Greg Shapiro ‘How to Be Dutch’ at NBTC Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions
3 June, 2021
I remember when the NBTC was simply called the NBOT ‘Netherlands Board of Tourism.’ (That’s when I did my first events for them back in the 2000’s.) These days, it’s the ‘Netherlands Board of Tourism AND CONVENTIONS.’ Which is handy, because – during a pandemic – tourism you can’t do easily online. But conventions, yes!
As the Corona rules loosen, it’s time to ask: What is the future of conventions and events? Back to Live and In-Person? More online? A bit of both? Will conventions and events ever be the same? The NBTC organized an online event in early June. As it happened, it was right before Step 3 of Loosening the Dutch Corona restrictions. So, if they had rescheduled by a few days, then they could have had up to 50 people in a live audience. !
The fact they did NOT reschedule perhaps proves their point: the role of online and hybrid events is here to stay.
As it happened, I was glad they went with the online setup. The stage was inspired by the TV show Even Tot Hier, with the audience projected onto an enormous back wall. So yes, I could see the audience on two big monitors under the livestream camera. And also the audience could see themselves behind me. Okay, maybe it’s not a great recipe for laughs – being able to see yourself and get self-conscious every time you laugh. But I got laughs anyway!
I was asked to give a reading from my book The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales. It’s a module I like to call ‘Culture Shock Therapy.’ And we had a ‘bubble’ set – everyone on set had to have a negative Covid test. And between the speakers and the crew, there were just enough live bodies to be able to play to audible laughs.
Thanks to Host Sophie Hoytema for recommending me for the gig. Thanks to Producer Paul Gruijthuijsen for making us look great. Thanks to the location CitySense in Utrecht. And thanks to NBTC’s Eric Bakermans for having me – and for making the photos of my performance!
First came the US elections in November 2020. Then came Trump claiming the entire election was fake – and leaving the White House anyway. Next up came the Dutch national elections in March, 2021. De Tweede Kamer Verkiezingen. And my friends at Dutch NPO Radio1 asked me to do a CNN-style report from the polling stations in the Netherlands. In Dutch! Ik zei JA.
First, I reported that there was no evidence of long lines, no people of color being forced to wait hours before they could come near a voting booth. And there were no claims of voter fraud – except for one very thin-skinned politician named Thierry. But it turns out that all you have to do is look Thierry in the face and call him a racist, and then he runs away out of the studio. Just ask Martijn Koning. (Radio 1 cut that part.)
The only irregularity in the voting for the Dutch Tweede Kamer was a certain fellow named Hugo, who tried to vote – without a valid passport! And he happens to have been the Health Minister. (Well, technically the deposed Health Minister.) He apologized for his mistake, and he drove back home to get his proper ID – only to find out he also had an expired driving license. After Finally, he returned with his passport. His vaccine passport. For his dog.
He would have been able to do all of this online, but it seems his Corona app was again not working properly. And again, the health minister’s name? Hugo. Hugo de ‘Sjonge Jonge Jonge.’
More CNN news from the Netherlands, as it breaks!
CNN Breaking News! Proving that news in the US is broken.
[Anytime Radio1 needs American-style reporting – in het Nederlands – I will be there.] [Sometimes I call in for a live chat. But this time I made a recording from my home studio.]
If you’ve spent any time on Instagram in the year 2020, you’re probably aware of the American Seth Phillips – aka ‘Dude with Sign.’ I’ve been inspired by his work. And – as an artist – that’s my way of saying I’m stealing his idea.
In March 2021, I did a series of ‘Dutch Dude with Sign’ poses to encourage the Dutch English-speaking community to get more involved with the Dutch elections. But now I’m picking up where I left off – nu helemaal in het Nederlands.
Reduce Cardboard Use. He said, in front of a mountain of overflowing cardboard. (foto: Jonathan Groubert)
Nieuw van Ikea: Kabinet ‘Rüttevir’ (geen garantie). Komt er ooit een nieuwe kabinet? Wordt het Rutte IV? Geen garantie. En zo ja, dan zelfs geen garantie dat die 4 jaar duurt. (foto: Imre Shapiro)
Geïnspireerd door graffiti op mijn vuilnis container: “BEN JIJ EEN SLAAF?” “Nou, ben jij een WAPPIE?” (foto: Imre Shapiro)
Formatie Proces: 0%.
