Because the Dutch don't mind looking at their homes


(CNN) – For many visitors to the Netherlands, one of the great discoveries when wandering the streets of Amsterdam or other cities is that you can take a look at people's homes when it gets dark.

This is due to the fact that many Dutch people never close their curtains. Often, people don't even have curtains or blinds.

At a time when coronavirus restrictions are restricting people around the world to their homes – with only one window to contact the outside world – this national quirk seems even more interesting.

The Dutch themselves do not consider it unusual. It is so intertwined with their culture that researchers have struggled to understand exactly why people in the Netherlands are so interested in their private lives.

Those looking for an explanation for this rather strange exhibition mode are quickly embroiled in major sociological conflicts.

Is it a "I have-nothing-to-hide" mentality or a "look-what-I-have" mentality? Or both?

The most popular explanation stems from the Protestant religious tradition of Calvinism, which insists that honest citizens have nothing to hide.

Closing the curtains could indicate otherwise. And letting people take a look inside them informs them: Look, I'm a decent person!

The desire to show possession could also be an explanation.

As living standards increase over time, materials and interiors have become more luxurious and luxurious. And even now people want to show off custom open kitchens, designer sofas or the latest flat screen TVs.

Some city guides explain honesty as a way of doing business in the old days. People leave the curtains open to highlight a room full of the best furniture, decorations and art as a way to prove to traders that they were reliable.

Others say it is a tradition dating back to the 1950s and has already begun to change.

Open culture

Windows helps promote the open culture that the Dutch are known for.

Windows helps promote the open culture that the Dutch are known for.

Dean Moutaropoulos / Getty Images

Anthropologists Hilje van der Horst and Jantine Messing investigated the phenomenon in 2006 and observed that people in close quarters were more likely to leave their curtain open – and more likely to decorate their windows with statues, vases and (fake) flowers.

Another reason, of course, is the desire of residents to see the world go by. It is fair to say that Dutch people usually prefer to look outside and see the lights, the noise of the streets and the people walking.

The interaction between internal and external contributes to the promotion of the open culture for which the Dutch are known.

As a Dutch citizen, I grew up in homes without curtains.

And when I moved, I didn't use them for the first 10 years. I have them now because I have a bigger house and they bother me less.

My mother, Astrid (interviewed below) still has no curtains, which is common in De Jordaan, Amsterdam's most refined working class area where I grew up and still lives.

Here, four Dutch residents without curtains tell CNN Travel why they still like to peek and peek through the stars.

Astrid Brokke, 68, lives on the first floor

Dutch windows astrid brokke2-1

Astrid Brokke: The curtains are very urban.

Katja Brokke

When I moved here in 1987 I tried curtains, but I found them drowning and removed them. My road is quite narrow, but until 10 years ago I had no neighbors across the street. Only a garage in a low building and a company building in the background. So there was no need. Besides, I don't like them.

Ten years ago they started building apartments just across the street and I had to get used to closing neighbors, about 10 meters from window to window. It soon became clear that my closest neighbors had shutters that closed day and night, so the need to have something in front of my windows was not very urgent.

Why I don't like curtains, I'm not sure. I hadn't singled them out for a while in the '80s. Maybe I don't like the urban side. Maybe because I'm too lazy to do anything about it, but I don't care.

Until a year ago, I had neighbors next to me who were real Jordanesen [original residents from the the Jordaan]. They lived on the ground floor and liked to show off all their knitwear, porcelain figurines and comfortable lights. Especially during the holidays their house was full of colorful fairies and other Christmas decorations. Even drivers with groups of tourists stopped to take a look.

Many of De Jordaan's original inhabitants like to display their interior. Unfortunately, most of them have died or been forced to relocate due to rental and housing prices.

As there has been an increase in foreign – mostly expatriates – more and more curtains are closing. Also, young people tend to want more privacy. Unfortunately, the opening is disappearing. the street lights coming from the living rooms, the social control that accompanies it gezelligheid [a Dutch concept meaning conviviality, coziness or fun]. It gets darker and darker every year.

