I have no idea what this means but on my quest to understand the Dutch better and understand cultural differences I ran across this saying. I had heard the term Dutch uncle and wanted to know what it meant. In my search of course my brain merrily went to “Well I’ll be a Monkey’s Uncle”, something I’d heard in America over the years. Not knowing they were connected but sounding very similar, I looked up the definition of Monkey’s Uncle. The very first synonym for this phrase is Fuck Me Running, this meaning complete surprise or disbelief.
Well, that I would say about sums it up! According to Wikipedia Dutch uncle is a term for a person who issues frank, harsh, and severe comments and criticism to educate, encourage, or admonish someone. Thus, a "Dutch uncle" is a person who is rather the reverse of what is normally thought of as avuncular or uncle-like (which would be indulgent and permissive). The phrase Dutch uncle came about during the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century. Obviously some heated discussions came about and what resulted was a phrase that is still around today.
When I first moved to The Netherlands, I was confronted almost immediately by the Dutch and their frankness. Actually, my very first person I met was this way. But being the guard at customs I thought maybe it was just his job to be this way. Yes, he was very intimidating. He looked like Ivan they guy from Rocky 2, the gigantic Russian who tries to beat our beloved Rocky to a pulp. The guard was enormous, intimidating and very frank about why I was coming into his country!
My next encounter with someone behaving like a Dutch uncle was a lady I met on a walk with my beautiful white lab Sugar. I was happily walking her around the lake. Our yellow lab Missy had just passed away the day before and we were both in mourning. A woman came up to me and said “Your dog is way too fat! Why are you not letting her swim in the lake? She should be swimming and running!!!” After I caught my breath, I looked at her in disbelief. Was this stranger standing here calling my beautiful dog fat! My shock turned into laughter because I could not believe the audacity of this person. She became agitated and said “This isn’t funny!” I explained that my dog had hip dysplasia so her climbing the steep walls around the lake was not possible. She does love to swim but she knows her own limits and would never try to climb into something she couldn’t get out of. I also explained her grief of losing her best friend. She kept going on and on and finally, I just smiled and walked away.
I’ve experienced this kind of encounter many times here in The Netherlands. It could be the elderly lady at the market who wants to plow me over with her shopping cart. It could be someone where I’m volunteering to help out at an event. If that person wants something done one way, they are not going to listen to you or try to understand you if you have another idea. They will literally just take something away, show you or tell you the way it’s to be done and that is the end of the discussion. (At least in their mind)
But this American Girl has a different plan. My philosophy is what Thumper’s mommy told Thumper in the Disney classic Bambi. “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.” We’re all here for such a short time. I mean here in life not just here in The Netherlands. I wave to people, I smile, I volunteer to help at events and I do it with a joy. So when confronted with someone behaving like a Dutch uncle it will be my joy to smile, laugh and explain that there are other ideas on how to do things. If they explain to me that that’s just the Dutch way… I’ll refer them to the definition of the Thumperian principle that or possibly introduce them to the term Monkey’s Uncle.