We've committed a predictable number of rookie traveller errors in Holland over the past few days. No surprise there; the interesting part is the reaction of those who encounter us. On at least four occasions, somebody has intervened with a quick fix that solved out problem. Nothing flashy. Just slam, bam, thank you ma'am and we're done.
Item, the bus driver told us out pass wouldn't work on his bus. But then he said--that's all right, it's only four stops, come ahead (the bus was only half full). Item, we picked up the "expensive" plate in the self-service restaurant when the cheaper was all we needed. The server insisted that we dump our food off the expensive plate and onto a cheaper. Item, the guard at the museum door signed his name to the top of the ticket so we could slip out for an otherwise unauthorized lunch break. Item, another guard trotted back to get us a map so we wouldn't have to recross out through security.
Call it kindness, hospitality, blah blah and you're right. But it's more than that: it's simple pragmatism. In each case, our benefactor saw something that would help us at no cost to him (her) and so they went ahead and did it. Once again, we seem to be in a country where people just want to make things work. I'm particularly impressed with the bus driver who obviously did not worry for a moment that he might get in trouble with a supervisor for breaking a bureaucratic rule.
There' also the matter of attitude: others have remarked that the Dutch have a strong streak of egalitarianism, in the sense of "you're no better than I am" (stories about their universally negative response to the seeming pretensions of the Pope are part of the folklore). So the help, when it arrives, is no-nonsense and direct. The server who told us to change planes seemed almost to be scolding us. Of course she wasn't; she was doing us a favor. Translated, the Dutch are not servile. What a relief. Servile gives me the creeps.
In this respect --"you're no better than I am"--I can think of a surprising comparison. Surprising to me anyway: that would be the Israelis. That's another country where, in my experience, you son'r want to show too much attitude, but if you don't, then things will work out pretty well.
Another, related, Israeli/Dutch comparison: the food. No, no, the Israelis don't do cheese, and the Dutch don't do salad for breakfast. But in each place it seems to me that the food is (a) usually better than adequate; and (b) rarely outstanding. Not too much show.
But I do like salad for breakfast.