Jan Willem van Hofwegen, 41, lives on the third floor

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Jan Willem van Hofwegen: The curtains are very clogged.

Michel Schnater

For the past five years I've been living in this house, on the third floor – so high – and I've always believed that people couldn't look in my living room in front of the street and the apartments across the street. From the opposite side it is very far and from the road it is very high. I thought.

Then I was buying groceries across the street and my partner turned on the lights. I looked and realized that people who were passing by could see everything happening.

I didn't know that, but it wouldn't make me use blinds or curtains. I never have, mainly for aesthetic reasons. I don't like blinds and they are not practical since my windows open inwards. Curtains I find a little clogged and do not match my modern interior.

"I don't mind being seen by the neighbors in my living room, it's far enough away and I've never seen anyone with binoculars hiding outside my house, so I don't care. "

Jan Willem van Hofwegen

In addition to aesthetics and abundance, I like to see outside lights when it's dark. I don't mind being seen by the neighbors in my living room. It's far enough away and I've never seen anyone with binoculars hiding outside my house, so I don't care.

I think a lot of Dutch people don't use curtains because we like light and have nothing to hide.

When I was a kid I used to give mail as a secondary job and during my changes I could watch popular TV shows driving my bike from house to house. I like to peek into people's homes at night, especially in the homes of the canals in Amsterdam with its beautiful ceilings, paintings and closets. I don't look at anything, I just look inside as I walk.

Marianna Beets, 51, lives on the ground floor

Marianna Beets-1

Marianna Beets: Most of the time people smile and go back.

Powder beets

I have lived here for over 25 years, but only for the last 13 years have I had nothing to cover my windows.

Thirteen years ago I demolished my old house and built what I live in now. Buying curtains was on my to-do list, like hundreds of other things, and obviously the curtain side wasn't as urgent as I've even revealed windows in the living room.

The room is located right on a street and a canal in Edam, a tourist fishing village next to Volendam, where I am originally from.

There are always people walking. Sometimes they stop and stare. When I wave, they are ashamed, they immediately know what they did, but most of the time they smile and wave back. I do not mind.

I like to see tourists and the interaction. I think otherwise I would feel isolated and so I am always in touch with the outside world. It is an extension of my home. Of gezellig.

"I have no problem walking home alone in my shirt and underwear."

Marianna beets

I understand why people peek inside me, I like it too. The interiors of others inspire me and the best time to do it is at night when it is dark and the lights are on.

When I lived in Amsterdam I had neighbors who did not know the possibility of seeing them because they lived on the fifth floor, but I saw things that did not belong to my eyes!

I have no problem walking into the house with only my shirt and underwear on. Only on Sunday morning, during the Sunday Mass in the church opposite the canal, do I make sure I am more covered.

In the end I definitely want curtains. It's on my list again now I have more time because of the crown. Why; Because I want to have a choice. To close or keep them open.

Natasja Wielandt, 34, lives on the second floor

Natasja Wielandt-1

Natasja Wielandt: I don't want to rule out this projection with a curtain or blinds.

Fay van den Bos

In December 2016, I moved from the city center of Amsterdam to IJburg, a relatively new suburban area with plenty of space and nature around.

My house is located next to a large lake called IJmeer, so the view from the front of the house is amazing. One side of the house borders me with many paths and the other with a courtyard and some apartment complexes, but not close.

I have a panoramic view of the water and the beach of the city and I don't want to block it with a curtain or blinds. Day or night.

The view during the sunset is amazing and I feel very happy to wake up and walk into the living room with my coffee and look outside. It creates a feeling of calm and freedom and with the life of the city going on outside it gives that feeling of the city that I need.

I can't imagine living alone in a meadow. I like the spaciousness and the water in particular. The view is a very important part of the reason I live here.

To create some privacy, I put my couch in a way that I can relax and lie down without people noticing.

In my grandparents' house the curtains were always open. I don't think I care about people looking inside. Their generation was more open and social. Everyone was always welcome.

I myself look at people's homes only when I see something that I like or that inspires me, such as a beautifully furnished room or a beautiful garden. I don't have to watch people eat or sit on the couch watching TV.