My Typical Limburg, Typical Dutch post generated a good deal of discussion and many people shared excellent ideas about what makes Limburg distinctive. For your consideration, here’s a list of what we came up with:
Geography is one thing that’s quite obvious if you’ve every hopped on a bike and explored any part of the Netherlands. Limburg is hilly compared to the rest of the Netherlands; hilly enough that I don’t like biking here without at least a three-speed. The region is also very close to Belgium, German, and (sort of) France and that proximity has had a huge influence on all the other things that make Limburg distinct from other parts of the Netherlands
Lots of people commented on the language differences. Many communities in Limburg have preserved their own dialects and they are often so different that native Dutch speakers not from this region cannot understand the dialects. Frank (no website), who was born in Kerkrade referenced “above the river” as the point where the dialects become distinctly “Limburgse”. The various dialects are influenced by their proximity bordering countries, so may be influenced by German and French.
Specifically Catholicism, Judy explains that the Calvinist influences never quite made it south of “the rivers”, partially because the region wasn’t always part of Holland. In fact it was part of Beglium for a while, which is also a predominately Catholic area. You can read her much more detailed discussion of how Netherlands does not always equal Dutch. It’s well worth your time.
I’ve observed the influence of Catholicism on Maastricht as well. The architecture is filled with shines and biblical motifs, not to mention the large number of cathedrals and other religious buildings that have now been turn over to secular uses (notably the University has many formally Catholic church-owned buildings).
Dave Hampton, an expat who use to live in Arnhem and now lives in Maastricht, feels that the city is more international (than Arnhem anyway), probably because of the University or it’s proximity to other countries. He feels that life here is less intense overall than up North; people laugh more easily and are more social. On the downside his experience has been that customer service is much slower and less attentive. There is a strong sense of history in the area, but, Dave observes, people in Limburg still identify strong as Dutch when faced with comparisons with other countries.
Judy attributes a local appreciation for fine clothing and good food (Maastricht is a popular shopping and dining area) to the area’s Catholic heritage.
Dave noticed that celebrations tend to be more colorful and noisier than those up North, although things like Queens Day and football are more casually observed.
I think that people in Maastricht just to love any excuse to dress up.
I already knew that the foods can be quite different here, but Dave thinks the beer and chocolate is better thanks to the proximity to Belgium. Waffles (thanks Judy) are just one more notable influence (although Belgian waffles really do taste better in Belgium).
Melissa noted with glee that you can a slice of vlaai in Maastricht when invited for coffee instead of (only one) cookie.
Ultimately, as Judy notes, these differences are “small ‘taters” to the new expat who isn’t going to recognize differences in light of the greater differences between the Netherlands in general and their own culture. But it’s fun to explore what creates this strong sense of Limburg-ness and I, for one, have learned a lot. Thank you to everyone who commented
I suppose if I were to pick something arbitrarily to symbolize Limburg, it would probably a slice of vlaai and small coffee. Tastier to than wooden shoes anyway.
Do you agree? Disagree? Share your thought in the comments.