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My Ethnicity: The Netherlands

I am technically ½ Dutch, ¼ English and a ¼ Irish, so since it's the majority of my heritage, I decided to do my ethnicity paper on the Netherlands, or its official name, The Kingdom of the Netherlands. To start off, my grandpa's grandfather lived in Eppenhuizen, a small village in the Groningen Province located on my map. There, he was a carpenter and built houses. He came to America with his parents and his five brothers and sisters at the age of twenty and settled in Comstock in 1904. He and his family left the Netherlands because they wanted to live a better life and to become more prosperous than they already were.

The Netherlands is a small country roughly the size of Maryland that lies on the western part of Europe. Its neighbor to the south is Belgium and to the east Germany, with the North Sea to the north and east. It is a coastal lowland with a mostly flat landscape that is covered with polders, which is land that is below sea level that was once covered with water. Towards major major cities like Amsterdam and Leiden in the west, they are filled with dozens of miles of canals, especially Amsterdam, which is the most watery city in the world with 65 miles of canals. The weather is a typical northern maritime climate where the winters are mild and the summers cool thanks to the North Sea. The Netherlands rarely have extreme temperature in either direction and the summer is the wettest season of the year.

The people of the Netherlands practice many different subsistence strategies, including horticulture, agriculture, pastoralism, industrialism, and information technology. Pastoralism is a big one that deals closely with agriculture and industry, and even information technology. First off, 2/3 of the Netherlands land is used for farming and more than ½ of that is used for grazing for the cows. From the cows, they get milk, butter, and cheese, like Edam and Gouda cheese which they're mostly known for. The tools they use for this are milking machines in a milking parlor for milking the cows of course. They also have different types of housing for the cows like confinement and loose housing, where loose housing they roam around the fields freely and in bad weather, go indoors that include mattresses and sand beds. Other tools used are a manure storage tank, which then gets put into a manure spreader to spread the fertilizer over the fields and it basically becomes a cycle. There's also a feeding trough for the cows that's basic and a grain wagon that gets food from the silo's that store the food for the cows. Many dairy farmers here grow their own food for the cows. The division of labor for pastoralism is that they have the head farmer who's in charge of everything, the milkers who milk the cows with the machines and sanitize them, and the people who feed the cows and get the food from the fields to put in the silos. There's also the breeders who artificially inseminate the cows, the people who take care of the health of all the animals, and the bookkeeper who manages all the finances on the farm and keeps track of all the products.

As of late, the Netherlands has become a highly mechanized industrial nation. They don't have many raw materials, so they have to import several materials in order for their industries to thrive. A big one for them is the natural gas industry, which ranks 4th worldwide in exporting. They also do petroleum refining, and make metal and electrical products and equipment. The technology that's used in the natural gas business is the extraction machines that take the natural gas out of the earth and put them into natural gas processing plants called fractionators, in which they purify the natural gas to meet the quality standards. The division of labor in natural gas and the oil refining company are the management people that take care of finances and business aspects, while there are the engineers that design machines to extract and purify the product, and there are extractors who take the product out of the ground and transport it to where it has to go. There is also the famous Philips Electronics that is stationed in the Netherlands in Eindhoven and they produce electrical products ranging from MP3 players to LCD TV's to shavers. Here, they have the CEO's of the company that are in charge of everything underneath them, the engineers that design the electronic machines that help and entertain us. The Philips Electronics company is closely entwined with the information technology strategy of subsistence, since they deal with the processing and storage of information that relates worldwide. The technologies that they use in the EIT division are computers to process and pass on information through the internet, with the help of satellites that can help them use their cell phones and communicate with anyone in the world in the blink of an eye. They divide up the labor by having the heads of businesses order everyone around and then there are computer programmers who construct programs based on a company's specific needs, network security technicians who keep everything they're working on confidential to a point and block out viruses and trojans.

Agriculture also plays a big part in feeding their country, even though it doesn't account for much of their GDP. They grow barley, potatoes, sugar beets and wheat. The tools used in agriculture are irrigation pumps that water the fields, four-row planters that plant four rows at a time, four-row cultivators, deep-tillage chisel plows that's used to loosen hard soil, and a combine that harvests the crops. The division of labor in agriculture is that they have the head honcho in charge of everything like in the herding of cows, a bookkeeper too that keeps track of finances, a driver that transports the crops to the silos for storage, the crop-duster to pesticide and insecticide the plants, and someone in charge of computers and automation that keeps all the technical machines in running order and precision.

The political organization of the Netherlands is a centralized one, so individuals do yield personal sovereignty to someone in power. There are two types of governments in the Netherlands: a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. In the constitutional monarchy, the head of state is either the king or queen, which of present is Queen Beatrix. The monarch is voted in by the people, which was set up by their constitution, so that is what gives the monarch their authority. They are not even crowned like many other kings and queens. In the parliamentary democracy aspect of it, the prime minister is the head of government, and the current prime minister is Jan Peter Balkenende. He gets appointed by the monarch and he gets to select members of the cabinet. The Parliament is known as the States-General and is made up of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are four major political parties in the Netherlands: Democrats 66, the Labor Party, the Christian Democratic Appeal, and the Liberal Party. None of these parties have ever held the majority in the House of Representatives since WWII.

