Although I’m not an expat, I enjoy reading the blogs written by expats about the Netherlands. It’s insightful to know about their experiences, especially when it comes down to Dutch habits like directness, or birthday well-wishing.
Rude, direct of efficient?
The most re-occurring experience is the rude attitude we have. (See for example Netherlands by Numbers. They dedicated an entire blog to this topic.) We prefer to call this directness, but I suppose it all depends on the point of view. Yet whether it’s rudeness, directness or maybe just efficiency, it all comes down to how it’s experienced by someone unfamiliar to it.
A way to find an answer to that is by venturing into the Realm of Commentary. It can be enjoyable and silly, but at a certain point it’ll change into a battlefield of misunderstandings, run amok emotions, and unrelated issues. Whether the statements in the blog post itself and the comments are true, it’s most likely true to the people writing them. It’s their experience after all and there’s little to do about that.
Nice meeting you
Closely related to the rudeness is distance, which Benny Lewis writes about on his blog Fluent in 3 Months in the post Strange Habits. (Nr. 11 is about the Netherlands). Making friends with the Dutch is apparently as easy as finding the Holy Grail. It seems we’re not too keen on calling everybody a friend after speaking to someone for half an evening.
My first impression was Really? Immediately followed by, well that is rather accurate actually. I just never considered this to be something Dutch. Apparently we have a stricter definition of friend or acquaintance.
I like birthdays in general, meeting up with friends and family, meeting new people, having a drink together, it’s all very nice. On I Am Expat Zsuzsa Jonas talks about Dutch birthdays as a bit of a strange but handy place to practice your Dutch: where you congratulate everybody that is present. That’s a lot of “Gefeliciteerd” for one evening, especially if you’re the last to arrive! (Personally, I wouldn’t mind if we’d let go of this one, but it never struck me as odd.)
Birthdays can also be celebrated at work; usually it doesn’t involve singing and presents, but it often happens that the birthday boy or girl brings treats to work for his/her colleagues in honour of their birthday. I guess the ‘Dutch habits’ list keeps growing.
There are, no doubt, many more habits that reside in my cultural blind spot. In books, short stories or articles, I like to read about seemingly odd habits, as it helps create awareness of differences, rather than shrugging it off as strange or silly. And I think being aware of cultural differences helps in understanding why people behave the way they do.
But most of all, it’s fascinating.
So, please share your encounters…
…with odd habits…