US stunned by "peculiarly Dutch" rite of "dropping"

Kids walking in the woods
Kids walking in the woodsPhoto: yobro10/DepositPhotos

A Dutch tradition of young scouts finding their way back to camp through the woods at night was featured in a New York Times article of obscure traditions around the world. The serious tone of journalist Ellen Barry's article on "dropping" left Americans stunned, and Dutch laughing.

"A peculiarly Dutch summer rite: Children let loose in the Night Woods. It may sound extreme, but it's normal in the Netherlands", Barry started her article about how she joined a scouting team in Utrecht for a dropping.

After a blindfolded car ride, groups of generally pre-teens are dropped off completely alone in the midst of nature in the middle of the night, Barry described the tradition. They have to find their own way back to camp, using nothing more than a "primitive" navigation device. "It is meant to be challenging, and they often stagger in at 2 or 3 in the morning."

The author described droppings as an important part of the way in which Dutch raise their children. "The Dutch - it is fair to say - do childhood differently. Children are taught not to depend too much on adults; adults are taught to allow children to solve their own problems. Droppings distill these principles into extreme form, banking on the idea that even for children who are tired, hungry and disorientated, there is a compensatory thrill to being in charge."

The serious tone of the article, the full one can be read here, left Dutch on social media laughing. On Twitter, some referred to other misconceptions about Dutch culture, such as that Dutch skate to work on the canals during winter. Others just made fun of it. "I'm not even sure if the family I eventually found is my real family. But we made it work", one wrote. Another: "OMG THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO COME BACK?"