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 certainly 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 Heijn 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?

197 Responses

  1. Ron

    Well I think most Dutch just do not understand that the frase ‘How are you’ is more the equivalent of the Dutch ‘Goedemiddag’ (Good Afternoon). And I totally agree that the service in horrible in many places.

    • Michael

      I’ve been going back and forth to the states for 3 years now. My girlfriend lives in Colorado. Being Dutch myself, I still don’t know how to deal with the “Hi, how are ya?” It’s not an automated process for me and it still catches me off guard wanting to give a sincere answer… I guess it clashes with our “Dutch sincerity/directness” I.e. if you’re not really interested why ask me how I am? Or what business of yours is it how I am today, stranger?

      I do appreciate the serving personnel in restaurants, hotels, etc. They are generally much nicer in the states. I’m not too fond about the way many (not all) Dutch serving personnel will treat you. There’s a big difference between the way US and Dutch serving personnel are paid and also the labor laws are different. In “Dutchland” you don’t get rid of your employees that easily and the serving personnel are paid above minimum wages. In the US your base hourly salary is below minimum wage and you fill it with tips. If you dont get enough tips your boss will still up you to minimum wage. But since its custom to tip you’re expected to make much more. If you don’t then your boss might question the way you treat customers and can let you go much easier than in the Netherlands.

      I think that’s a big part of why Dutch serving personnel can get away with their crappy attitude and why US waitresses serve you with a smile and then some 😉

      • Angela

        Michale, actully the Boss does not count your tips, or judge you on how many tips you make. I worked a a waitperson for years and not once did this happen. I also never got fired. They do not fire people at the drip of a hat and most of the time you get 3 write ups before hand or warnings. In additon I made very good money with tips and most everyone did tip. But other wise I agree 100% with you. Tip means To insure prompt service.

      • Peter

        In Dutch eateries/drinking holes the tip is included. Practical and straight forward. Don’t like our service? Please don’t come back then.

    • Anna

      Just coming back from the NL! I think we all are confusing social and lingusitic habits with individual kindness and sincerity. People are not kinder or more honest, it is their language that has different ways of expressing politeness. As some say the Americans consider “how are you” as part of the common greeting while for many Europeans it is used only with people you are aquainted with. This does not mean that the Europeans do care for the others, it is simply a conventional approach. Indeed if the other replies with a detailed description of his well being, we are often not interested at all, usually the answer to a “how are you” is a short sentence “fine”. “all ok” and so, only friends are expected to go into details and tell you how they really are. Isn’t it like this in your countries? in mine it is so. And this is the same for everything else, in my country we use “thank you” a lot and requests must include a “please” in order to be polite. I have notices the Dutch instead use less “please” in requests but use “alstublieft” a lot more than our waiters/cashiers do. So who is more polite? I have found waiters/cashiers in the NL as polite as those of my country: some were merely formally correct, some other were genuinely kind but that depends on individuals rather than on a people. So it is interesting to debate the different habits but let’s not confuse them with an evaluation of a people’s characteristics.

      • Patricia Boon

        GREAT.I totally agree with you

  2. RvR

    Ha ha ha! Brilliant post! I’ll take the guy who hates me and isn’t afraid to show it every time.

  3. Mar

    I’m from the Netherlands and I can confirm that it is true that we don’t like it if people say ‘how are you?’ instead of hello without wanting to know the answer…. But that every waiter in Amsterdam fucking hates you? Not too sure about that. And I think in generals waiters are not that friendly in cities that are flooded by tourists.

      • Cora

        May I add a third party’s view? I am Italian. I have worked for 6 years with Americans and have been in the NL recently. I am afraid I must agree with the Dutch here. I found extremely unpleasant when on Valentine kids offered me a cookie wishing me happy valentine when for the whole year they had not even bothered to greet me. And look, we Italians are surely not as direct as the Dutch are, but you can be kind without being so overtly fake! As to the Dutch, I have felt at ease there “gezellig” I would say! 🙂 They do not use all the courtesy forms we Italians do but they are willing to help and also to chat a little. That I find very welcoming!

    • fejkolle (@fejkolle)

      “And I think in general waiters are not that friendly in cities that are flooded by tourists.”

      This would be absolutely true if there were any other cities as flooded by tourists as Amsterdam. Sure, you’ll find more tourists in many cities but none of them are as small as Amsterdam.

      Face it, Amsterdam is empty without the tourists (which we will notice when the tourist ban in coffeeshops kick in). You won’t find any other cities in Europe that rely so much on tourists as Amsterdam except maybe Venice. That probably explains the general rudeness but you’ll find a bit of that in other cities too, just not as much.

      • Tim

        Hardly so.
        I’ve been to Firenze, completely overrun by tourists. Hardly any Italian walking downtown; they all avoid it like it’s the plague. Why? Because of the tourists.
        Besides, there are loads of cities in Europe which rely on tourism way more than Amsterdam (how about any beach or winter resort?).
        Amsterdam is just fine without tourism, hell, I might even like the city then.

    • Stacey

      I live in Groningen; waiters here are rude and we do not get many tourists. It’s a Dutch thing.

      • Daan

        That’s bullshit. Rudeness in the hospitality industry is not “a Dutch thing”.

      • Taeko

        I have lived in Virginia for four years , in the beginning the kindness is a bit overwhelming and every now and then you just don’t know if people are sincere or not. If somebody in the Netherlands invites you for a BBQ it’s actually a real BBQ you are invited to, in America it’s more a polite gesture, it does not mean that you are invited, now that’s very confusing to us Dutch!! On the other hand I have always said the I prefer to be served fake friendly than to be really rude witch happens a lot in NL. And if there is one thing I found out after moving back to NL it is that we are very rude to one another!! Though I must say nowadays living in Beijing, the Dutch are not to unfriendly 😉

    • Jasper

      Agreed, a ‘hey, how are you?’ is generally a question I only ask to people (friends) when I’m actually curious for the answer. To be asked such a (personal/private) question out of context just makes you feel awkward even when you know it’s custom in another culture.
      I hardly feel serving staff are rude as a general rule. I think it has to do with a difference in standards, Dutch culture is already considered ‘rude’. That doesn’t mean ‘less friendly’ though. As a hotel employee I find myself at times very direct or strict in my communication but I always try to be friendly.
      Rude? When compared to others. Hating? Hardly so but we’re not too concerned about your life’s happiness either.