Disinformatie Proces: 100%
(foto: Imre Shapiro)
Vaccines used to hurt more when Bill Gates injected a whole floppy disc.
(thank you Shlibber for the inspiration.)
(foto: Inez de Goede)
ACCESS MAGAZINE REVIEWS GREG SHAPIRO’S THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 YEARS OF EXPAT TALES
HOW DUTCH ARE YOU?
by Giulia Quaresima (ACCESS magazine, April 2021)
Greg Shapiro’s The American Netherlander, with its sense of humour and sharp eye for detail, is a good starting point to understanding life as an international in the Netherlands. The author is an American comedian, a member of comedy group Boom Chicago, presenter of Comedy Central News, and author of two books now collected together in The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales. This book tells the story of Shapiro’s personal cultural adventure and assimilation in the Netherlands, from when he first arrived 25 years ago and stayed for love. It is not a scientific guide, but a manual to understand and familiarise yourself with the country, using the author’s personal anecdotes for a subjective and hilarious point of view.
Shapiro tackles Dutch common sense, a pragmatic approach to problem solving, openness and tolerance, multiculturalism, politics, education, and even customer service. While his personal experiences really bring out the humour and irony, he also shows understanding. For instance, the renowned ‘Dutch directness’ is really brutal honesty that isn’t intended to hurt feelings.
Shapiro uses paradoxes and oxymorons in Dutch culture: How can Dutch identity be so independent-minded, yet also so obsessed with consensus? How can Dutch identity be so liberal and open, yet also so Calvinistic and conformist? How can Dutch identity be so proud, but then be so quiet about it? “Dutch police won’t stop you for having an un-helmeted ba by strapped to the front of your bike, like a human shield. In fact, Dutch police won’t stop you if there is a kid on the handlebars, one on the crossbar, two on the back rack, and another one standing on top of those for a playdate. But if they’d been riding at night without a light? That’s a fine of €50.”
The second part of the book is a Dutch assimilation test, a collection of all the questions that should be included in the inburgering exams. According to Shapiro, these reveal more than the exam ever intended.
Give it a try and see how Dutch you are!
“Hi! My name is Greg Shapiro, or you can call me Gregory. Or – in Dutch – ‘Krek.’ That’s my name in Dutch: Krek Tja-piero.’ Prime example of Culture Shock: When you move to a different country and realize ‘Wow – I’ve been pronouncing my name wrong my whole life.'”
There are plenty examples of Culture Shock in the Netherlands. Like having a Dutchman introduce himself and say “Hello, my name is Freek. I am Freek, and this is my colleague Tjerk.” But if you can keep a sense of humor about it, you experience Culture Shock THERAPY: when you realize that cultural differences can be hilarious.
“I am a bit of both: a bit LOUD AMERICAN and a bit ‘Doe Normaal‘ Nederlander. And yes I am tweetaliggggg. But I don’t like to speak Dutch, because it makes my mouth feel sad. What is it about Dutch people and their Harde G? It makes you sound like angry, choking zombie people. Like that TV show The Walking Dead. Or – since it’s the Netherlands – it’s more like The BIKING Dead.”
And here’s another example of Culture Shock Therapy. As soon as I started learning Dutch, I realized “Oh, you don’t need to yell the whole time.”
“Other cultures might say things like ‘Wow, you look good! Have you lost weight?’ Dutch people will say ‘Wow, you used to be so fat!'”
Dutch people are known for being DIRECT. Which is an indirect way of saying RUDE. If Americans have a reputation for being politely indirect, and the British have a reputation for being politely indecipherable, Dutch people pride themselves on being brutally honest – sometimes at the expense of politeness, or tact, or respect for human dignity. But at least you know where you stand. And HOW you stand – which is much shorter, once their comments cut you off at the knees.
Greg Shapiro (Zondag Met Lubach, Boom Chicago, Comedy Central) is The American Netherlander. He has performed his masterclass in Dutch Culture Shock Therapy for heads of state, the King of the Netherlands and once for the Business Class section of a KLM 747 to Chicago.
