The Netherlands has had many well-known painters. The 17th century, in which the Dutch Republic was prosperous, was the age of the “Dutch Masters”, such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael and many others. Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century were Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M. C. Escher is a well-known graphics artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained in Rotterdam, although he is considered to have reached acclaim as an American artist.
The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus of Rotterdam and Spinoza. All of Descartes’ major work was done in the Netherlands since he studied at Leiden University — as did throughout the centuries geologist James Hutton, British Prime Minister John Stuart, U.S. President John Quincy Adams, Physics Nobel Prize laureate Hendrik Lorentz and Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens (1629–1695) discovered Saturn’s moon Titan, argued that light travelled as waves, invented the pendulum clock and was the first physicist to use mathematical formulae. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and describe single-celled organisms with a microscope.
In the Dutch Golden Age, literature flourished as well, with Joost van den Vondel and P. C. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In the 19th century, Multatuli wrote about the poor treatment of the natives in the Dutch colony, the current Indonesia. Important 20th century authors include Godfried Bomans, Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Hella S. Haasse, Cees Nooteboom, Gerard Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl was published after she was murdered in the Holocaust and translated from Dutch to all major languages.
The traditional Dutch architecture is especially valued in Amsterdam, Delft and Leiden, with 17 and 18th century buildings along the canals. Smaller village architecture with wooden houses is found in Zaandam and Marken. Replicas of Dutch buildings can be found in Huis Ten Bosch, Nagasaki, Japan. A similar Holland Village is being built in Shenyang, China. Windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, cheese, Delftware pottery, and cannabis are among the items associated with the Netherlands by tourists.
The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and today is regarded as a liberal country, considering its drug policy and its legalisation of euthanasia. On 1 April 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation to legalise same-sex marriage.
Dutch value system
Main article: Dutch customs and etiquette
Dutch society is egalitarian and modern. The Dutch have an aversion to the non-essential. Ostentatious behaviour is to be avoided. The Dutch are proud of their cultural heritage, rich history in art and involvement in international affairs.
Dutch people in orange celebrating King’s Day in Amsterdam, 2017
Dutch manners are open and direct with a no-nonsense attitude; informality combined with adherence to basic behaviour. According to a humorous source on Dutch culture, “Their directness gives many the impression that they are rude and crude — attributes they prefer to call openness.” A well known more serious source on Dutch etiquette is “Dealing with the Dutch” from Jacob Vossestein: “Dutch egalitarianism is the idea that people are equal, especially from a moral point of view, and accordingly, causes the somewhat ambiguous stance the Dutch have towards hierarchy and status.” As always, manners differ between groups. Asking about basic rules will not be considered impolite. “What may strike you as being blatantly blunt topics and comments are no more embarrassing or unusual to the Dutch than discussing the weather.”[22