By Jet de Vries
– It is a bit past 21:00 in Elsa’s Café in Oost, the room is packed and it smells like a mix of beer and sweaty football shirts. Ajax score their first goal against Juventus and the mainly male crowd goes wild, but the only things I am seeing are shoulders, chests, and maybe sometimes, when I’m lucky, one eighth of the tv-screen showing the goal.
The Dutch are the tallest people in the world with the average height for males being 184 cm and for females, 173 cm. Being 165 cm, in the Netherlands I am considered ‘short’. Besides being called ‘cute’ when I try to make a serious argument or not being able to look over the lectern on the podium, I sometimes feel like Dutch society is not engineered for people of my height.
Short Dutch people who live in a society of giants face many challenges. From not being able to reach products on the top shelf in the supermarket to being treated like a child, the average size of Dutchies is so tall that many shorter people are disadvantaged by it.
Amedeo Feingold (165 cm), first-year Science major, said that mostly during puberty, being called cute compromised his idea of masculinity. “On the other side, people will always mildly underestimate you, so then you can surprise them with how outgoing you are,” Feingold said. Now he just filters out comments about his height. “I’ve become pretty oblivious to it,” he said, “you learn to work with what you have.”
When Dewi Kopp (160 cm), first-year Social Science major, transitioned from high school to AUC, something happened that she had never experienced before: she was the tallest of all her roommates. There is quite a difference going from an all-Dutch high school, where friends would use her head as an arm-rest and she could only see her forehead in the hallway mirror, to AUC where among the international students she is regular sized. Kopp says that even though she cannot see anything at concerts, she would rather be short. “I would rather climb on the counter, than hit my head,” Kopp said.
Just two days before our interview, a tall guy walked into Joyce Den Hertog (159 cm), second-year Social Science major, because he did not see her as he glanced straight over her head. Den Hertog said she really realized how short she was, or actually how tall Dutch people are, when she had to stand in line from the shortest to the tallest at a reunion of her youth sailing camp. Considering there were girls from ages of 12 and up present, the fact that she was the shortest of the camp left an impression. Den Hertog concluded that when you are short your entire life, you just accept it.
There are also some benefits of being short. “I’m closer to the ground so I don’t fall as hard,” joked Kopp and Feingold said that he can fit in cars without having problems. Moreover, tinier people have more than enough leg space in airplanes, can wear heels without becoming a giant, and sometimes are also permitted to stand at the front at concerts because others can look over them anyways. In the end, whether you are taller or shorter, it does not matter. As Den Hertog said, “Height is just a number.”
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.