Orange is cool and Dutch things are everywhere, even if we don’t realise it, writes Greg Shapiro.
I sat watching the royal festivities next to my wife, who is Dutch and unabashedly monarchist. She cried as Beatrix stepped down and cried again as the new King and Crown Princess stepped up and waved. I commented that Amalia could do with a good bit more waving to firm up those doughy biceps. I was informed – in strictest fashion – that joking was not appropriate. This was not a surprise.
It was a surprise how many of my hipster friends realized their deep-down reverence for the House of Oranje. Comedians, artists and designers all posted comments of respect and admiration for the royals. My cousin Floor de Goede – aka the cartoonist ‘Flo’ – drew a strip in Het Parool, in which he even admitted humming the new ‘Koningslied’ to himself. Horrors!
When I lived in the UK, I noticed that the counter-cultural hipster types did not hold the British royal family in the highest regard. They seemed to feel more like Johnny Rotten, who sang ‘God save the Queen, the fascist regime,’ for Elizabeth’s Jubilee.
Then, when I got to the Netherlands, I’d expected to see the Dutch royals met with a similar disdain. But when Queens Day came, there they were, decked out in orange just like everyone else. Perhaps Queen Beatrix would be portrayed in some ironic settings, or compromising positions, or with dreadlocks. But the accusations of fascism weren’t there.
I knew there’d been the squatters’ protests in 1980, when she was sworn in. But since then, perhaps the Dutch royals had been doing something really right.
Another contrast to the British monarchy is the paparazzi. British royals don’t dare take off their clothes anywhere for fear of some camera broadcasting their nudity. They can’t leave awkwardly tawdry voice mails without the British KGB listening in.
But when the Dutch magazine Nieuwe Revu posted unauthorized photos of Princess Amalia in her private life, it backfired terribly. Instead of Dutch royal-watchers blissfully snapping up the snaps like so much horsemeat, they blasted the magazine for violation of Amalia’s privacy. Apparently, the Dutch royals fulfill a role more important than entertainment.
I celebrated the royal investiture in the United States, at the Dutch consulate of Chicago. As a naturalized Dutchman, I was happy to compare notes on the telecast. For non-Dutch, I explained the appeal of the royals. (And I was surprised to hear that many of the Dutch-American community had not bothered to watch the event.)
So for the international community – and some Dutch expats – I’ll introduce my favorite game to play in the States.
It’s a game you can play in any apartment anywhere in the world. It’s called ‘Look around the room & spot what’s Dutch.’
The artwork hanging on your wall. (Mondriaan)
The long-life light bulb in your hall. (Philips)
Your favorite brand of household soap. (Unilever)
Pictures from the microscope. (Leeuwenhoek)
The first operational submarine. (1800s)
The LED lights on your screen. (Philips)
The ones who made the first CD. (Philips)
DJs who invented the style ‘hands-free.’ (Tiesto, Armin v Buren)
The pricey petroleum in your tank. (Shell)
Probably some of the money in your bank (ING)
The ones who discovered New Zealand (Abel Tasman)
The inspiration for James Bond. (Peter Tazelaar)
The fresh cut flowers in your vase. (Aalsmeer)
The bald guy floating up in space. (Andre Kuipers)
Giving your car its silvery tone. (Akzo Nobel)
The ones who sang ‘The Twilight Zone’ (Golden Earring)
Keeping New Orleans safe from the sea. (Royal Haskoning)
That annoying music show on TV. (The Voice)
The little bunny so cute you could eat. (Miffy = Nijntje)
And yes even Zwarte Piet.
Philips, Shell, KLM.
Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben,
Anne Frank, Van Halen.
MC Escher, Hieronymous Bosch,
Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh.
Erasmus, Spinoza, Rene Descartes.
Johan Cruyff. The guy with the darts. (R. van Barneveld)
Doutzen Kroes, Albert Heijn.
Carice van Houten, Anton Corbijn.
Bailing out Greece, Cyprus, Spain.
Taking out the terrorist on your plane. (Jasper Schuringa vs. ‘The Underwear Bomber’)
How did the Dutch get so inspiring?
What new wonders will they bring?
How can we honor them? Let us sing:
Hail Willem Alexander, the new Dutch King.
And there, completely by accident, is my very own version of the Koningslied.
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