“The Dutch even bring their own water” is an expression Europeans use to complain about the Dutch tendency to vacation in other countries and yet never spend a penny. The Dutch often travel outside The Netherlands in campers and carry all their own food and water with them. This means that when they get to another country they don’t have to spend any money. Nothing for hotels or food. They don’t even buy a bottle of water. In fact, other Europeans wonder why the Dutch even bother to travel outside The Netherlands in the first place.
The expression “The Dutch even bring their own water” is, of course, an exaggeration by frustrated European shopkeepers and hoteliers However, it does reflect a real frustration with Dutch “tourists”.
Americans, on the other hand, are loved in Europe. This comes as a surprise to most Americans, who have heard so many tales of rude French and Italians. It all boils down to money – Americans spend it and the Dutch don’t.
American tourists can’t speak the languages, don’t understand the culture or the cuisine, but they make up for all that with the habit of spending big. Plus Americans, do something most Europeans either skimp on or skip completely – Americans Tip. In fact, the advent of the Euro hugely increased the amount Americans leave for tips. Euro coins don’t seem like real money to Americans ,so they give them away like they are worthless. It is not at all unusual to see an American give a handful of Euro coins to an amazed and happy European waiter as a tip.
The Dutch, on the other hand, are not at all insulted by their reputation for being cheap. In fact it is a source of national pride. A popular joke in The Netherlands is,
- “How was copper wire invented?”
- The answer is “Two Dutchmen fighting over a penny”
That joke is hundreds of years old and the Dutch tell it proudly. The Dutch have always been careful with money. It is one of the things that allowed them to survive and thrive, despite being a tiny country with a small population.
In 1776 the French King gave money to the American Patriots during the American Revolution. In contrast, the Dutch government had no interest in giving any money to the Americans. However, the Dutch bankers loaned large amounts of money at 5% interest to the Americans. In fact, the Dutch were loaning money to the British at the same time. The Dutch are such good bankers that they were able to successfully get full repayment on both these sets of loans. On the T.V. series Game of Thrones, Braavos represents The Netherlands. Braavos is clever enough to stay out of all the wars, yet make money by loaning gold to all sides.
So if you are ever in Europe and you hear someone say “The Dutch even bring their own water”, don’t feel badly for the Dutch. Other Europeans may mean it as an insult, but the Dutch take it as a compliment.