  4. Steffen M. Boelaars

    I definitely prefer the hating over the faking. Faking equals lying. Lying is the worst thing you can do in your life. If you do something, anything, be honest about it. If there’s one thing I hate most in this world, even more than ‘airport security personnel’, it’s liars. People who tell you “Ohhh what a nice sweater!” but laugh behind your back. People who ask you “Hello! Welcome! How are you doing this fine day? I hope you have a lovely time here!” and once you passed by laugh about you behind your back with their colleagues. You don’t have to be friendly to everyone. Even more so, you shouldn’t. As with everything in this world, it only keeps on turning and working because of the balance. It would die if we had daylight 100% of the time everywhere. People need happiness AND bad times. Keep it real, man 🙂

    • Mechelke

      Why do you assume these people are laughing behind your back if they are being friendly? I find that a rather cynical look on life. IF they laugh behind your back, that is really bad manners and if you catch anybody doing that, you should stand up for yourself and tell them off. But I honestly don’t think that this happens a lot.

      I think the friendly gestures come from a saying called “You reap what you sow”. If you greet someone in a friendly way, this person is more likely to be in a good mood because of it and be friendly to you. Or to the next person whom they meet. Genuine assholishness might be sincere, but it has never improved someone’s day.

      Part of the problem of us Dutchies, is that we don’t know what to respond to a question like “How are you?”. We wonder what kind of answer they expect.

      While I, living in Canada, got used to “How are you?” I still get thrown off when I get “What are you up to?”, a question generally posed by friends. Translated as “Wat ben je van plan?”, it feels like this person is finding my behaviour suspicious and wants to make sure I’m not about to do anything really stupid. It takes some getting used to, I guess.

      I like a friendly greeting, but I do dislike the “overboard friendliness” you sometimes get in North America from people who try to be excessively Perky and Happy all the friggin time. We usually see this coming from girls in their early twenties with Squeeky Happy High Voices. My mood does not improve when I run into them. This kind of overkill makes me feel tired and even, somehow, somewhat old at 33.

      • Momo

        I agree with everything you say… I am from latin america and there we always greet people around, it’s a custom we learn from generations and since we are very young… It is respectful to greet and show care. As you say, it improves people’s day and that’s a nice thing to do. It might just be that Dutch people are not used to this and for that they find it ridiculous and silly… I’d say free your mind and be open to nice people… When we say “how you doing?” I would have enough with you saying “I am ok” if you are… if you are not, just say you are not and if I care then I ask details… Dont think I am rude because I am nice… Now, in The United States or other places for that matter, can be a whole different level… No worries, if they ask you how you doing and you start telling the your life story, they will soon show you they dont really care and you will enjoy how rude they can be, if that’s what you are all into hee hee. Dutchies deff have some weird things, I’d say 🙂

      • Lynette

        I don’t think you understand that here in America a person that is friendly to you is in fact, genuinely friendly! So what if a girl in her 20s is super bubbly and happy? I’m a VERY friendly person and I’m not afraid to show it. I guess I just can’t understand other countries suspicions with our friendliness. Is it not possible that there are very friendly people in your country as well? Obviously, someone who is friendly and on the receiving end of your money is probably just doing their job. However, if someone approaches you randomly and asks how you are doing they are being sincerely friendly so be sincere back!!! If you are having a crappy day, tell them! If you don’t ever know what to say back, tell them that!!! When an American in a social setting (not business) asks something like that it means they want to have a real conversation with you. It’s basically just used as an icebreaker and to judge whether or not you want to talk. Momo also is jumping to conclusions. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that sometimes we clearly don’t know you on a personal enough level to help with the issue you choose to talk about. Offering advice in a situation like that could be irresponsible and arrogant so we will offer a short consoling or quick “Well I hope things get better!” and change the subject. We also believe in “venting”. Often when we ask “how are you” and someone goes off on this really long story about how terrible their day was, we just assume they need someone to listen and we don’t say anything afterwards. We assume that letting off their steam is what they needed and not advice from a stranger. When I ask someone how they’re doing I mean it. If they decide to tell me they are suffering from explosive diarrhea, I’d tell them to eat more fiber!

      • Lynn

        [email protected] !
        “No worries, if they ask you how you doing and you start telling the your life story, they will soon show you they dont really care and you will enjoy how rude they can be, if that’s what you are all into”
        That’s just frigging hilarious, the way you put it!

      • Peter

        I find this article very funny, because even dutch have these fake things. I live here for 5 years. Lived in Arnhem, recently in Rotterdam, but spending a lot of time in Amsterdam . Basically I saw the whole country due to my interest and curiousity.

        Dutch also needs illusions such as ”smile” . Many times I do not get why do I have to smile if I have a busy job, I am focused. My colleagues always push me to do, but if I have nothing to say them or share then why?? If I have a client, I do, giving my maximal respect and help ( basically the client melts and comes up with the ”wat een service” and so on ) – in the same time my colleagues are passive, slow and have a face of coldness….. Actually the normal would be a great service for the client and when there is individual work let the people be how they are. Also this fake smile mania is freeky I find.

        The ”how are you?” is also an often a done thing in Dutchland. Mostly it comes as ”hoe gaat het”, and they even do not give a damm, so then I just say, yeah, fine.

        The ballance should be in between the dutch and us forms…. Too cheesy is also heavy, but this passive, slow , fake thing also not favorable act. But yeah, all of us is different, all of us have his or her own mentality, culture right?:)

  5. Priscilla Oostrom

    Interesting. I agree: I hate ‘fakeness’ as well…but I also think that in Holland not only waiters can be more polite and sometimes I don’t even get a ‘thank you’ or a ‘hello’ in shops anymore. So I guess I don’t like a question when I’m entering a store of café, but a ‘goodmorning’ with a smile would be most welcome. 🙂

    • Miss Footloose

      The thing is,”How are you this morning?” is just rhetorical. But initially, as a foreigner, you don’t hear this, and the Dutch being rather literal-minded, misinterpret it and think they’re actually being asked about their state of health and mind. They’re not.

