Why Eurostar symbolises a hidden dimension of the Dutch appetite for English

Why Eurostar symbolises a hidden dimension of the Dutch appetite for English

So I was planning to tell you all about the new Eurostar service to Amsterdam. But since it’s not going underway until near enough 2017, let me couch the subject into a rant about the English language skills of the Dutch.

When you visit Amsterdam as an English person, you will be astonished at the ease with which every local person you meet speaks your language. Unlike the French who use tourists to practice their English, the Dutch are way more relaxed. It is as if we’re all trying to convey to tourists that English really is our second language. In reality, most Dutch simply happen to be pretty good at English because so much of our  tv and music industry is in English.


There’s not much more to it than that. Or is there? If you walk around in Amsterdam and soak up the history of the Dutch nation, you will notice there once was a considerable rivalry with the English during the time at which the Amsterdam elite invented capitalism in the 17th Century. The Dutch competed with the English in bringing home merchandise from far away that sold for extortionate sums. In the colonial period that followed, both the Dutch and the English continued this rivalry. But the Dutch didn’t bother to share their Dutch language with the populations of colonialised countries, whereas the English spread their language the world over. With the result that English now is a world language.

It’s this, in my opinion, that partly feeds the Dutch appetite for speaking English so enthusiastically. We’ve missed out on making our mark, and now pretend with all our might to sound as natural as possible in speaking the language that did.  

Perhaps the Dutch will not like me for pointing this out, but I think tourists should know because it affects them. Far be it from me to start a paranoid frenzy, but take the example of an open letter by a Dutch politician in the Financial Times last February. Toine Manders, a member of the European parliament for the Dutch VVD party (very similar to the Conservative Party) invited British companies to move operations to the Netherlands, where they’ll be able to enjoy a ‘stable political future instead of uncertainty’. Nobody paid much attention to the letter and I too was going to ignore it, until I read the last line; ‘The Netherlands provides a stable business climate [blah, blah] and friendly, English-speaking people.’

‘And friendly, English-speaking people’!!

I believe my conspiracy theory is confirmed.

Laugh if you will, but who’s not to say that we have reached a moment in history where all this English speaking has reached a pay off point?

And the recent announcement by Eurostar that it will offer a non-stop service between Amsterdam Central Station and London St Pancras as of December 2016 could be another sign. The Eurostar service will utilise brand new e320 trains, which are fully compatible with Dutch high-speed signalling systems, so the press release details.

Bet you these understand and speak English better than Thomas the Tank Engine does, mark my words (pun intended).