For those never having met a native Frisian, here is a crash course. There are some remarkable things to mention and rules to live by.
Before I start describing what makes the Frisians different, I have to apologize for my poor discrimination skills. I was raised in Cameroon, in Africa. All my friends were natives from the small village of Atcha Tugi, the place where we lived. I admit, that is a poor start.
Once back in the Netherlands, my discrimination career took a huge turn for the worse. I simply didn’t get the concept. One day, I was 10 years old, my teacher explained what discrimination was all about. I went back home completely confused. I asked my mother to help me out. “Mom, the teacher explained today: ‘Some people are black, while others are white, but there is no difference’ Is the guy colorblind?” My mom couldn’t stop laughing. That was killing. I never got the hang of it.
According to the historian “Von der Dunk” scientifically there is no such thing as “a characteristic of a people”. He makes a simple and valid point. There is not one characteristic that applies to all individuals of one people. And, if authors refer to historical sources mentioning “common traits” of a people that doesn’t make it a fact. It is just people copying each other. And that does not make it “more right”.
He is right. It is in the eye of the beholder. I would not have dared to write this post, until I stumbled upon this book: The Racist’s Guide to the People of South Africa by Simon Kilpatrick. He depicts the various South African people in a fantastic and very funny way. I can recommend it. Thanks Simon, for helping me to become a “recreational racist”! Of course, it is not merely enough to make it into the Ku Klux Klan, but it is a good start to describe common traits of a people, ‘tongue in cheek’ style.
Before we start, one more remark. Frisians bastards roamed the coasts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. This description is about the Frisians living in the current province of Fryslân.
These are the so-called Westerlauwers (or Mid-) Frisians. There are some some 600.000 of them. Yes, there are more Frisians than Icelanders. So, in theory they can beat the English football team in European Championships 😉 However, the Frisians are outnumbered by the 3,2 million Dayaks, the headhunting tribes of Borneo. Scary thought.
Here is a quick guide into the Mid- or Westerlauwers Frisians!
When you run into a Frisian, please never forget why they are called “Frisian”, they are freezing cold at first. They do not dislike you, they simply do not know you. Frisians just like to stick to what they know. Before we give you a practical manual for Frisian encounters, let’s first share a bit of background info.
Frisians are clear level headed people and not overly enthusiastic. That is due to the mild sea climate. However, I am convinced scientific proof can be produced that with every degree the temperature drops, the Frisians defrost and become more alive. They go absolutely ballistic when their country is completely frozen and all canals are on ice. Yes, Elza eat your heart out with your ice-superpowers. With minus 10 Celsius Friesland turns into Brazilian carnival on ice skates. There are records that they skate 200 km in one day for fun. By the tens of thousands!
The freezing attitude at normal temperatures does not mean they are not into “new” things. Basically they invented the dikes which is one of the biggest life saving inventions of all time. They started building dikes when Christ started preaching. Around 1,000 AD the big dikes started to emerge. Did you know the Frisians re-invented the wheel? When a dike breaks at certain spot, the sea creates a powerful water vortex. This creates a wheel shaped hole right there.
Sure enough, the dikes are a giant leap for mankind, but let’s be honest. Dikes haven’t really taken a huge flight in the last 1,000 years. “It worked, don’t change it”, the Frisian think. However, in our track we will show you how the Dutch have taken dikes to a whole next level in the past 70 years with the Delta plan. A great achievement.
The Frisians took a different approach to the rising water. Did you know Frisians are the tallest people on this planet? Yep, taller than the Dutchmen and the Scandinavians. The reason is that the Frisians had to compensate for the frequent high water levels. I guess they decided to become tall, just in case a dike breaks through. To keep their heads dry. Read also our blog post The Giants of Twilight Land.
The sense of humor of Frisians is also freezing cold, full of understatements. We dare you to ask a Frisian on a sunny day if he likes the weather. The shots are high he will reply: “Oh well, it could have been worse”. Or, if Messi plays a shitty game: “Messi is really good in hiding his talent today”. My Frisian professor at the Amsterdam University, Tony Feitsma, announced once that an organizational restructure would take place. It was the 24th restructure she survived in 23 years. When I asked her if that wasn’t insane, she started to grin and said: “Frans, I must admit, it is only getting better” (In Frisian: ‘Ik moat tajaan, it wurdt allinnich mar better.‘).
Hanging on to things they know is really their core business, not in the least with friends. They are loyal as hell. No, literally. Some argue it was one of the reasons why Christianity didn’t land well in Friesland. Saint Boniface was killed when he tried to convert the Frisians in AD 754. His successor Wulfram was almost there in converting the Frisians. King Redbad was about to be baptized in the church, but withdrew when he learned he would not see his ancestors back in heaven. He preferred to burn in hell joining the eternal family barbecue, instead. Lol.
Many Frisians are mindfulness fundamentalists. They really live in the moment. They don’t look back, because in their eyes all the goods things stay with them. They way things are, is OK. There is simply no past. And, since all the good things are with them, the future will be the same. This explains why many written sources about the Frisians are not originating from the Frisians. There are many manuscripts from Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Franks about the Frisians. So, it is fair to say that Frisians know little to nothing about their own history and couldn’t care less. Live for the moment. Live in the now.
Just in case you encounter a native Frisian in the wild, make sure you obey to certain basic rules.
The Frisians do not quickly enter into a conversation. If they do, make sure -as a thru hiker- you brought your stash of super-charged energy bars. It might take some time. If you encounter Frisians they will always greet you, unlike the city people around the globe. A simple nod of the head is enough. Don’t smile. Keep it cool. Freeze like a Frisian.
If you feel lucky, then try to say “hoi“. It sounds like ‘ahoy’ without the ‘a’. If you are around for a couple of days at the same place -and the locals had the time to mention your presence to villagers, friends and family- you can start using “moarn” (good morning) or “middei” (good afternoon). You pronounce “moarn” as “morning” without the ‘-ing’. “Middei” is pronounced like ‘mid’ + the ‘j’ as in ‘joke’ or ‘jealous’.
If Frisians drive their car, the rules are different. Men will raise their hand, guys under 25 and women will not. I haven’t figured out the logic behind that yet. I will update you when I did. And the Nordfriesen (North-Frisians) use a mix of everything, namely “Moin“.
I hope this helps in surviving the Frisian encounters! Enjoy!
Note – Wanna know what the name Frisians means? Check our post A severe case of inattentional blindness: the Frisian tribe’s name.