Why Does This Country Have So Many Fucking Buddha Statues?

My boyfriend and I have been house hunting, so we’ve been going to a lot of open houses. Which means, of course, we’ve been playing voyeur and spying on how other people live their lives.

And, a lot of Dutch people have Buddha statues. Specifically Thai Buddha statues.

Despite the country’s overall atheism (something like 50% of the population identify as non-religious), there is an undercurrent of interest in “eastern” religions. Buddhism is on the rise. 1% of the popular identifies itself as Buddhist, which has increased almost two hundredfold since the 1970s. In comparison, Christian faiths have seen a massive decline in popularity during the same time.

I don’t think that most of those with a Buddha head on their coffee table are all practicing Buddhists. I would guess they think of it as something spiritual, that catch all word for anything religious or supernatural that we don’t want to think too much about.

Why the Buddha? The Dutch travel a lot to Asia, Thailand in particular is a popular destination. So they see the decorations there and think they are pretty and want a Buddha head planter.

The Dutch also, like many rich countries, have an add obsession with “eastern” religions and cultures. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga are all on the rise. (Not that there are anything wrong with those things per se, I do yoga regularly.) “Alternative” therapies are abound, everything from my doctor asking me if I was taking a multivitamin when I was there about migraines to aromatherapy oils being sold at the pharmacy. (I’ve also come across a lot of Dutch people who claim they get an high from paracetamol because it’s a pain killer.)

Somehow all of these practices are more natural, better for you and help you to live a more meaningful life. And that, apparently, goes hand-in-hand with Buddha statues.

The whole thing smaks of weird, cultural appropriation to me.