      • Nikita

        It’s the same with the British. A ‘general’ greet would be, ‘hi, you’re ok?” – they don’t expect an answer, but it’s more like: ‘hi, hello!”

      • Lynette

        I agree! It is both used in the literal sense and rhetorical. You just have to judge the social situation. However, most Americans do enjoy a good conversation once the niceties are over!

  6. dutchgirlintexas77

    As a Dutch person living in Texas, I love the ‘fakeness’, which is not always fake. Whenever I visit Holland, I can’t believe how rude people are! I love having conversations with strangers in stores 😉 And for those Dutchies who don’t know what to say when someone asks “How are you doing today?“, just reply “I’m fine, how are you?” and move on.

    • Ivana

      As for me, i enjoyed quite a few nice random conversations with strangers in dutch stores, both in Amsterdam and in Utrecht.

  7. Jen

    I am also a Canadian living in Holland and some of employees at the supermarkets and restaurants here could certainly use training in manners and being pleasant. I would rather be greeted with a smile than being greeted with looks of disgust. I also have to say that they are not all like that, but the majority are. If they are not happy in their job of dealing with the public, then it is time to look for a new job!!!

    • Arie Bantenburgh

      Oh, I always have lots of fun when being in a shop. I tend to inversely mimick the bad behaviour of the person at the counter of the AH when they are unfriendly. If they really look disgusted, I am wistling and singing in front of them, thankin them in the most annoyingly happy way. So in the end, whichever way I am trated, I have fun anyway.

  8. Samantha

    The how are you part isnt even that awfull, just letting the people know you noticed them. Basic stuff if your in a store. But the over the top cheerfullness and punching the sky, ugh, who walks with both their hand in the air!?!

  9. Desirée

    I am Dutch, and prefer to be greeted when I enter a shop, I hate it when I enter or leave a shop and no one has acknowledged me… What I do hate is when shop attendants swoop on you when you just want to browse, and never let you out of their sights (it’s what Dutch sales people do very well!).
    Whenever I’m in the UK, when the shop attendant asks me how I’m doing, I reply and return the question. Because no one ever asks them how they’re doing, and that way, they will do anything for you (of course, there are always exceptions).

    As far as the ‘Doe normaal’ or ‘doe maar gewoon, dan doe je gek genoeg’ (‘act normal, it’s already crazy enough’) attitude is concerned, I hate that! I hate it that in The Netherlands you can not openly be proud of your achievements, or people will think you’re arrogant. Worked hard all your life, and now you have enough money to build a villa? You shouldn’t, because we’re not supposed to flaunt our stuff. And when you dress differently (like I do) people will look at you like you’re insane (less so in the big cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, but in most other places you’ll be ridiculed by kids and stared at disapprovingly by adults).
    As far as that’s concerned, I actually prefer the American way of being proud of what you do, and not being seen as a failure when something doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to.

    I think I’m living in the wrong country for the kind of person I am…

    • Sue

      That’s so true… I’m Dutch and I feel the same. And what you say about the Dutch store staff, they think of every customer as a suspect. The Dutch are very suspicious about an other. Thats why they dont understand the question: “hello, how are you?” I solved that issue now by doing almost only online shopping.. I dont go shopping because of their rudeness.

      • Martin

        With all due respect, why are you on here then? Sure, every country has it’s up and downsides -Holland is by no means the nicest country out there – but if you ‘hate’ the Netherlands to the point where you feel the need to move away, i can’t really understand why you are commenting on here? Care to elaborate?

  10. Miss Footloose

    Yes, true, the Dutch might find the American friendliness a bit over the top ( I am Dutch but am used to it now, mostly). However, in both the US and the Netherlands, this friendliness or lack thereof is not the same from place to place. Big cities are very different from small towns in this regard. In small town Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands, people are much friendlier in shops and restaurants than in Amsterdam. I lived for a time in Connecticut, and the cash register people there treated you like they were doing you a favor by ringing up your purchases. Then we moved south to Virginia, and suddenly you were “honey,” and got smiles.

    Still, I must admit, when an American waiter comes over and smiles widely, spilling friendliness all over the place and tells me his name is Quirky and he’ll be my server today, I cringe. He doesn’t want to be my friend, he wants a big tip.

    • Kairo

      About being greeted by friendly staff in small towns in the North of the Netherlands, that does happen. But I notice it happens a lot less if you’re not white 🙂 Regarding your waiter experience: I was a real American waiter in a real restaurant in America when I was 16 during my high school years (keeping it real dude). Believe me, I loved getting a big tip but that was never in my mind when I communicate with customers! If anything, the fear of getting chewed out by my boss if my services appeared not up to par was a much bigger motivation factor!

    • vandercoelen

      Very true point you have. If you get out of the tourist hotspots you are way more likely to be greeted by the personnel. Maybe because if you depend on locals for your income you can’t afford to be unfriendly. Also get out of the Randstad, In Brabant, Limburg, Gelderland etc I find people often more friendly (and willing to wait for you to exit the train)

    • Anna

      I perfectly agree with you Miss Footloose, also in my country there are differences from place to place, from big to small cities, from north to south. And I also agree that greeting in a way or in another is a matter of etiquette and has nothing to do with being more or less kind. Although I must say that sometimes having to answer “fine thank you” when instead you are not fine at all is a bit frustrating, in those moments I do feel all the fakeness of it and I prefer they had not asked at all.

  11. Miss Footloose

    Oh, I forgot: I moved to West Virginia, and the woman behind the fish counter in the supermarket, whom I’d never met before, smiled and said: “What can I get you, baby?” Since I’m blessed with a sense of humor, I thought it was hilarious.

  12. Diederik v/d Boor (@vdboor)

    Good start, a but frustrated(?) end I think. I do agree on a large part of the article. I think it’s one of the habits that’s actually keeping us small. Anyone who visited a course on entrepreneurship will learn to drop this “doe maar gewoon” because staying in the group isn’t making that real authentic you appear and shine to get your idea to blossom in the world *.

