While I attempted to capture some of the week's activities with my daily blog postings, it was difficult to capture the essense of the tour, and the people who I met around the country. As I reflect on the week, there is no doubt that the Dutch people are a very special people with a particular spirit, unlike any other nationality.
While many speak English with an English accent, they are definitely not the English...much less conservative! And while Dutch may sound a bit like German to some ears, (and many of the women are quite tall) they are definitely not the Germans...much more fun loving. (Although many Germans do come to the Netherlands to get their drugs!)
There is a special bond between the Dutch and the Canadians, in large part due to the final events of World War II. But there are also other similarities...we both live beside much more powerful neighbours, and I would like to think we both have a high level of decency.
There are however, many differences. While most of us think of the Netherlands in terms of the old buildings and floating barges lining the canals of Amsterdam, the new financial district of the city is quite outstanding. The Dutch architecture that I saw around the country demonstrates a much greater interest in design than what one finds across Canada. If anything, it is reminiscent of some Scandinavian design...clean and modern. Even the industrial buildings that one passes along the highway demonstrate attention to detail.
The cultural scene is much edgier, as exemplified by some of the posters I saw along the streets.
As noted in some of the blogs, many of the new housing developments are much more adventurous. I was particularly interested in the floating home communities, the willingness to let people do their own thing at Almere, and some fantastic new buildings such as Villa Flora, the headquarters at La Floriade, the major flower show that is held somewhere in the country every ten years.
This building is considered one of the most sustainable in the world...it is like a greenhouse that generates its own energy designed by Kristinsson, one of the country's many talented architectural and engineering firms specializing in 'sustainability' projects.
Sadly, time did not permit a tour of the show that covers many hectares, but it is on over the summer, and if I can, I plan to go back. Based on what I saw, it is fantastic.One of the purposes of the trip was to meet with a group of academics, professionals, and business people interested in establishing a sustainability and innovation network between Canada and the Netherlands. I think this is going to happen, since we both have much to teach each other. In many respects, the Netherlands is ahead of us, with its longstanding tradition of doing more with less, proliferation of bicycles and wonderful trams and trains.. They even have a wonderful system that allows you to check your own bags at the airport (see next posting.) On the other hand, the Dutch admire many things in Vancouver, from the redevelopment of Granville Island, to our EcoDensity initiative.
Over the coming months, I hope to continue writing about many of the things I saw around the country. I also hope that I can help foster some new relationships between Dutch companies that want to do business in Canada, and vise versa. There is much in common between our countries, but there are enough differences to allow some very creative partnerships. If you haven't been to the Netherlands before, or haven't been for some time, go on-line and book a direct flight on KLM. In 9 hours you can begin a most remarkable adventure...and a week is sufficient time to get a real feel for the country. I highly recommend it.