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French Women Don't Get Fat

French Women Don't Get Fat

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Published by: api-1750834 on Aug 17, 2008
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Why Dutch women don't get depressed - Print Version - International H...http://www.iht.com/bin/print.php?id=60242091 of 28/16/2008 6:34 PM
Why Dutch women don't get depressed
By Caroline Brothers
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
AMSTERDAM:
French women, says a recent bestseller, don't get fat. Japanese women, says another,don't get old or fat. But their sisters in the Netherlands may have one up on both of them.That is because Dutch women, according to a book just released in the Netherlands, don't getdepressed.After scores of interviews with historians, psychologists, fashion designers, image-profilers, personalshoppers, magazine editors and ordinary Dutch women, Ellen de Bruin, a Dutch psychologist and journalist, throws down the gauntlet. In a title billed as the Dutch woman's answer to the French andJapanese, she argues that women in the Netherlands are a whole lot happier than their counterparts inmost parts of the world."It has to do with personal freedom," said de Bruin, whose work, sure enough, is titled "Dutch WomenDon't Get Depressed." "Personal choice is key: in the Netherlands people are free to choose their lifepartners, their religion, their sexuality, we are free to use soft drugs here, we can pretty much sayanything we like. The Netherlands is a very free country."While the book clearly parodies its French and Japanese rivals, it is underpinned by serious research.And its author does seem to have a point. While Dutch women do sometimes get depressed, just asFrench women do sometimes get fat, the Dutch as a nation emerge close to the top of the worldhappiness rankings established by Ruut Veenhoven, professor of social conditions for human happinessat Erasmus University in Rotterdam. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 signals greatest life satisfaction, theDutch score 7.5 - beating 6.5 for the French and 6.2 for the Japanese. They also defeat Americans with6.4, the British with 7.1, and the Italians and Spanish who each total 6.9.Part of the reason lies in the social organization of the Netherlands, which offers women greater controlover their lives than that of France or Japan."Japan is a very collectivistic culture with very little personal freedom when it comes to the choice of a job, a partner, a religion, the major things in life," de Bruin said in an interview. A high degree ofcentralization, meanwhile, seems to reduce life satisfaction in France. "We have a built-in distrust ofcentral governments and a very high need for, and rates of, personal freedom in every aspect of ourlives."Such elevated levels of contentment may come as a surprise to some close observers of the Dutch.After much coaxing in interviews, foreigners living in the Netherlands came up with a collective portrait ofDutch women that, were they to become aware of it, could give them a good dose of the blues."We are seen as very tough," de Bruin said in a recent conversation in Amsterdam, before cycling off toa class in runway walking to learn how to balance in high heels. "We don't know how to dress and weare not very hospitable - if you come round to our house at dinnertime you get sent away." Clothing isgeared more to the weather than seduction. "We do everything by bike, which is why we don't dress veryelegantly," de Bruin said. And, with a highly developed sense of equality between the sexes, "we arebossy to our men."Still, de Bruin's observations suggest that glamour, hospitality and charm may not be essentialingredients for female happiness. Living in a wealthy, industrialized society plays a huge part in the Dutchwoman's sense of contentment, she said, given the benefits of a social net that allows for balancebetween work and family life. She backs that claim with statistics: 68 percent of Dutch women work parttime, roughly 25 hours a week, and most probably do not want a full-time job.Long used to a measure of economic freedom, Dutch women worked before marriage from as early asthe 14th century, when the decimations of the plague made female labor a necessity and conferred a

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