Going Dutch

“Going Dutch”: a phrase which is most commonly associated with splitting the bill when going out to dinner.

Personally, I find that this is one of those phrases which we all use, and don’t really think about why we use it. I have merrily used these two simple words for many years – and yet it is only recently that it occurred to me to question where such a notion comes from.

Johan Barthold Jongkind Windmills in Rotterdam, 1857. Oil on canvas, 42.5 x 55 cm.  Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Johan Barthold Jongkind
Windmills in Rotterdam, 1857.
Oil on canvas, 42.5 x 55 cm.
Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Before I started doing some research into this, I have to admit that I did spend more time than I probably should have trying to puzzle this scenario out. I did, however, cross out the possibility that it originally meant going to eat Edam at a windmill, with a dress code of clogs and pearl earrings.

In subsequent research, I found out that there are a couple of different theories, but (obviously) no certain conclusions. One of the theories is that “Going Dutch” stems from a Dutch door (a door of two parts, i.e. a stable door), another suggestion that sounds plausible is that it is related to the not uncommon practice in the Netherlands for people to pay separately when going out together. Why this is particularly Dutch I do not know though. And finally, for a bit of controversy to kick-start the day, there is one theory floating around that it goes back to the 17th century; that time when relations between the Brits and the Dutch were quite strained. We don’t hear about it so much now, our main recollection is that we hate the French (but not many people will be able to tell you why – unless of course, it’s Jeremy Clarkson), but the story goes that there was some serious rivalry going on between these two countries. Think about it – where does the phrase “Dutch Courage” come from, if not an insult to the character of our current cronies from the Netherlands?

Jan Toorop The Fisherman (detail), 1904. Oil on canvas on panel, 39.5 x31.7 cm. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Jan Toorop
The Fisherman (detail), 1904.
Oil on canvas on panel, 39.5 x31.7 cm.
Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

In my opinion we should turn this phrase around. For instance, let’s look at some of the Netherlands’ better-known exports (excluding clogs and Edam). Famke Janssen, Doutzen Kroes, Lara Stone, Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Hieronymus Bosch, Van Helsing, Erasmus, Heineken, Corrie Ten Boom, and Anne Frank, to name but a few.  If you ask me, this is not at all a bad contribution: “Going Dutch” sounds like a good option to me!

I invite you to “Go Dutch” and check out the Rijksmuseum Schipol’s current exhibition Typically Dutch. For all things Dutch (and especially art), this is the place to be. Hosted until the 12th July 2013, this is the perfect time of year to have a wander around Amsterdam; however, if you only have a connecting flight, this is the perfect way to kill an hour or two at the airport! For those of you who will not be passing through Amsterdam, why not pre-order a copy of Victoria Charles’ Dutch Painting?

-Fiona Torsch

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