    That’s my € 2,- 😉

    (* and if you do, people around you completely change in amazing ways. trust me 🙂

  13. mond schaf

    jeez. if you think the dutch are rude and hate you just visit Austria – then you see the difference between their directness and the Austrian unfriendlyness. btw the faked interest of Americans is also a constant matter of complaining here. 😉

    • Naam

      Yes, let’s just set the bar lower. That solves everything, toch?

  14. Francine Geurts

    I’d rather have them wish me a good morning. If they ask me how I am, I’d have to ask them the same thing, and I know neither of us really cares what the answer is anyway.
    And I’d rather have a real smile than an obviously fake one. If everyone was fake-smiling all the time a real smile wouldn’t mean anything anymore!

  15. Maaike

    Somewhere in between would be nice: polite and honest when necessary 😉

  16. Thijs

    I’m getting the feeling that all the “haters” were encountered in a few major cities, or maybe even only in Amsterdam. I think that’s an insulting generalization for all waiters/shop staff in other parts of the country.

    And about preferring hating over faking: I hate fake smiles. I think fake smiles cover other festering things, that come out some other time. It seems to be a part of American culture:
    – America is very prude, but has an enormous p*rn industry and many teen moms.
    – America says Dutch softdrugs politics are bad, but has a lot more junkies.
    – America gives you smiles and asks ” How are you doing today?”, but …………..(fill in what you’d expect to find)…………

    So I’d prefer honesty, even if that means a crabby waiter. At least I know what I can expect. And as said: I don’t live in Amsterdam and ususally encounter friendly staff everywhere, especially if you adress them friendly.

    • billvanamsterdam

      So cute! You hate generalisations about the Dutch, all 16 million of them and follow it with a bunch of generalisationa about 300 million Americans. Hmmm, and they say the Dutch (!) aren’t hypocritical…

      • Tunekirk

        Ha! I thought that exact same thing when I read this. BTW- Americans will absolutely be 10000% honest with you if you engage them in a conversation. Saying “hi, how are you” is the same as “goedemorgen, kan ik je helpen” (or however that should be typed).

      • vandercoelen

        I think the post you replied to was inspired by this bit of film: (which is a response to FOX). Now there are some problems in th US with the Issues Thijs so indelicately brings up here. Teenage pregnancy in the US is highest of the western world by a long shot (second is the UK which had about half of the US teen pregnancies a few years ago). Also STI rate in the US is very high compared to many European countries (e.g. France, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands etc).
        The (relative) prudishness can be found in many areas. There is government funding for abstinance only sex-ed (which only effects are an increase in unsafe sex and consequently increases in STI and teen pregnancy rates). Also the MPAA shows it’s prudishness from a European standpoint. Movies which hint at sex usually get a higher rating when compared to European ratings. (For violence it’s usually the other way around by the way). For instance Jersey Girl has been rated PG13 in the Netherlands and Germany the rating was 6 (there are many more examples).
        For the drugs I refer to the link.
        Of course I can’t say anything about anyone individual american statistics can only paint a general picture of a country.

  17. Floor

    Well… Agree with the first part but not every dutch waiter is that way. I live in the hague and service is the worst in amsterdam. Especially in hip and happening places.

  18. Olaf

    People from my country (Slovakia) also hate that American fake-friendliness. Let me explain why we see greeting ‘How are you?’ frightening. It simply forces you to reply ‘I’m fine, how are you?’ even if you feel bad/strange/tired, or when you don’t want to reply at all. Simple Hello is just better, more convenient and more friendly since it doesn’t intrude your private feelings or doesn’t force you to anything. ‘How are you’ from a person who is a total stranger to us sounds slimy and suspicious. The most scandalous is the fact it ‘forces’ you to a certain reply which is mostly a lie. It looks pathetic and fake to us. On the other hand, waitress’ friendliness is another story. It’s their job to make customers feel good in their cafe/restaurant.

  19. The Lexibitionist

    Nothing wrong with keeping it real. But just because someone greets you with a “how are you”, it doesn’t mean you have to become best friends for life. And just because someone greets you with a plain “hi”, it doesn’t mean that they are that much more genuine. But anyone choosing a job in hospitality / customer service should know that it’s not about them, but about the client. Better pick another job than carry on with that which brings you nothing but bitterness and resentment.

  20. Lisa Brignoni

    YES YES YES!! One of the biggest gripes my Portuguese roommate and I had about living in Amsterdam was the rudeness of the waiters! We have no problem with fake-nice. After all, we’re not looking to become lifelong friends with our waiters, just want a pleasant experience.

  21. Can

    Actually I have seen the nicest store workers and waiter/waitresses in Netherlands.This might have something to do with the region though (When I first moved here 2 years ago, they told me Brabant people are the nicest in the country, I guess there is at least some truth in this).

    But in general I agree that many people are pretty much unaware of small nice gestures (fake or real, nice is always nice).

    As a side note: that shouldering thing frustrates me a lot. I got shouldered in the face, in the face, in the chest and none of them even looked back. When this happens in my own country, you at least look back and make a hand gesture meaning simply “Sorry”. You don’t even have to talk for god’s sake!

    • Desirée

      Whenever I’m in the UK, I automatically apologize when I bump into someone (I never say ‘sorry’ as often as in those few weeks a year I’m in the UK!). But when I get back home (to Holland) I don’t as often (it depends on my mood, I think), because it’s not a custom here. People do not apologize for bumping, the bumpee only gives a dirty look to the bumper, and the bumper doesn’t even seems to notice…
      Weird how you adapt to the country you’re in (or at least I do).

      • halukcy

        True, I agree with the adaptation part. I act the same way as the people around me, I don’t even look back in such situations anymore 🙂
        Living in another culture is being like a child, you do what the native people do, sometimes without even noticing…

  22. Marcello

    Well, Brits and Americans think every other witer in the Netherlands hates them, just because they DON’T ask “how are you doing today”. It is possible that he Dutch waitress that offers a mere “good afternoon” actually means the same thing as the American waitress delivering her uniterested question . . . . . Just a question: “How was the food?” Not that the answer interests me at all . . . .

