AMSTERDAM—When news of economic troubles in Europe started emerging in 2009, the prevailing narrative in the Netherlands, as in much of the northern part of the continent, held that cultural differences, even the weather, could help explain the problem. The troubles in Greece, one often heard the Dutch say, stemmed from a certain lack of discipline, perhaps understandable considering the temptations of leisure along the sunny Mediterranean coast.
Almost five years later, Europe’s economic woes have reached the North Sea shores, sending a chill through one of the most disciplined economies of the European Union.
The Netherlands is now in a recession. Unemployment is rising. Consumer sentiment is gloomy. And the prospects for a quick return to growth, according to experts, are not good.