The Dutch smell like babies

by Alfredo R. Paloyo

Like Jill, I also did the European Master in Law and Economics (EMLE). My term allocation was Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Bologna. The reasons for choosing each location were simple: Rotterdam, because it was the organizer of the program for non‐European students; Hamburg, because I had an aunt and cousin living in Frankfurt; Bologna, because I had another aunt living in Rome. (Filipino diaspora much?)

De Kubuswoningen, Rotterdam

I was excited. It was going to be my first time outside the Philippines. (Hong Kong does not count!) I arrived at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and was immediately amazed at how tall the people are in the Netherlands. You see, in the Philippines, at 5’9”, I would be above average for the Filipino male. In the Netherlands, I was constantly and painfully reminded of how dwarf‐like I must have seemed to them. Later on, my consolation was that I didn’t have any Dutch classmate (though there was one Swedish girl who could stomp me to death if she wanted to).

The author at Kinderdijk

My conjecture is that the Dutch are the giants walking the Earth because of their diet.1People eat so much dairy there that it must contribute somehow to their bone mass (think of all that calcium!). Over the course of the last couple of decades, they have overtaken other countries in trying to touch the sky. Presumably because of natural selection, the Dutch have evolved as the people with the lowest occurrence of lactose intolerance in its population.2

Lunch in the cafeteria of Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam was always a source of some laughter among the non-Dutch students. We would quite literally stare at Dutch student after Dutch student waiting for their turn at the cashier, taking nothing with them but a cheese sandwich, milk, and yogurt for dessert. Of course, in the morning, they already had at least one glass of milk—naturally to drink together with their müsli or cereal that was drowning in milk to begin with.

So it finally dawned on me why the scent that I would always smell when I come close to a Dutch person is so familiar. I noticed it immediately after settling into the city. I would walk around, somehow manage to come less than a foot away from a random Dutch person on the street, and then I would smell it. To be sure, it wasn’t an unpleasant smell—just oddly familiar. And then it hit me: the Dutch smell like babies.

1 The average height in the Netherlands is 6’0.8” as of 2004, according to Wikipedia.
2 Only 1 percent of the Dutch population is lactose intolerant. Almost all Southeast Asians (98 percent), in contrast, are lactose intolerant. See

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