‘Heb je zin?’ is a soap opera for learning Dutch. What is a soap opera? A soap opera is a series dealing with domestic situations that generally go on an on and on… hundreds of episodes. In order to keep the viewer interested (forever)… these ‘domestic’ situations deal with love, betrayal, manipulation etc. 

This soap opera for learning Dutch is not different in this respect. In order to write a soap opera and make a story juicy… I included some intrigue. And of course, as we’re learning a language: we also need to be able to understand when someone is angry, jealous, sad or gossiping… So then you need characters with not only good characteristics.

This soap opera has not the intention to hurt anyone’s feelings. The cartoon characters do not reflect my views on other nationalities. Some people might wonder: How about the use stereotypes? Are these characters fictional? Is there a deeper meaning?

At the Dutch Summer School, where people meet from all over the world, we create an international environment, where everybody is different and we use humor to come together. We like to make fun about cultural differences. Flirting Italians… vodka drinking Polish students. Well yes, we’ve had flirting Italians and we’ve had wodka drinking Polish students (who didn’t drink vodka in their normal lives, but brought a bottle as a souvenir). We’ve also had non-flirting Italians and Polish students who didn’t drink any alcohol. Having Anika serving a bottle of wodka and Gianluca flirting and making sexist remarks does NOT mean that we consider Italian men like this, or that Polish people drink only wodka.

A special word about Xing. She’s not always honest. It has never been my intention to link this to a stereotype. I would like to stress that we have nothing against Chinese people. I consider our Chinese students very friendly people, who work very hard to integrate into Dutch society. I strongly want to state that the character Xing is fictional. In fact, I designed the character Xing based on someone from a different country, and decided later to change her nationality to include not only Western nationalities in the soap opera.

And for the rest? If there are stereotypes I like to make fun of, it’s stereotypes about the Dutch! I try to use humor (even more by publishing the interview videos) to mock about ourselves. If Martin is angry because Xing is late, then that is my joke about the Dutch. If Martin comes with a discounted salad and Xing does not except that, it’s my joke about the Dutch. But even here: stereotypes do not reflect the reality, every Dutch person is different! 

One more thing to conclude… the story is not over yet. People might change over time and that also counts for cartoon characters… Will we think the same about Martin, Marieke, Xing and Gianluca when the story is over? Maybe not!


PS: as this is a disclaimer… yes, I know Italians don’t put ketchup on their pizza’s and Anika is not a Polish name