My friends have been curious about Dutch television. I think some believe that we have little wooden shoes dancing at the bottom of the screen and there are hourly updates on the making of cheese. Or at midnight we have a live feed of a windmill turning for 7 hours. Nothing could be further from the truth. You cannot escape American culture if you wanted to.

The great news is that in the Netherlands nothing is dubbed on TV and in film, except shows for young children. Other than that, all shows have Dutch subtitles. That means that we can enjoy a film or movie with the actual actors talking. You can watch THE GOOD WIFE, GLEE or CSI as if you were in America, and you would have Dutch words at the bottom of the screen. As an example, to show you how wonderful the Netherlands is, all American shows and movies on German TV is dubbed. I could only take seconds of seeing Tom Hanks talk in another voice.

There are numerous American shows on television, and they usually air a few weeks after the American airing. There are also many reruns, like the rerun king, LAW AND ORDER.  In the day time they also play American commercials that I had thought I had left behind. Those exciting infomercials that sell you wonder bras, paint brushes, exercise machines and grills. The Dutch import American  shows as it is cheaper than producing the shows in the Netherlands. In fact, there are not that many original Dutch shows on TV. There are only a few Dutch dramas and a few comedies. From what I can see, there is one Dutch soap opera that airs at night and no daytime dramas. For those wanting those dramas, there are American soaps. The big thing that Dutch television produces are competition shows for singing and dancing and a few game shows. There are many Dutch documentaries and reality based shows too (like home building). And there is the news. The Dutch love the news. Not only do they watch the news, they love sitting around a table and talking about the news. For a dinkie country, they have a lot of news. To be fair, the coverage is very global. The Dutch do a great job of giving us in depth stories from other countries.

Sports is very big in this country, there is even a 24 hour channel for sports. There is also a 24 hour channel dedicated to classical music, religion (with lots of American preachers), and opera. Yes, in my basic cable package, we have 24 hours of opera. There are many children’s programs and those are almost all imported. I am profoundly grateful for the two BBC channels as they have wonderful programs and I get to hear the English language with no words under their chins.

Late night TV is pretty interesting. I recently discovered this when I was sick and having trouble sleeping and was hoping to find something to either entertain me or put me to sleep. I found many stations that offered phone sex. And all of the “sales” personnel were topless and talking right to the camera or pretending to be on the phone. It was not so much shocking, but just sad and disgusting. I couldn’t wait to find CNN, BBC or Turner Classic Movies. At that point, I would have watched an infomercial on a thigh reducing torture device.

For someone who has still not grasped the Dutch language, it is a challenge to watch some Dutch shows. On the other hand, I am picking up on familiar words and that has been helpful. For such a small country (17 million people), there are many dialects and accents. Someone from Amsterdam sounds very different than someone from Rotterdam. The Dutch can hear it right away and can figure out what part of the country they are from.  But for me, it sounds like some people have bigger hair balls than others. Imagine putting four Americans in one room: one from Texas, Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois. They all sound very different and that is the same here too. So when I watch the Dutch news or a reality show, I can hear how different the Dutch speak. I have no idea where they are from, but I now know that the Dutch don’t all sound the same. And I would not have known that if it weren’t for television.

All in all, moving away from America could have been a lot worse. But my transition has been made easier because of television.  And if I cannot find something on the TV, then I can turn to the Internet. The good news is that American television is alive and well in the Netherlands.

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  • Jane Dutton  On July 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    hello jane

    its jelmer I love your blog its not to hard to read
    and its funny (as you) I love the length part of your blog.
    Its to good for words. But that is wat I say maybe some people
    dont say it but its a very good blog I cant do it better than you.
    So as I say it short.
    I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Loree Griffin Burns  On July 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    “But for me, it sounds like some people have bigger hair balls than others.”

    That is a classic Jane-ism.


  • aledysver  On July 19, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Dutch television – hmmmmm – thank God for subtitles and their allergy to dubbing – that has made the Dutch good at foreign languages. I am not keen on Dutch shows – I can say that I have liked the one show, long time ago, called Wie is de mol – with celebs travelling around a far away country, solving riddles or taking part in challenges to earn money and discovering the mole in the group. Apart from that, I can’t say I watch Duch regular tv. I do watch a lot of documentaries on “Geschiedenis 24” “NostalgieNet” and some local channels where you can see news or interesting documentaries about places in NL or events.
    A couple of years ago there was this soap, called Julia’s Tango, which was shot in Buenos Aires, in Argentina. The story was not very interesting and the acting not really great, but I loved seeing Buenos Aires and some Argentinean actors on a Dutch soap!

  • Alyson Stone  On October 28, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Jane, Trisha told me you had left your position at the Holden Library and moved to the Netherlands — I am glad I checked in with your blog, because it is hilarious and I can’t wait to read it all! I hope you are well and happy. You are missed here in Massachusetts.

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