    • Olaf

      good example. Question “How was the food?” is also embarassing for me. If I don’t really like the food and I want to be polite (it’s not the waiters fault) I’m forced to lie. I complain about the food in front of my friends and then I reply ‘yes, it was good’ to a waiter in front of the same friends. Well… my friends might think ‘What a faker’ 🙁 In America they can take it as a routine without giving it a second thought but for us it’s really uncomfortable and embarassing to say this particular pair of phrases.

      • Monica

        As an American, I reply honestly when asked about the food. If it’s great, I say so. I don’t treat the waitstaff as if a problem is their fault, but they can pass this on to the cooks or the management. Undercooked items can be cooked further, incorrect side items can be replaced. They will often discount your meal if it was not what you expected. This is an honest question. True, “How are you” is often used more as “hello, I hope you’re doing well” than as an actual question, but “how is your food” should be answered honestly.

      • Anna

        aaa I agree!! also for me the question is always embarassing. From this point of view the Americans are more direct. We would never admit the food was not good, simply because it is not expected. In a way, at least in my country, this is like the “how are you” of the shop assistants in the US: a habit, a courtesy form. You perfectly know they do not expect an honest answer. Of course you can understand from the tone of voice, the adjectives used and the overall attitude if the answer is simply a polite one or the customer is really happy with his/her mean!.However you won’t have a discout, for sure!!

      • Lynette

        As an American, in this situation you should be honest, but still very polite with the waitstaff. They are the middle people between yourself and the cook. Don’t think of it as offending anyone, but as positive criticism. Future diners will thank you! 😀

  23. Damon

    To me, the Dutch seem highly suspicious of politeness and courtesy for some reason….it’s kind of sad, really… they often come up in polls as the “happiest” people in Europe – but so many seem like miserable, mean-spirited, grumpy saddos…. is it the weather….or Calvinism?

    • Desirée

      Yes, that’s true. Most Dutch people also don’t accept compliments, they think you want something from them, like you have a hidden agenda, similar to when you’re nice. People here seem to think that you are never just nice, only when you need them to do something for you.
      Very annoying, but it can be helped! Where I worked for two years, I always gave compliments (’cause that’s what I’m like) when someone had a new haircut, shoes or clothes, and at first people were suspicious, but after a while, they started doing it themselves.

    • Tom

      I don’t think ‘the dutch’ as a whole compared to any other group of people from any other country are more grumpy nor happy. It’s just a traditional thing, usually to do with the way you were raised by your parents.

      And yes, I do get a little miffed when someone who doesn’t care at all how my day is insists on asking about it anyway. Now I realize they don’t literally mean to inquire about your day but it is just how we dutchies interpret a greeting like that. Probably because overhere a simple ‘good day sir’ or ma’am will do just fine.

      So does that make our waitresses or shopping staff rude? I really don’t think so. It’s just that there is no tipping system like in the u.s. so the staff doesn’t have to smile like lunatics on acid to get some extra change out of your pocket. All they need to do is be helpful when requested and friendliness comes from the person itself. You might get lucky and run into some good mooded chap or girl in some shop while running into some grumpy one at another. Waitresses and shop staff are almost human if you think about it 😉

      Besides, if you really want a taste of how staff can be rude Holland isn’t the best place to go experience that. I dare you to travel by car through France and stop at any roadside diner 😀 If you’re daredevil enough to do that, up the ante a bit by complaining about the food (there’s always something to complain about, so no worries there) or the really gross bathroom. Please post results on youtube, I’ll surely be watching.

      Regards, and have a very very very nice day today and tomorrow even nicer.

      -Dutchie living in Spain-

    • Olaf

      To give you a simple answer: They are happy that they can freely express their true feelings without pretending or looking always positive, always friendly, always happy – which might be exhausting for them. I can imagine many people in America are tired of looking so friendly and smiling all the time. Czech people are very similar to Dutch. They like complaining and criticizing – that makes them release stress and … they feel happy and relaxed. They feel free.

    • Kim

      I’m an American. I greet people. I am friendly. You can call it fake or real – I don’t really care. I was raised to be polite and say hello to people – I genuinely feel it is important to acknowledge another person’s existence in this all too dreary world. To make it worse – I am a Southern woman – we compliment people. It is an ice breaker where I come from. I never thought what I thought were good manners would be condemned. My daughter asked me to stop speaking to people – that I acted like Forrest Gump. LOL!

      • Lynn

        Oh Kim!
        “To make it worse – I am a Southern woman ”

        Sometimes bumping into a Southern woman like you is like a breath of fresh air inscenced with the scent of sunripened peaches! Thank you for keeping the niceness in our lives and tnx to your parents for raising you with all those friendly good manners.

        Really, there is this man I meet regularly in my work, and I will bet you he must be a southern woman too, because he is always so exuberantly full of joy, extremely nice and showing genuine interest while doling out compliments.. Even on my most terribly worst day when everything is going bad and the world must be hating me and vice versa, when I run into him, he just never seems to get my mood, but immerses me with his zealotic (is that a word? LOL) friendliness and irrevocably I end up trying to be nicer to him and other people because ultimatly it is not their fault that the world hates me and vice versa. 😉

  24. Petra

    As a British person, I’d disagree with the idea that the American insincere friendliness you get in the service industry is normal to us. We comment on its fakeness in the same way the Dutch do, and British service-people are much more like Dutch ones (except for the odd American company, where British employees have obviously been given friendly greetings which they deliver like they’re reading from a script).

    • aliceaimeeroberts

      Completely agree, I find it funny when British people do the scripted thing though, rather than annoying – I also feel that as a reserved, but still smiley person, a certain paranoia in California with acquaintances of seeming stuck-up and negative due to cultural differences. Not that that’s universal. I really enjoyed my trips over to america (the west side only, yet to discover New York) but was surprised at how, even in European countries where I speak not one word of the language (that’s every non French-or-English-speaking country so it’s a long list) I generally somehow find it more familiar culturally than in my limited experience of the vast and varied USA, I can’t really explain it properly.
      In Belgium and the Netherlands I haven’t experienced rudeness really. I’m shy about being an English person abroad, hate seeming like a monolingual invader 🙂

  25. mamakimm

    Very true! Although it´s not really the way they ask “How are you doing?”, cause that’s fine. It more the fakeness in things like: “That Wonderfall!!!!!” when they have not a clue what you are talking about. To that kind of fakeness I am allergic, not to the “How are you doing?” question.