Greg Shapiro on ‘Weet Ik Veel’ with ‘How to Be Orange’
Last fall, I got a call from the Dutch quiz show Weet Ik Veel. They wanted to use a clip from the ‘How to Be Orange’ standup special I made for VARA in 2013. The episode aired in 2021. Beau van Erven Dorens was there, talking about Dutch terms that don’t translate well into English.
And that’s when they played my video.
We start off with a company called HILARIUS ASPHALT.
Then there’s a health drink that’s pronounced AIDS.
There’s the product (or service?) called BABY DUMP.
And the revenge of the dumped baby, which is a Nutricia ad featuring the phrase MAMA DIE! DIE! DIE!
But the moment they really wanted on Weet Ik Veel was the shampoo for removing tangles in your hair. It’s called ANTI-KLIT.
Watch and enjoy what I call ‘CULTURE SHOCK THERAPY.’
Lockdown cardboard is overflowing on the streets of Amsterdam! Ever wonder what would happen if an entire city would start working from home, ordering everything online and then dumping their used cardboard boxes all at once? Welcome to Pandemic 2021.
In Amsterdam, the annual Garbage Collection fee went up by a huge amount this year. But the pace of garbage collection hasn’t noticeably increased. One thing that HAS increased is the Handhaving / BOA’s and civil servants who give out cash penalties to anyone caught leaving their garbage / recycling outside the underground garbage containers. Never mind that they’re often choked up and overfull! The sign says ‘IF this container is full, it is your responsibility to continue on to the next available one.’
I had one neighbor tell me she went to recycle her cardboard, and she ended up going to 5 different containers before she gave up and put her stuff right next to a container. The next day, she realized she had left her address on one of the pieces of cardboard. How did she realize? Because she had uniformed police at her door to give her a €95 euro fine.
I have a paper recycling container across from my house. While it frequently seems full, often it’s simply jammed. If only I could get the key to that side panel… And then one of my neighbors told me – you can get that key by adopting a garbage container. SO I did it! In January, 2021. I got the key to open the side panel and clear the paper jam, just like a good old copier machine at the office.
Last weekend, there was even an article in Het Parool about the amount of people who are adopting containers. Like me! But now I’ve realized something extra: my key also works on any number of underground containers in my neighborhood. SO when I’m out walking my dog, and we see a paper recycling container that seems to be overflowing… I can check to see if it’s just jammed. In the case of this video, yes it was only jammed. SO I unblocked the jam, I tossed in the excess cardboard, and I saved any number of people from getting a €95 penalty. Including Chygall White, the physical trainer, who ordered from Bol.com. SO now Chygall and I are connected on Linkedin. And maybe next time she’s ordering a book online, she can order mine.
BOOK PRESENTATION GREG SHAPIRO + Great First Review
Presenting Greg Shapiro’s third book, THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales. The first copy was given to reviewer Michael Hasted of ARTS TALK MAGAZINE. Watch as Shapiro gives Hasted approximately 30 seconds to read the book before conducting his interview.
Good news: the interview was good. And the book review was excellent. THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER
One silver lining to the corona cloud has been that it has forced us all to be pragmatic, stoic even, encouraging us to be resourceful and find new ways of doing things. Performers, especially those who depend on live audiences, have had a very hard time. You can’t act in a vacuum, there’s no point in singing alone in your room and you can’t tell jokes to yourself. So, it’s good to have another string to your bow.
The American Netherlander is Amsterdam-based comedian Greg Shapiro’s third book. Put together over the past nine months when gigs were cancelled or greatly restricted, Greg has brought together his two previous books, added a lot of new material and presents us with a memoir of his life in his adopted home, along with a comprehensive guide to living in it. The book is full of apposite observations, canny advice, witty asides and some nice cartoony illustrations. It could well have been titled The Netherlands – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly because, like the Dutch, it does not pull its punches and is proud to tell it like it is, warts and all.
We start off with the back story about how the author first came to The Netherlands twenty-five years ago to work in and help establish the Boom Chicago comedy venue in Amsterdam. He nicely describes the culture shock and disavows numerous stereotypes and preconceptions. He discovers that what he had grown up in the States believing to be Dutch Apple Pie was in fact nothing like the genuine article and that the chunky real thing made his American usurper mere apple pulp fiction. After a while, as he marries and settles down, he loses track of his identity and begins to suffer from MND – Multiple Nationality Disorder.
