staten is then elected by the citizens of each providence.  Each council is then overseen by a mayor who is also appointed by the government.  There are four major political parties in the Netherlands; the Christian Democratic Appeal, the Labor Party, the Socialist Party, and the Liberal Party.

The Dutch have a capitalist society.  The economy is based on negative reciprocity.  The economy also depends heavily on the trade of machinery and equipment, fuels, food and chemicals to countries like Germany, Belgium, France the U.K. and Italy.  The Netherlands like much of the world is also suffering from the global financial crisis.  The GDP of the Netherlands is around 870 billion dollars with an average household income of about 40,000 dollars and an unemployment rate of 4 %.(

Religion in the Netherlands varies.  An estimated 30% of the population is Catholic, 14% reformed Protestant, 7% Dutch Reform, 4% Muslim and 40% of the population is not religious or does not claim a specific religion.  It is amazing to me that 40% of the nation claims no religion at all, that would be un-heard of in the United States.  With political parties like the Christian Democratic Appeal, and the Christian Union, I would say religion does have an influence on government in the Netherlands.  Some of the holidays celebrated in the Netherlands are also closely related to religious beliefs.  Some of them are the first and second day of Easter, Ascension Day which is 40 days after Easter, and Saint Nicholas' day which is December 5th.

The social organization of the Dutch is almost identical to that of what we use in the United States.  When it comes to choosing a partner the Dutch believe in a love match.  The young people get to pick who they want go out on dates and enjoy the fun and the heartbreak of attempting to find their life partner.  Once they have picked who they think is the one they move onto a marriage with that partner and only that partner.  Monogamy is the only form of marriage allowed in the Netherlands.  Once married the couple will move out onto their own away from the parents where they will begin their nuclear families.  Kinship terminology in the Netherlands also uses the Eskimo system like we do in the United States.  Although there is no set standard the Dutch tend to marry within the same social class.  It is not usually an issue since the majority of the society lives in the middle class.  Also in the country discussion of class and wealth is considered a no no, the Dutch strongly emphasize equality.

One thing that I looked into while I was doing my research was the law enforcement structure of the Netherlands.  I find it interesting that law enforcement is divided among the whole country and they do not have state, county, and city jurisdictions like we have in the United States.  The Netherlands law enforcement system is divided into twenty-five regional forces and a national police force.  The regional forces compare to our local police departments and the national police force is comparable to the FBI or Secret Service.  I also found in interesting that police in the Netherlands can randomly stop people to check their licenses and other required paperwork unlike here we have to have a reason to stop them.

Something that did not appeal to me about the Netherlands is the type of food they eat.  They tend to eat boiled potatoes with almost every meal and a Dutch person will not eat and unpeeled potato.  They also eat things like smoke eel and raw herring when it is in season.  When it comes to a snack they choose french fries with mayonnaise.  Around 1500 miles of the countries coast line is shielded by dykes since much of the land is below sea level, if it were not for the dykes 65% of the land would be flooded by sea water daily.  The Dutch also have a very active culture with about 2/3 of the population that is over 15 participate in sports weekly.  The most popular sport in the country is Football or soccer here.