Dutch people don't close the curtains

January 27, 2006

What is it with Dutch people? On several occasions now, I’ve heard they never close the curtains at the house. First there was someone who knew someone who was Dutch, and then there is someone I know whose husband is Dutch, and it’s all the same story. (The thing with the second couple is, they don’t actually live in the Netherlands, but they keep the custom nevertheless, giving the locals great fun.)

So when I heard about the custom, I was, WTF??? Why would anyone do this? I tried to look around and this sounds like it makes some sense.

Sometime ago I read this book called “Cultural Shock: Holland” or something sounds like that. I read that the traditional dutch will generally not close the curtains on the windows. The idea is that of costly signalling. If you open the curtains on the windows, you signal to people that you are a hardworking housewife and you have kept your house sparklingly clean. So the curtains are open because you are not afraid of close inspection. On the other hand, if you keep the curtains closed, then you signal to people that you are lazy and your house is probably not clean.

Hey, there even appears to be a swear word about it there. “Your mum is so ugly that your neighbors break in to close the curtains.” Weird. Weird stuff. But so are many other local customs.