The Undutchables is a book that is meant for foreigners in The Netherlands. It describes quaint customs and the rules for surviving in the Dutch culture.

The writers, Colin White and Laurie Boucke, have lived in The Netherlands for more than 22 years. Even after all this time they are still amazed by the weird behaviour of what they call 'cloggies'.
Why do Dutch people boarding a train try to push the people that try to leave the train back in? Why do they state their full name when they pick up the phone in stead of just saying "Hello"? What is this weird brush thing that you can find in any Dutch toilet?

Most of these questions unfortunately remain unanswered in the book, but the descriptions of Dutch ways are very accurate indeed, and very funny. Even for the Dutch themselves who get a rare lesson in self-knowledge.

The best part of the book must be the desciption of the Dutch way of drinking coffee. This mainly applies to the coffee you get in coffee houses and when you visit older people, which is served in a cup on a saucer. It goes as follows:

  • Lift the cup and saucer by the saucer, which is held in the left hand as you would hold a frisbee. Add sugar to taste and milk to colour. Take the little spoon that should be found on the saucer and stir vigorously, both clockwise and counterclockwise (yes, this should always be done, even if you don't take sugar or milk!).
  • Now take the spoon and tap it two to four times on the rim of the cup, to shake off the coffee. Then return the spoon to the cup.
  • To drink, take the cup by the ear and lift the cup while clasping the spoon between index finger and cup. This takes some practice but is very important, as doing this wrong results in insertion of the spoon into the nose.
    Take a sip. Repeat this step as often as desired.
  • Return the coffee to the table and pronounce: "Lekkere koffie, hoor!"
Yes, it sounds ridiculous. Yes, it actually happens like that.
The Undutchables is full of silly examples like these, but also contains useful information on why the Dutch behave like they do. They don't mean to be that rude, they call that honest and direct...
In some chapters, like the ones on drugs and sex education, the writers don't seem to have gotten the point... but this may be my biased viewpoint of course.
As a huge Dutchphile, I bought this book in a frenzy of gathering information about the cultural nuances of the Netherlands, but I have to say, I was disappointed.

It seemed that it was the intention of the book to playfully put down various aspects of Dutch culture.. this I don't consider a problem, but I think they go beyond this to the point of making fun of things that are actually beneficial or intelligent cultural differences rather than just the silly or cute idiocyncracies. To agree with sloebertje, they sometimes seem to miss the point.

They also include many things which can be easily found in many other countries (for example, the way folks act on the bus.. sitting on the outside seat or otherwise as to be as antisocial as possible; making it difficult for others to get off the bus.. that's the norm here in San Francisco, too.)

Overall, I'm inclined to think a Dutch person, or a person who's lived in Holland for some time, would find this book far more entertaining than would a foreigner.

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