Spontaneity is not a strong point for Dutch people. Sure, they might like the “concept” or “idea” of spontaneity but they certainly have a hard time putting it into practice. In the lowlands the concept of “popping by” a friends house when in the neighbourhood just doesn’t exit. What? Show up out of the blue? Without an appointment? Dat kan niet!!
Many a foreigner will be struck by the extreme oddity when suggesting a get-together with a Dutch person and finding them pulling out their agenda (or for the more modern folk, their iphone) to schedule a date. The more Dutchies you add to the mix, the more complicated the appointment-game gets! Let’s see I have some availability in 3 weeks, but Fokke is only available the following week and Marieke can do October 3rd. So perfect, dinner in 6 weeks it is!
You may try to fight this cultural phenomena but if you spend anytime in the lowlands the ever-present-agenda-scheduling-addiction might rub off on you. Believe it or not, I even have a Dutch friend who schedules in “down-time “in her agenda (i.e: May 3rd: night on the couch). Sorry, am busy that night – lying on the couch doing nothing! :)
I was recently at a work event and one of my Dutch colleagues proudly announced that she had gotten rid of her agenda. She was no longer going to be a slave to it and had decided to live her life spontaneously. (She had her breaking point when trying to schedule dinner with her best friend, and the only date in their agenda was in 4 months time). The other Dutch colleagues sitting with us were incredulously with her plan. This will never work! How will you see anyone? How will you keep track of your time! You’re not giving up your birthday calendar, are you?!? After a few minutes of proudly reciting the virtues of an agenda-free-life, she looked down at the table and quietly mumbled “well, it is a bit hard to be spontaneous when everyone else is unavailable due to their fully booked agendas…” It’s been a few weeks but I’d be wiling to bet that she fished that agenda out of the garbage and is back on scheduled time. After all, it’s hard work swimming upstream ;)