Negative reciprocity is the type of reciprocity that is used in the Netherlands because the whole goal of their economic system is to make a profit, which is capitalism, where large privately owned companies direct the economy. The economic sectors are broken down in the Netherlands by having services take up 80% of the labor force, industry 18%, and agriculture the remaining 2% of all occupations. The gross domestic product, GDP, is eerily similar to the breakdown of the economic sectors, which has services taking up 71% of it, while industry sucks in 27% and agriculture once again with 2% of the total GDP. The median income of a family is around $40,300 and the unemployment rate as of August of this year is 5%. .

The religious belief that is followed in the Netherlands is monotheism. The types of religions that are practiced are Christianity and Islam, which Christianity breaking off in two parts: one that is 30% Catholic and the other is 20% Dutch Reformed. Islam is practiced by 5% of the population, and 45% aren't even affiliated with any religious belief or practice. In the originating of political parties in the Netherlands, religion played a part in their organization. Also, employers, schools, and other social institutions were based on a denominational base. They celebrate many religious holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, Ascension Day, and Pentecost.

The type marriage that is common in the Netherlands is monogamy and the way that they choose their partners is through love match, even though historically, they, along with many European countries, were done through arranged marriages. When couples get married, they go and live by themselves without either of their parents, so their post-marital residence is neolocal. They live in nuclear families like most European and American families do. The way that they use descent in patrilineal, well, at least my grandpa's family from the Netherlands did, so they trace their ancestors through the male side.

Something interesting that I found, well, at least that's interesting to me is the concept of food in the Netherlands, like how milk and cheese is a huge part of the Dutch diet, which appeals to me because dairy products are a huge part of my diet as well. It is said that they tend to drink three glasses of milk a day, and some even up to six, and eat cheese as often as they can. This also appeals to me because it reminds me of the Middle Ages in a sense where a lot of food that people ate were nice and hearty like milk, bread, and cheese, not some small, non-filling food like salads and keish.

They also like to ride their bicycles (they like to ride their bikes, Queen song, sorry). They not only ride them for transportation, which is a huge part of their transportation, but a lot Netherlanders ride them for recreation and sport. This shows me that they are a people who like to stay in shape, which admire greatly because I like to stay and shape as well because it shows that you respect yourself. And how they are a people that like to be outdoors which is even bigger for me because the outdoors is the greatest thing on this planet.

Another interesting thing I found out about the Netherlands is that they like to plan activities and events ahead of time, so they don't really like surprises or spontaneity. I find this hard to imagine since the Dutch culture is quite liberal and like changes politically and socially, but apparently don't like to be surprised recreationally or leisurely. Me, I love to be surprises, no matter for what reason, and I'm ½ Dutch, so I guess that trait never really rubbed off on me, but it did my parents and grandparents.

Also, the Dutch are very into manners and being polite, which again I find odd. Like for one, it's impolite to yell to say hello to someone from a distance, you have to wave your hand to get their attention. Another impolite gesture is to shake someone's hand while your left hand is in your pocket, and even just to stand with your hands in your pockets. Now this is just preposterous, these are just some things that you can't really manage half the time because you're not even thinking about it. I talked about these manners because I'm a man who doesn't like manners, and this upsets me and that's a reason I'm proud to live in the U.S. where manners are loosely upheld.

One more thing that interests me about the Netherlands are all the canals and water in the country and around it. They are famous for sailing and boating, which is something that I admire and always have wanted to pursue. They have so much water to boat in, so it just makes sense to do it. Sailing and boat making is just something that takes practice, skill, and patience. Everything has to be set perfectly for it to work and it's such a time consuming process, so a lot of work goes into making the boat and then even sailing it. I just love that, putting a ton of work into something and then being able to use it the rest of your life, which is why I love making things.

The article I chose is titled in my bibliography and I used this particular article because November 11, Veteran's Day is my birthday, and I've always been interested in the origination of that day and always thanking those who have served our country in war. It is Armistice Day, the day when the Allies signed a treaty with Germany to mark the end of World War I. It struck me how some people in the Netherlands didn't even do anything different on that day, or even say thank you to veterans only because they weren't involved in WWI. This illustrates the Netherlands culture by showing that they really do like to keep to themselves and are quite private in a sense. They like to be isolated and stay out of trouble, so that no trouble shall come to them.


  • "Farming." World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: World Book, 2009. Print.
  • "Dairy Farming." World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: World Book, 2009. Print.
  • "The Netherlands." World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: World Book, 2009. Print.
  • Douglas, Tom. "In Netherlands, where rememberance happens in May, Nov. 11 barely registers." Canadian Press (2009): Web. 15 Nov 2009. <>. Article
  • Marilyn Poortenga, 21 Nov 2009, traveled there many times because her family is from there.

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