  26. oravla

    I’m a Brazilian currently living in the US and I also hate how waiters behave here 😀
    I don’t think that the Dutch don’t like the American (referring to people from the US) waiters because they are not direct, I think you people don’t like them for the same reason I don’t: they act so fake that it’s annoying.

    See.. in Brazil, usually waiters are very polite, but there’s no faking. A lot of time they will come smiling, but not a fake smile. And if they don’t feel like smiling, if they are tired, having a bad day, or in a hurry, etc, they don’t feel obligated to smile, but they treat you politely anyway. So, basically, there are no fake smiles, no fake interest chitchat, just plain simple courtesy and politeness.
    And I think that the service there is very good and the business owners usually care a lot about the quality of service (example: they take customer complaints about waiters very seriously).

    Now, in the US, they come to you with that big fake smile, where you can read a big “hey, I don’t care about you, actually I hate you, but I’m smiling :D”. And the service a lot of times is baaad and they also don’t care about it. And they will come to you at the end again with that obviously-a-fake smile, really meaning “finally you are over. at least give me a nice tip”, and they say “take your time” sounding like “get the f* outta here asap :D”.
    That is really annoying for me. I probably also wouldn’t like the Dutch way very much if the waiters there are rude, cause I’m used to the Brazilian politeness and stuff, but I think it would be way better than the American way. See, if you are going to not care, simply don’t care. Don’t go pretending you care with a fake smile, making it obvious that you don’t, cause that is just more annoying.

    I don’t mean to generalize, there are places here where people are polite with you and are not faking, but the amount of times that I’ve experienced the “I don’t care but I’m a fake smiler, f* u:D” is veeery high, while in my home country I believe I’ve never experience such thing. (Although it’s unusual to have an unpolite waiter there, sometimes obviously it happens, but even in these cases they will never fake that they like you :P).

  27. D.

    Well I think that you are right about some things. I, myself also work in a supermarket. Not the Albert Heijn just a little unknown little supermarktstore thingy. But when someone asks me where the karnemelk is and if we have it in the back, me and my colleagues always ask the customer to wait a few minutes so that we can go take a look or ask our supervisor.

    Also you are right about people who push everyone away when they are entering a train or something. When I am waiting at the station for the metro to come with my fellow classmates we always wait till everyone has came out of it and then we walk into it.

    So you are right about some things, but well every store and neighbourhood and people are different, and also the people who experience this.

  28. Bartezz

    Being Dutch and having lived in the US I agree that the American over-friendliness is somewhat strange to those who aren’t used to it. I also call it fake. It’s not just the ‘And how are you today sir’, but also the tons of ‘OMG I love this/that/you’, ‘Have a fabulous day’, ‘How is your business today sir’ (wlaking into a bank). Do they realy love this/that/me? Want me to have a fabulous day? Or care about my business? I don’t realy think so. It’s trained monkey behaviour without any thought, before or after popping those questions or making those statements. In all the time I spent in the US I was most flabbergasted with these type of empty statements after buying a toilet brush and the cashier handed it to me accompanied with the statement; ‘Enjoy your purchase sir’…

  29. Mandy Oldham

    It’s not only the Dutch that get annoyed with this business of shop assistants etc asking how you are and being overly intrusive. I’m Australian and I don’t like it either; makes me nervous – what do they want? I can remember giving a gruff ‘fine’ to one shop assistant, and he turned around and said ‘you don’t look too happy’ to which I replied, ‘Well why did you ask then?’ and then walked off.. Perhaps I was a bit rude but you do get a bit sick of these people.

  30. Kramer

    Just returned from the Netherlands to Canada. I work in retail, and, yes, we are expected to be friendly. In fact, our company excels at customer service. I noticed that in the Netherlands, almost everyone who passed within a meter or so offered a “Goedemiddag”, etc. That, my friends, is the Dutch moral equivalent of our “How are you?” In either case, a simple “Hello” will suffice as a reply. Just be thankful, in both places, that your presence is acknowledged – if you want anominity or to be ignored, you may choose to be rude in return, but isn’t it easier to be human? Give a smile, say hello, and maybe make someone’s day a bit brighter. Trust me, with your weather, you can use all the brightness you can get!

  31. Liz

    I’m Dutch and I regularly work with US tourists. I think I can say about myself I’m polite and professional (hey, I’ve come a long way, so it seems!). But the fakeness that goes around there I often cannot handle. When you ask them a genuine “all fine?” and you get the standard “oh it’s great” answer you have no idea what’s going on. It happened that all happy smily people write complaint emails to my boss afterwards. How the hell are you supposed to improve your service when you never really know what they think? So I much prefer the Dutch way – if it’s not good, you can read their faces, ask them a direct question, get a direct honest answer and solve the problem.

  32. greftek

    Actually, it’s not the words “how are you doing” but the slightly psycho-smile you see with it. Normal people don’t smile like that. I’ve learned to ignore it but it still freaks me out a little… just like clowns.

  33. mantodistelle

    May I add a third party\’s view? I am Italian. I have worked for 6 years with Americans and have been in the NL recently. I am afraid I must agree with the Dutch here. I found extremely unpleasant when on Valentine kids offered me a cookie wishing me happy valentine when for the whole year they had not even bothered to greet me. And look, we Italians are surely not as direct as the Dutch are, but you can be kind without being so overtly fake! As to the Dutch, I have felt at ease there \”gezellig\” I would say! They do not use all the courtesy forms we Italians do but they are willing to help and also to chat a little. That I find very welcoming! maybe waiters are not the best representatives of The Dutch people?

  34. Jos

    When I was a kid I used to greet my father every morning with a ‘good morning’. He always replied: ‘That’s too Me to decide’. I realy loved the man for that.

  35. S.

    I always feel as a foreigner in my own country when visiting Amsterdam. Indeed, the waiters are rude and often don’t even speak Dutch – now that is weird, Americans: imagine going to a “normal” (not foreign cuisine) restaurant and the waiter only speaks Spanish!

    In many other cities it is way better.
    I’ve never been to the States and therefore no experience with the “how are you today?” question, but to me a simple hi or good afternoon is perfectly fine.

