What’s up with this no-curtain policy in Dutch homes?

You might have noticed, while strolling through the city streets at dusk, that many Dutch homes leave their entire interior open for the passer-by to admire. Depending on the type of neighbourhood you’re in, you might find that the Dutch either don’t own curtains or don’t pull them in front of their windows, allowing you to peek into their homes and discover the type of interiors, tv-shows and even behaviour they occupy themselves with.

Admiring those interiors

As you walk past these windows, you may discover a wide variety of interiors. You can admire interesting bookshelves, cushion motifs, the Christmas tree that has not yet been taken down, antiquaries, piano’s, messy papers, laptops or typewriters (if you happen to discover the home of a hipster) and cookbooks. More interestingly, the openness culture has only been in place since, roughly, the 1950s and is already subjective to changes in the contemporary culture. It often leaves (international) people confused why the Dutch leave their interiors so open for the world to see leaving room for speculation and the development of countless theories.

What is the reason of this no-curtain behaviour?

The philosopher Anton van Hooff and other colleagues in NRC (a Dutch newspaper) in 1991, focus on two theories. The first describes a nothing-to-hide mentality (from Calvinistic backgrounds) to show that your behaviour in the private sphere is as representable as that in the public sphere. On the contrary, their second hypotheses narrates a look-what-I’ve-got mentality where you want to show your new acquisitions and your living standards to your neighbours.

Research by Hilje van der Horst and Jantine Messing in 2006 led to the observation that the connection with your neighbourhood and the behaviour of your neighbours is an important factor for the decision to leave curtains open. People living in neighbourhoods where many people drape their windows, are more likely to also cover theirs, especially when there is little interaction between neighbours. Places where people know each other well and where there is a large social control have more open windows. Additionally, people with social neighbourhoods spend more attention to the decoration of the window and the windowsill and buy things such as little statues, vases, flowers and you can even see the occasional cat lounging on the windowsill.

Cultural and individual differences

Although Dutch windows give perspectives on people’s lives, this is often not the case abroad where windows often do not give insight into people’s living rooms but on kitchens or entrance halls, which hides the public from the private sphere. Besides, the opinion of your own JoCo is also divided on the matter! Some of us do close our curtains in the evening as we are otherwise displaying our private sphere to outsiders without ourselves having the chance to observe those who look at us. Others in our committee do leave the curtains open as we either live in the middle of nowhere, so only bunnies are left to stare, or because we live in high apartment buildings so you need binoculars to stare inside. What is your opinion on the Dutch curtain culture?

One thought on “What’s up with this no-curtain policy in Dutch homes?

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  1. A lot of houses have their kitchen built at the window so indeed their private room is kind of closed this way. For me for example, we have 2 big windows in our living room and one in our kitchen, although we do have curtains we only close it if we’re going to bed. So indeed everyone is able to see our living room and all that’s happening here. The reason that we do this (or rather we don’t actually have a reason because it’s normal for us) is because we don’t give a damn about who’s watching us haha xD Spaces, stuff, things we own, we (talking about our family) don’t really care about these materialistic things. When people walk by they sometimes greet with a handwave and we just wave back lol. On the other hand the people themselves live a quite individual life (my opinion).


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