Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Word

I've commented several times on what I perceived as "the Dutch hive mind", and although I meant it largely in jest, the fact is that conformity is a valued commodity in the society here. You must be, in other words, appropriately fatsoenlijk in order to fit in.

Like zuinig or ouderwets , there is more to fatsoenlijk than meets the eye. It carries with it not only the definition of conformity, but also an extra dimension of propriety, and extra bit of "Dutchness". Anybody can offer their guest only one cookie, but it takes someone with an extra bit of fatsoenlijkheid to make the guest feel guilty about thinking of asking for a second.

Despite our relative non-conformity, though, if you live someplace long enough, something will eventually get to you. Part of redoing our apartment involved making new curtains for the small window on the side of the apartment, and I'd always envisioned a pretty, lacy inner curtain that could be drawn to reduce the sun glare in the afternoons, but still light enough to let the light through, with an opaque layer over that in case we wanted privacy in the evenings. About five hours' worth of sewing later, I assembled the curtains (Karel tacked up the hardware) and was quite pleased with the result.

At least, I was, before Karel told me the whole thing was oubollig, a word that means both fatsoenlijk and ouderwets. I still like the arrangement--the colors fit the decor and the lacy fabric is pretty and I put far too much work into the whole thing to just take it down--but I must confess that I am a bit peeved at myself: maintaining one's individuality is apparently much more difficult than I'd thought. But I suppose I could always blame the hormones.

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