  36. Q

    Quite ill-informed, and you haven’t explored the depth of this cultural difference. Of course there is a difference in quality between establishments within the Netherlands. Some may greet you, some won’t. Some will address you in the formal way, which the English speaking world doesn’t even have. I think the crux of the perceived difference is that Americans wrap their friendliness in a interested question. This confuses the Dutchman, as it is an inquiry of your well-being. This makes it too personal for the Dutch person, and he/she will either react honestly, as we are so accustomed to it, or shudder in disgust of the fakeness of the question. For the American visiting the Netherlands it is total culture shock anyway, because the Dutch are so used to being direct that to other people it may seem threatening or rude. I find it to be a merit, actually. The american fake friendliness is superficial compared to the eastern tradition of politeness. This are people who get fired if they don’t smile constantly. So consider yourself lucky being only a “rude” Dutchman, or a “fake” american.

  37. Daniel Bos

    I actually consider the insincere “how are you doing?” to be kinda rude. You are forcing me to return the “favor”, even though I also couldn’t care less, *or* to be “rude” and ignore the question.

    If you are actually sincere about asking me, then you should expect and be able to deal with “horrible” for an answer.

    What’s wrong with a simple “good morning”? You can’t possibly go wrong with wishing someone well!

  38. ellen

    hi guys, im a dutchie who lives in australia a bit over 4 years now.
    in the beginning I really had to get used to the abundance of the ‘how are you going?’ basically used by anyone you come face to face with; and even more shocking for me was the use of the word “darling” (or better said “darl” in australian slang) , “honey”, “sweety” even at official places such as banks!… i was gobsmacked at first….BUT once i got used to it and got over my dutch directness i really started to appreciate it!!! i like it!! yeah it might be only just a way of greeting, no in depth meaning behind it, no honest answer expected and wanted in return, fake freindliness, but it sets such a nice tone, it is meant very friendly and that is how it feels. it’s just that little bit of extra personal and friendly attention that makes a big difference. friendliness and even fake generates smiles, ans smiles generate more smiles. there are so many random people you can talk to if you like and random people who tell you their stories…..little gems to be found and something you never would experience if anyone just kept to themselves and never made much contact, as the ‘how are you going’ sometimes is also just an open invitation to strike-up a friendly conversation. smile and the whole world smiles back at you, even appicable at the workfloor as your day will be so much more pleasant (and who knows you get to meet very interesting new people).
    I think that the still in holland living Dutchies should stop taking themselves so seriously and relax more! try and find the positives in situations and stop complaining so much (which is typical dutch)! we have such a good life, especially in Holland, while (form what i have experieced during my many travels) in other countries where the people are a lot less fortunate and have much bigger problems they smile smile and always try and see the positives.

    • findyourwingman

      Please come back to holland and tell that to your follow Dutchies. I live here for 3 years and it’s just impossible to engage in any exchange of any kind with anybody here (ok I exagarate a bit, but not that much)

  39. [email protected]

    In Amsterdam waiters/waitresses can be really unfriendly! I even noticed that and it irritated me. You still can be kind without being fake. Just be nice to people/customers, stay polite when customers are a pain in the ass and be helpful. Just do your job.
    Maybe it’s because of the hospitality of the pleasant ‘Brabanders’, but where I’m from it’s normal to be kind and helpful, yet sincere as a waiter/waitress.

  40. Gido

    Does anyone that have worked at McDonalds remember the instructional video’s your were shown in your training? That you have to smile always and say the welcome to mcdonalds bladiebla how may I help you yekkerdiejek. The insanely white teeth and wide eyes of the actors. Squirting a blob of ketchup on the hamburgers with toothpaste-white smiles. They all seemed to be on Speed. That ridiculously repetitive saying that you love someone over the phone. Love you. Love you. Blugh. Fake smiles. I love grumpy waiters and don’t mind them at all as long as I don’t have to wait long. If you are not sincerely cheerfull then you don’t have to act like a cheerfull person.

  41. Frederique

    I miss the ‘fake’ American kindness every time I return to Holland. At least in the US people sincerely excuse themselves when they notice they’re standing in your way. In Holland they’re ready to punch you in the face when you say ‘excuse me’. i never talk to people I don’t know in Holland, while I meet loads of interesting people in the US. Most are genuinly interested in you, I can tell the difference by now.

  42. emmikiki

    Well now that you told everybody in America that we are mean and grumpy why don’t you get the hell out of my country!! Okay I’m actually just kidding, I love your blog but this one I have to disagree. We are honest, and generally say what we think. But we are not mean and say things that are impolite or something. I worked in a clothing store and I always said a nice “hello” to the costumers.. Just saying! 😉 Keep posting, your others are very funny and kinda true! 

  43. Invader_Stu

    As a Brit I really shudder at the fake American ‘Hi, how are you.’ Not that it is an exclusive American thing. I hate any fake-ness.

  44. Joyce

    I get your point.. and true, we don’t like the fakeness.. but my biggest issue is that I never know how to reply to people when they greet you and immediately ask you how you are?
    I know it actually only is a form of politeness, but are they expecting an answer or not? I never know.
    And then again…you’re being asked how you’re doing, while you’re well aware that they don’t care at all how you are. to me that seems quite impolite as well

  45. Miss Footloose

    When you move to a different country you learn about different customs and habits. In the US when a stranger greets you with “How are you?” it’s just a greeting. It’s not fake, it’s JUST A GREETING. All you say is, “Fine, thank you,” or return it with “good morning” or whatever you are comfortable with. How hard is that? It’s just a ritual thing, not an actual question.

    “Good Morning.” If you want to be literal about greetings, why is that not fake? If you are strangers, what do you care if the other person has a “good morning?”

  46. Kairo

    First of all, I’m American. When I say “how are you?”, I may not care deeply about your mental well being, but I do actually hope all is well. I guess in an opposite way, I’m kinda allergic to being a dick to everyone who’s a stranger. For me, it’s actually more tiring to be a dick. Anyways, I don’t see how a “how are you?” greeting is different then the “hoe gaat het?/ hoe’st?/alles is goed” I receive here. In fact, it happens almost just as often. I serious don’t think the person asking me really cares about my mental well being.

