It’s January, and that means going dry, but not like that


Our regular columnist Molly Quell is having a hard time getting into the mood to mock the Dutch. Everything just seems too depressing. 

It’s time for Dry January.

No, not that healthy thing where people give up alcohol for the month and act extremely smug about it. Dry how Dutch people cook meat: withered, shriveled and unseasoned. That’s where I am at mentally.

I am already not much of a Christmas person. This really isn’t surprising, as I am the child of divorced parents from dysfunctional families. Plus, being a person in a mixed Dutch-American household is really the worst of all possible holiday combinations. You get through Thanksgiving, then you gotta gourmet on Sinterklaas and, just after you’ve recovered from that, it’s Christmas. Then you have to brace yourself for the war zone of New Year’s Eve.

By the time the start of the new year arrives, I just want to sit alone in my room with the lights off to recover.

A never-ending story

At least this year, like last year, doing this has been made easier by the raging pandemic. We’re nearly two years into Covid and we are still being plagued (pun intended) by the same problems. Shops are closed, hospitals are teetering on the brink, thousands flood to Museumplein to protest the dictatorship of … not standing too closely at the supermarket.

The Netherlands was the slowest to roll out the vaccine and then the slowest to roll out the booster. They wouldn’t wear masks at all and now they won’t wear the right ones. (It took the Dutch government until today to advise wearing FFP2 masks, something the Germans have been mandating for nearly a year.) It’s Groundhog Day (without kidnapping Punxsutawney Phil and driving off a cliff, which would make it more interesting at least).

Worse now, people are tired of the pandemic. They are tired of restrictions. People who were fairly strict at the start are now proposing in-person meetings because they are tired of Zoom. There’s a fatalist attitude that we are all just going to get Omicron so why bother trying to avoid it? The only thing disappearing faster than adherence to the measures are healthcare workers from their jobs. They all have burnout.

At least the government tried to curb some pressure on healthcare by banning fireworks. Although like mask-wearing on public transport, no one listened, not even the people tasked with enforcing the rules.

Grey everywhere

I am sure the dreary weather isn’t helping. My body is starved of vitamin D. Even going outside for a stupid little mental health walk is challenging on a regular basis because the rain is seemingly unending. And with energy prices set to spike, the inside of my house is about to be as unlivable as the outside.

Sure, I’m grateful that I even have a house and the opportunity to whine about how bad things are. More than 30,000 people in this country don’t anymore. And yes, some of that is the inevitable outcome of the first global pandemic in 100 years, but some of it was policy failure, poor (and badly shod) leadership and a persistent refusal by Dutch people to acknowledge that germ theory applies to all of them.

In a country where half the houses have no sinks in their toilets and, those that do have sinks, have no hot water running to them, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Dutch don’t fully grasp the idea of proper hygiene. And don’t roll your eyes at me, Dutchies. Your own self-reported data shows you only wash your hands 50% of the time after going to the bathroom, the lowest in Europe.

I would like to wrap up this column with some positive and optimistic words. Or least something pithy. But I’ve got nothing. Maybe try out one of the suggestions that my cheerful colleagues came up with.

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