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An Insight Into the Culture of Media and Technology in Holland

By William Koch

In my last article, I looked at the media and technology in a developing third world country. They are at the beginning of a long process that will take decades. For this article, I decided to look at a region that was more similar to the US. One of my friends recently returned from Holland in the Netherlands, so I thought it would be interesting to get a perspective of the media and technology in a place that was more similar to us, especially one who is knowledgeable about our media.

Ruth Bradt is a senior at Webster University and studied abroad in the town of Leiden. To start out conversation, I just questioned her about the things we use here everyday, like cell phones.


“Everybody has a cell phone, kind of like here,” Ruth replied. “Well, not children. I think that’s something that only happens here. [laughs] But I didn’t see anyone with extravagant phones. No one had a fancy keyboard or a touch screen.”

I was also curious whether the people of Holland spend as much time on their cell phones as we do in America. “Well, on the street, you would see someone occasionally on a cell phone, never as many as here. The people on the phone I saw were usually just having a short conversation. I hardly ever saw anyone just chatting,” she said.

“Did you see any people talking on the phone in the car?” I asked.

“The only cell phones I ever saw in cars were in the taxis, and even then, they were speaker phones activated by a button. They never held anything to their face.” That’s one fact I found interesting, because personally, I can’t imagine not talking on the phone in the car.

Next, I decided to ask Ruth about the Internet in Holland. “Throughout Amsterdam, they had free cyber cafes in several coffee shops,” she mentioned casually.

“Wait, they were free?” I quickly questioned.

“Yeah, but in the smaller towns there might only be one or two places that had Internet access, and you would usually have to pay for those. But an occasional coffee shop would have one free computer.”

“So I guess not many places had wireless Internet available?” I asked.

“No, not many places that I saw,” she replied. “Wireless Internet was not prevalently advertised like it is here in America. Not once did I see a sign that said, ‘free wi-fi’ or the Dutch equivalent. Although, I was told by a Dutch University student that they did have wireless internet on their campus, so it does exist in some places.”

“You didn’t see a lot of people walking around with their laptops I guess?” I asked.

“No, in the coffee shops they had desktop PCs. No one that I saw had laptops, except for the University students. In fact, Universities were the only places I knew of that you could plug in your laptop and get on the Internet. There might have been wi-fi anywhere, but it isn’t a selling point or marketing technique like it is in America.”

I was also curious about the media in Holland. I knew they didn’t censor as much, but I didn’t know how similar it was to our media.

“Media literacy is really left up to the parents, so the TV stations broadcast appropriate shows at appropriate hours, but what was appropriate over there was a lot less strict than here.”

“What exactly do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, late night television over here might be a movie with a few curse words in it, but on basic cable after 9:00 pm where I lived you get the Hustler channel,” Ruth chuckled.

“The Hustler channel?!” I questioned.

“Yeah, x-rated stuff, penetration and everything. However, on a side note, there was multicultural sex, which I admired.” This surprised me slightly, because as everyone knows, nothing even close to that could be aired here, especially on basic cable.

Another thing I was curious about was the news media in Holland. “

“I can’t say much about the newspapers, because my Dutch isn’t great. We had Dutch local news, BBC, CNN, and, of course, MTV.”


“MTV has the best news!” she laughed.

“Holland’s local news resembles the BBC,” she continued. “It is more subjective, and they show what is actually happening, instead of showing us what we should be worrying about.”

“I was also surprised to see a lot of commercials that asked the user to text to get ring tones or other things, like all those commercials on TV here like Jamster. It seemed odd to me because Holland’s cell phone culture is nothing like it is here.”

Another thing I wanted to know was how much of a driving force the Internet is in Dutch culture. “Most of it is the same as it is here,” Ruth added. Commercials would sometimes display their websites, but the websites themselves had less external advertising than here. They were hardly ever advertised by themselves,” Ruth commented.

“I did not, however, encounter any trick pop-ups or anything, and there were much fewer ads. The websites were much more concerned with the cohesive design of their website than the advertising, or that’s what I would speculate. I also rarely saw websites advertised by themselves, they were almost always for an existing business.” This didn’t surprise me, because design from that part of the world is in my opinion, some of the best.

The last thing I was curious about was Holland’s entertainment media. “Well, I passed the movie theaters a lot,” Ruth said. “And actually very few of them were Dutch movies. They were usually imported, either from America or other European countries.”

“One interesting thing I noticed was a 10-foot screen on a building by the train station in town. It was really cool and I’ve never seen anything like that here.”

“What was on the screen?” I asked.

“It was just random video, like the sites of the city, and other moving pictures,” she replied.

“What about TV?” I inquired.

“On cable there were many Dutch shows, but I was surprised at the amount of American shows, such as King of Queens, or South Park. King of Queens was one show I found particularly weird to be aired in Holland. For one, my parents are the only ones who watch that show anyway, and two, it’s about a fighting American couple in Queens, New York, which may be why they find it interesting, but personally, I think it’s [expletive deleted],” Ruth said.

“You seem to be quite adamant about King of Queens,” I said.

“Well, it’s awful,” Ruth replied.

After the interview, it became clear that although on the surface, media and technology in the west seems somewhat consistent from country to country, it can in certain instances be drastically different.