2006, Nuremberg, Germany: FIFA’s world cup is taking place in Germany and Italy would become its ultimate winner. Before the conclusion of the tournament, however, a curious incident takes place.
On the 25th of June, a game from the Round of 16 is played between Portugal and the Netherlands. The air was warm and humid and the sun was hiding behind a cloudy sky. At Frankenstadion, forty one thousand supporters cheered on the bleachers for their favorite team. Their hearts were beating to the sound of each national hymn. Valentin Valentinovich Ivanov was the appointed referee. The bloodshed that followed was bound to be sung by generations to come: 4 red cards and 16 yellow cards. One of these was issued to the Portuguese player Luís Figo, after a headbutt with another player. About this incident, the then Portuguese manager Luis Scolari commented “Jesus Christ may be able to turn the other cheek but Luís Figo isn’t Jesus Christ“.
The football field was a battleground between the two nations on that day for the world to see. But for me, since I am Portuguese, some of these spats are fought within myself when some cultural differences arise. Let’s take a look at some of the most outstanding cultural differences between Portugal and the Netherlands!
Your agenda, please! One of the most surprising things for me in the Netherlands was how everyone managed their social life as if they were a doctor running appointments: people have to check their agendas to see if they have time to meet with friends! In Portugal, the structure of the social life is much more laid back, and people just call each other to check if they would like to have a drink that evening. But here people can be booked for a whole month! Though sometimes I miss the spontaneity of just getting together when I feel like it (which is also enabled due to generally better weather), I must admit that the agenda culture has some advantages: you can look forward to meeting friends, prepare better and more special get-togethers and it sometimes gives me courage to go through an awful day or week because I know there is something else to do when it is over!
Would you keep it quiet? When I arrived here for the first time, the thing that I noticed immediately was how quiet the streets were, and they were packed with people! Though initially I thought it was only due to a lack of cars in the city center (which are replaced here by bikes), I later started noting it that wasn’t just that: people just don’t speak as loudly on the streets or public spaces as Portuguese people do! They always try to keep it in a low tone, which in my opinion is very polite, but it can give you an awkward feeling if you want to shout out to your friend at the other end of the street…
The food, of course. One of the things the Portuguese are most proud of is their cuisine. We have a lot of traditional main dishes, and a wealth of amazing pastries, one the most famous being the pastel de nata. The Dutch cuisine is… more modest. Sure, we can have a stampot, or the occasional stroopwafel, but you wouldn’t go out to a Dutch restaurant to have a dinner with friends. If you ever go there, make sure to try as many dishes as you can! Some delicious suggestions: francesinha, bacalhau com natas, frango assado, espetadas, pastéis de bacalhau, tarte de natas, baba de camelo.
All in all, it is very interesting and enriching to notice cultural differences. Acknowledging differences allows us to be more kind with one another, understand that we all come from different geographical and cultural places, and that we should not assume everything on a first look. It teaches us to me more accepting of one another, not because we are all the same, but because we become more aware that we are all different anyway!
And when we need that nationalistic kick once in a while, let us play it out on the football field and get passionate about it!