It’s one of the things that most foreigners notice about the Netherlands. Whether they’re living here or just here for a visit. The Dutch tend to leave their curtains open for all to see in. Some Dutch appear to have no curtains at all allowing passers-by to see what Dirk is watching on the televisie, what the familie Jansen are having for dinner, the games Jasper and Anouk are playing or what newspaper Opa is reading. For many this lack of curtains may seem like an invitation to peer inside, but be warned, however contradictory it may seem the Dutch are very privacy orientated and taking a peek is considered very rude. And whilst this strange (for most) phenomenon is on the decrease it is definitely still very apparent in both cities and villages around the Netherlands.
1. Nothing to hide - The most popular (and accepted) explanation stems from Calvinism. Honest citizens have nothing to hide. Closing the curtains can indicate otherwise. Some say that in former times it was forbidden to close curtains. With everyone’s curtains open you can be sure that everyone is honest, and therefore not committing any sins.
2. Showing off – The ideal that everyone is equal is hugely important in the Netherlands and any behaviour which suggests that you are better than anyone else is frowned upon. This also goes for showing off personal items such as clothes, jewellery or fancy television sets. So, what better way to ‘discretely’ show off by allowing the world to view the latest model flat screen TV or that very expensive-imported-from-halfway-around-the-world bank than by leaving the curtains open?
3. Light, light & more light – curtains open means more light gets in. Who can argue with that one?
4. Watching the world go by – whilst the focus (for us buitenlanders) is on looking in through these curtainless windows what about the other way around? It allows the residents to watch the world go by (and catch out the odd foreigner bold enough to peek in). So who’s been watched now?!