Why don’t Dutch people close their curtains?

When I was living in The Netherlands, I was intrigued by one minor aspect of Dutch living. Why don’t Dutch people close their curtains?

I am not alone in wondering what’s going on here. After some Google searching, it looks like others have tried to explain this habit.

While obviously we can’t generalise about everybody, there are certainly many people who love the open-window look. The living rooms of many houses and apartment are often left open for all the world to see, and this can seem pretty strange to some foreign visitors.

When I walk past, a flickering TV might catch my eye, or a cat grooming on a windowsill, or a room full people eating dinner together. Meanwhile, here in Australia, when the lights go down the curtains are well and truly closed.

So why exactly are the Dutch so open with their lounge rooms?

Landscape art Amsterdam nine streets amsterdam buildings at sunset
The Nine Streets ‘Negen Straatjes’ in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam

Why do the Dutch keep their curtains open?

To address the question, there are two main theories which Dutch historian Anton Van Hooff described in the 1991 edition of Dutch newspaper NRC.

Being open about your private lives

The first idea is that the Dutch are might be proving that they have nothing to hide, and that the private world of a person should be just as presentable as their public image. This concept probably goes back hundreds of years to the Calvinist mentality.

Bragging about your home and your possessions

Van Hooff also speculates that it may be a form of bragging about the presentation of your home, and the stuff you own!

Forming a sense of community

Another reason why the curtains stay open could be to foster a sense of community, according to a 2006 study by Hilje Van Der Horst and Jantine Messing. They concluded that the friendlier a neighbourhood is with each other, the more likely they are to keep their lounge window open to see. Dutch windowsills are often decorated with collections of small toys or bottles, on display for the public to enjoy.

Proving there’s no funny business going on?

There are some other wilder theories, too. One myth goes that when many Dutch sailors were at sea during their hayday of international trade, the women of The Netherlands kept their curtains open to prove that no ‘cheekiness’ was afoot.

Just admiring the view outside

Of course, leaving the curtains open might be more for the residents’ desire to look out of their windows, and see what’s happening outside. Many Dutch cities are very beautiful, and older parts of town may offer views of canals, cathedrals, architecture and people-watching. After all, isn’t that what windows are for?

But still many questions remain!

What if it’s really hot, and you need shade? Do Dutch people care if tourists glance inside? Does having curtains open invite break-ins or theft? Don’t curtains make a room feel cozy at night?

***

I’m still not convinced. I love curtains, and closing them when the sun goes down helps me feel like I’m creating my own little cozy private bubble. One of the best things I like about curtains is having flexibility: you can choose to close them, or keep them open as well!

Do you live in The Netherlands, and do you keep your curtains closed or open? Let me know in the comments below!


8 thoughts on “Why don’t Dutch people close their curtains?

  1. Hi there, you have a fabulous travel blog! I thoroughly enjoy the combination of your beautiful, dreamy sketches and interesting cultural observations, thank you! I am definitely a curtains-closed-type-girl. Holland is a fantastic country and I really enjoyed these insights! Cheers

  2. ha, ha, true…we Dutch feel we have nothing to hide…look as much as you like. Although I live in the UK…I do not have curtains in living room..I do in Bedrooms!!

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