Greg takes us, chapter by chapter, though the different aspects of Dutch life and how to cope with, sorry, appreciate them. We learn, of course, about sex and drugs and the ubiquitous Coffee Shops. We find out more about bike etiquette and how the Dutch fail to reconcile their desire for personal freedom with the necessity of conforming and keeping a low profile.
But there is a more serious side too with the vexed and contentious issue of Zwarte Piet being covered in some detail along with the problems of immigration.
If you are an expat in The Netherlands, Zwarte Piet will already have raised your eyebrows by an inch or two. If you are elsewhere in the world you will find the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) hard to believe in this day and age when black live really do matter.
The Dutch have Santa Claus with the best of ‘em, or Sinterklaas as they call him, but that’s of no matter. The difference is that while most Santas are content to have a horde of helpful elves and reindeer as acolytes, old Sinterklaas rides a white horse and has a swarm of black helpers dressed up in gold and red velvet. Piet is a sort of black Robin to Sinter’s bearded Batman. These kids are unashamedly blacked- up à la Al Jolson and parade around with their sacks dispensing candy to the children – but politically correct they certainly are not. Greg examines the question in some detail and is able to see the Dutch point of view. This year the big parades of 5th December were cancelled and it seems the Dutch might surreptitiously use that as an opportunity to phase out Black Pete. Some have started calling him Sooty Pete instead . . .
Serious though it is, the subject is treated in an easy going, unpreachy, unjudgemental manner by Greg and he gives us an insight as to how the phenomenon was considered normal and acceptable and how it might continue and/or change.
The last section of the book re-utilises Greg’s previous book How To Be Dutch: The Quiz. This is both funny and informative. Questions are posed and you have to select one out of three possible answers. The correct answer is given and an explanation of why it is. Again, this is broken down into sections like bikes, health care, politics and . . . err . . Zwarte Piet.
There is even a Oh, I never knew that section which lists, in rhyming couplets, things we never knew were Dutch, like half the place names in New York City, LED lights, multinationals Philips and Shell, the microscope, the discoverers and namers of New Zealand etc etc.
To round it all off there are pages of photos of shop signs taken by Greg over the years, showing how Dutch can produce names and words that we English speakers find amusing, For example a hairdresser called Down Under Hair or the Bad Hotel or the Dutch senator called Tiny Kox. You’ve gotta love ‘em.
The American Netherlander provides us with lots of information about the Dutch persona and way of life and is the result of, not only, Greg’s personal experiences and insights but a lot of thorough research as well – oh, and the laughs, don’t forget the laughs.
This book works on the level of allowing other expats to smugly sit back with a knowing smile on their faces but also as a guide book exploring the mores of a tiny nation that has contributed more to civilisation and to its fund of knowledge over the past five centuries than most people are aware of or care to acknowledge.
Nicely laid out with lots of cartoons on classy coated paper Greg Shapiro’s The American Netherlander is recommended on all levels. Michael Hasted 8th December 2020
FOR ONLINE REVIEW & INTERVIEW, GO TO ARTSTALK MAGAZINE:
REVIEW 1: ARTS TALK MAGAZINE – ‘RECOMMENDED ON ALL LEVELS’
‘The book is full of apposite observations, canny advice, witty asides and some nice cartoony illustrations. It could well have been titled The Netherlands – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly because, like the Dutch, it does not pull its punches and is proud to tell it like it is, warts and all.’
REVIEW 2: DUTCHNEWS.nl – ‘PLENTY OF ENTERTAINMENT HERE… BUY THIS BOOK’
REVIEW 3: IAMEXPAT.nl – ‘SO FUNNY, YOU’LL HARDLY BE ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN!’
‘Written with a wry sense of humour and an eye for detail and the ludicrous, he manages to paint a picture of a nation that is part cartoon, part realism. At each turn of the page, you find yourself both laughing about and appreciating the Dutch.
And then, once you have seen the Dutch through Greg Shapiro’s eyes, you are treated to that very special aspect of deciding to live in the country; the Dutch Assimilation Test – which even the Dutch themselves have been known to score notoriously badly on.’
REVIEW 4: HEBBAN.nl – FOUR STARS (out of 5)
‘After all these years, his assimilation with Dutch society, language and culture is still clumsy and messy, which leads to hilarious situations that Greg is only too happy to entrust to paper.’