A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Have you ever found yourself unconsciously peeking through the windows of random houses you pass by? Have you found it bizarre that here many houses keep their curtains so… open? Have you even been fascinated by some really cool window displays that in fact belong to residential houses? Well, welcome to the Netherlands.
If there’s a check-list of how Dutch you are then the thing about curtains that are never closed and windows that are so “transparent” definitely makes the list. After more than 6 months living here I still remember the one song they played during Orientation Week that goes something like Dutch people never keep their curtains down (would really appreciate if someone could find the link to the song!). Now that I’ve moved to an apartment in the ground floor I feel like I have truly had the taste of living a Dutch life. Not long ago I had quite an interesting “window incident.” One day I was doing my morning skincare routine, still wearing my shower cap (because well, long hair), and all of a sudden I looked up to see a guy passing by, staring at me and obviously laughing at (or to?) me. It was super embarrassing, of course, but also hilarious. Definitely something that I will remember about living in the Netherlands.
There are surprisingly a number of theories regarding this particular habit of the Dutch, but I’m leaning more towards the simple explanation that here sunshine is scarce and thus Dutch people would try to get as much light as possible into their houses. Indeed, if you live in a place where it’s rainy and gloomy for like 5 days a week then you would not want to keep your curtains closed all the time. And who cares if strangers know what happens inside the house 😛
But putting that aside, I find it quite entertaining to take a random stroll around the residential streets of Leiden and… look at windows. You will be surprised by the amount of efforts they put into decorating their window displays. What is even more interesting is that all the ornaments are facing you, the outsider, rather than those who live in the house. So it’s clearly displayed in a way for us to see, which is a very fascinating cultural difference that I have experienced.
And don’t forget the window cats! They are everywhere in Leiden 🙂