5 things I love about the Dutch
|Date:||02 July 2019|
Ahhh the Netherlands. The home of Gouda cheese, tulips, canals and, of course, the Dutch. Having lived in this country for nearly five years now, I have had the opportunity to get to know the ins and outs of Dutch culture while making a lot of Dutch friends along the way. But what are these people like behind their wooden shoes and windmills? What makes the Dutchies Dutch? In this blog post, I’ll try to describe some of my observations about the Dutch that I have made over the past few years and point out some things that I especially love and would not want to miss.
The Dutch are masters at organising things and keeping everything running. Be it top-notch bike roads, great train connections (I know you Dutchies always complain about the trains, but have you ever tried taking a train in Germany?) or events - everything seems to work here. Everything in the Netherlands follows an ‘Agenda’ or a ‘Rooster’, terms which every expat will learn right after memorising how to say hello and thank you. Punctuality is written big here and you can be sure that everyone will be on time and be reliable in honouring their commitments. For you as a student, this means that deadlines are taken very seriously so you better not hand in your paper too late. This might need some getting used to these rigorous scheduling practices in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it it's great and you learn to appreciate it a lot!
2. Honesty and Directness
Dutch directness and honesty is something every international living in the Netherlands will experience sooner or later. Depending on your cultural background you may mistakenly interpret this directness as plain and simple rudeness in the beginning, but you should know that being direct is just as Dutch as bicycles. Once you have gotten used to this sometimes harsh method of bringing opinions across, there are actually a lot of benefits to being direct. For example, you will never have to wonder what a person really thinks about you and if there is a problem you will know right away. This can be especially handy when writing papers. For example, I have received the best constructive feedback on projects and papers mostly from my Dutch professors.
3. Low Hierarchies
In contrast to many other countries (and despite having a King), the Dutch actually prefer low hierarchies and common decision making. This is reflected in many different ways. For instance, you will notice that professors are really easy to approach and often do not even prefer to be addressed by their full title. Also Dutchies love, love, love their committees. There is literally a committee for anything you can imagine. Is there a problem? Form a committee to figure it out! Is there no problem? Still form a committee, because they are great! From an outsider perspective, this may seem somewhat weird and burdensome, but it's actually a great way to give everyone the opportunity to participate and voice their opinions and find solutions based on compromise.
‘Gezellig’ is a word you will come across a lot when living in NL. Like ‘hygge’ or ‘sisu’, gezellig is one of those adjectives that embodies so many different facets and emotions that it is impossible to translate it without it losing some of its meaning. The best translation into English might be convivial, or sociable. Or in other words: Do you remember that night out with your best friends having a drink, some food and good conversations? That is what the Dutch would describe as ‘gezellig’. And boy, do they love being gezellig over here. The Netherlands has a big pub and bar culture and so-called ‘borrels’ (informal get-togethers) are organised very frequently and you will definitely be invited to several of these during your studies in Groningen. Generally, the Dutch are also very talkative which means that it is also very easy to strike up a conversation with strangers in random situations. Dutch gezelligheid is definitely one of my personal favourite traits on this list.
The Dutch are world renowned for their tolerant attitude, which has developed as a result of historical and societal developments. This tolerance is also reflected in many laws of the country. However, don’t believe that the Netherlands is a fairytale wonderland free of any issues with regards to tolerance. Just as in any other country, there are many different political opinions and issues surrounding intolerance which still have to be worked on. Despite this, the Netherlands looks back on a long history of tolerance and Dutchies rightfully take pride in that. You can be sure that the vast majority of the Dutch population, will not judge you based on your behaviour, sexual preferences, religion or origin.
What things do you love about the Dutch or the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments.