Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A land of giants

It’s a known fact that the Dutch are the tallest nation on earth. In 2004 Dutch men averaged 6 foot 1 inches (that’s 1.85 metres) and women 5 foot 8 inches (1.72 metres). Freakishly tall people are to be found everywhere in Holland, usually bending down trying to avoid bridges and roof beams that I couldn’t even touch with my best high jump attempt.

Having such height is all well and good for the Dutch women, with their long legs and slender necks, but it has led to some problems for me while I’m living here in the land of giants. Ninety-nine percent of trousers I buy here are much too long for me and I’m forced to cut off a couple of inches and re-stitch the hems. My chair at work is too high, even when adjusted to the lowest possible level my legs dangle. The same goes for the mini-bench type things at train stations, which I find impossible to perch on (and ashamedly I have the same problem with most toilets here as well). Of course, every conversation I have now involves looking up towards the sky, risking a crick in my neck. At cinemas, it’s almost impossible not to be stuck behind a tall person, but worst of all is music concerts where I’m on tip-toes all evening to get a glimpse of the stage.

The Dutch mistakenly say they are “long”, bless their cotton socks (cotton socks which are the size of pillow cases). It’s a forgivable error but even-so the question “How long are you?” still makes me laugh. “Why are the Dutch so long?” is a question that puzzles me however. Most Dutchies will maintain that it’s because they drink a lot of milk and eat lots of dark-brown bread, but can this really lead to such elongated people?

Anyway, although I sometimes feel insignificant and dumpy living here I also wonder whether it’s really that good to have giraffe-like proportions. According to a New Yorker essay in 2004, Dutch ambulances have even had to keep their back doors open on many occasions to allow for the extreme length of their patients' legs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hahaha how long are you? It makes me think of them as sausages.

I'm actually quite tall (5'9 and female) but find it so odd to be of an average height here. It's also quite intimidating when a woman TALLER than me walks by, so I can't imagine how you must feel.

I wouldn't worry about being short, I personally find it a lovely quality.