The Dutch like to keep it real. They are big fans of authenticity and take pride in the genuine. This behaviour is a close cousin to the infamous “do normaal” and is often used to justify their directness.
Speak to a Dutch person after they have returned from a trip to America and they are sure to mention one specific thing in their travel tales: “American fakeness“! The Dutch are downright allergic to the American “good-morning-how-y’all-doing” lingo. They shudder when entering an American store, only to be greeted by those five little words: “How are you doing today?“.
Seems like a fairly innocent question to us North Americans or Brits, but for the Dutch it can be down-right scandalous “Why are they asking?” “Why do they care?” “It’s not like they are waiting for my answer?” “What if I reply ‘horrible’, will that smile still stay plastered on their face?”. Yes, the Dutch are a placid bunch and the overt American-type friendliness is so foreign to them that it’s down right frightening!
As I’ve explained to many a Dutch friend or colleague: of course the teenage girl folding sweaters in the Gap doesn’t really care how you are doing! But her very asking of “How are you?” is more a gesture of friendliness than an inquisition into your mental state of well-being.
And what’s wrong with a little friendliness and camaraderie to your fellow man, anyways? I could certaintly use a bit more of that when some giant is elbowing me to get on the train I am attempting to exit! Heck, I could use it even more when I ask one of the medewerkers at Albert Hein if they have any karne melk in the back and they look at me like I’m completely insane! I dare you to disagree that Dutch waiters could use a bit more common courtesy in their approach.
As American comedian Seth Meyers said about his time living in the Netherlands “When I was there, people’s big complaint about America was that the waitresses were fake-nice. In Amsterdam, you know the waiters generally fucking hate you.” Hmmm…which do you prefer?