Welcome To The Netherlands…But Only If You Speak Dutch!

So you have been hired by a country’s tourism agency to promote their country abroad and make it easier for tourists to find their way around your beautiful country, find out what’s going on and where to stay. What brain wave do you come up with? I know…a website, listing all these cool things so that tourists can peruse the site in their own free time, add items to their favourites list, get the links to the attractions that they want to visit, and to make it even easier for them, we’ll have the website written ONLY in the language of the country they are visiting.

Yes indeed folks, those Crazshy Dutch have done it again. Their tourist board – the VVV – have come up with a brain wave to have the tourist website ONLY in Dutch!! Because, as every proud Dutchman will tell you, Dutch is the universal language nowadays, didn’t anyone tell you that before?

When I mentioned this fact to my Dutch colleagues, they looked at me incredulously, shaking their heads and repeatedly saying “Noooooo!” in slow, amazed tones. One even went so far as to tell me “But dat’s sho stupid, eh?!“, to which I replied that there must be some logic for doing it which escapes us both.

I discovered this quite by accident when some friends contacted me for help. I had known of the fact that some local attractions websites were only done in Dutch, and I figured that because they were privately owned entities, they probably could not afford, or envisage the need, to have their website translated. Fair enough. But when I was asked to help with the VVV website, I was shocked.

In stark contrast, Ireland has built a sizeable chunk of her economy on the back of tourism. Every Summer, the countryside is littered with German and Dutch tourists in their caravans, bus loads of Americans tracing back their family tree, and young backpackers from UK and Oz discovery the splendours of the night-life the country has to offer. And as a direct result of the amount of euro’s it generates for the economy, Bord Fáilte was tasked with finding the best ways of marketing the country to the wider world audience. They soon turned to the internet, and Discover Ireland‘s website is probably one of the best ones out there today. The VVV‘s website is a poor version in comparison.

This “Dutch Only” concept is prevalent across the myriad other local websites one can find when searching for tourist attractions. When herself and I tried to look for some castles to visit one weekend, we were confronted with site after site in Dutch…with nary an English word to be found. For example the sites for Ammersoyen, Montfoort, Amerongen and Sypesteyn castles are all in Dutch….not a single translation to be found.

You would think that the VVV would mandate that their own website be available in English, French and German alternatives, with perhaps Italian and Spanish thrown in for good measure. And you would think that they would offer advice to tourist attractions to have their sites in a foreign language version also. But sadly, this logic has escaped the Dutch tourist board. The only exceptions I have come across are for those sites related to the large cities….Amsterdam, Rotterdam, to name two. In fact, the default language for the Amsterdam site, seems to be English.

Now given my propensity to observe the growing xenophobia across the Netherlands, one would have imagined that, whilst the Dutch are not overly enamoured to have fellow Europeans living, working and paying 52% income tax here (that’s certainly the case of late towards hard-working Polish, Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants living here), one would have thought that they’d at least be welcoming to foreigners on the pretence that they knew they were fucking off home after two or three weeks. Sadly, if their “Dutch Only” tourism websites are anything to go by, that’s indeed not the case at all.

Honey…..where did I put that dictionary??

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