  47. Sami Veloso

    I have just spent half the morning reading your blog (I came via “The serial expat diaries”) and you had me giggling the whole time! My niece lives in Amsterdam and she had already told me a few of their quirky ways, so it was nice to actually confirm that and more via your humorous writing.
    I am Portuguese, but live Australia, and there service staff always ask you “how was your day” or “how are you?” and I generally reply and in turn ask them about their day, and I find nothing fake about it, they were being friendly and I feel that talking to them is a way to brighten their day and make them feel good about what their job. I too work as a medical receptionist and ask our patients about their day as well and after 5 years of working there, a lot of them talk to us about their family, their holidays, their work, etc., so I think that me being friendly makes them comfortable.

  48. frank

    The French say: Ca Va? and don’t expect your life story either.
    I’m a Dutchie living in Canada for almost 14 yrs, and have traveled throughout Canada and the States..I’m always amazed with the lack of courtesy of Dutch clerks, waiters etc when I’m back in Holland ( not only in Amsterdam) You can say whatever you like about it , but I wouldn’t like to be shopmanager of a clothing store and have to pay my crew loads of Euros for a day of pissing of customers….Small example, went to buy shoes at some clothing store in Arnhem, had to ask the guy at the counter 3 times to actually go in the back to look for my size..only
    to tell me that “down the street is another shop that caries the same shoes” If I was his boss I would fire his sorry ass at the spot.

  49. Thijs van der Meer

    Jesus, people, sometimes you just act nice to strangers because that’s a way of having life not suck.

  50. Chantal

    The first few times I went to Cali, I did not know how to respond to the “How are you doing today?” Nowdays I just say “Good! And what about you?” Found out that it is just a polite question..

    It was a little bit of getting used to, but I did learn not to be so “typical Dutch” haha!

  51. Momo

    Hw can you all tell when it’s fake or when it’s real? I come from a latin country and where I come from people ask “Como estas?” (How you doing?) and all the rest of greeting words we use in spanish.The thing is, they really mean it! I do at least when I say it. One of my qualities is service and making people feel comfortable and satisfied with my smile and my care… How can I do this back in the Netherlands when it’s going to be seen as fake?

  52. Momo

    I was once in a caffee and the bartender was so rude… My friend and I ordered a cheese platter and the guy just smirked at me with a look as if saying “are you stupid or something?”. After his smirk I asked him what was so funny, and he smiled again saying the patter was huge… Had to tell him I was not a mind reader and that instead of smirking at me he could have explained this to me. Of course, it i snot about just being plain rude, but the fact is that all these “service and hospitality peeps” might not have any training whatsoever in customer service and how to treat a customer. It’s not about cultural fakeness or directness, it’s about good service delivered in a genuine way… I cannot stand bad service!

  53. pierre

    To be fair, I think it would be more the opposite to this one (i.e. “being overtly polite in a fake way”) that should be in a cultural blog about Americans. When I was studying in the U.S. most foreign students from Europe, no matter the country, found it very artificial and kind of annoying.

  54. Ed

    First, America is a big place, making generalizations pretty difficult. Second, there are signficant regional differences in America, some of which rival the cultural differences between, say, Friesland and Limburg. I grew up in the American South, and we approach life differently from our northern counterparts.

    Generally, when we begin a conversation with “how are you,” it is an open-ended opportunity for someone to share as much or as little as he or she chooses. We’re OK with a perfunctory “fine,” if that’s the person’s choice. However, if you say, “Terrible; my dog just died,” you will probably find yourself a caring ear. So when an American service person asks how I am, I don’t assume they’re being fake.

    I’d suggest you give them the benefit of the doubt. As a Dutch friend once advised, Americans shouldn’t think they know the Dutch because they’ve been to Amsterdam, and we promise not to think we know Americans because we’ve been to New York.

    You see, particularly in the South, business isn’t just business, it’s an interaction, a relationship – however fleeting – between PEOPLE. Much as with the Saudi’s, it’s considered rude in the South to just dive into a negotiation; first, there is some non-business interaction, small talk, if you will. It recognizes the shared humanity of the parties, and is essentially conversational foreplay. It is how you begin to become acquainted with the person you’re about to have a business relationship with. People do business with people.

    Likewise, it is customary where I come from to acknowledge another human when you pass each other on the sidewalk; in fact, it is rude to ignore the other person. You might do as little as nod as you pass; sometimes, nod and smile. If it’s someone you recognize – a neighbor from two streets away, your barista who is out for a stroll, anyone with whom you have at least a passing awareness – you probably add a word or two: “good morning,” or at least “hello.”

    And THAT is what was hardest for me when I was living in The Hague. There, I came to understand that it’s rude to intrude into someone’s solitude, to violate the integrity of their mental and personal space on the street. I had to consciously avoid any overt acknowledgement of the other human being’s existence, as I noiselessly approached him or her, with apparent indifference. I always found it curious that such gracious and fun-loving people seemed so thoroughly insular on the street.

    • Lily

      Actually that sounds like a well-known manipulative sales ploy. By making someone feel like a friend you can convince them that you are helping them and that the transaction is a fair one, when it might be anything but. I find this approach to be sincerely insincere.

  55. chris

    First off
    We do have terrible service personal in the Netherlands,
    and a lot of people complain about it.

    We do not hate the question: How are you doing? (at least i don’t).
    But we do hate the smile who is so big you almost can’t talk with it and looks like you are on some kind of drugs.
    We don’t hate kindness but we hate it when you lie right in or face.
    for example i was for a internship in New York and met some friends there.
    We where in a cloth store and i tried some things on and ask them: how does it fit?
    And everything fitted fabulous so i tried something 2 sizes too big and still it was fabulous.
    That is the American fakeness we hate. In this case it isn’t polite to say it was fabulous cause you let one of your friends walk around like a freaking idiot. You don’t have too say you don’t like the clothes but you can say when something is too big or too small when the ask.

  56. iljajj

    For the first twenty or so years of my life, I lived in quite a small village: on the street, you acknowledged one another’s presence by a raised hand, or a short ‘hello’. To me, one of the most difficult things to adjust to in urban Dutch life is that this can sometimes by regarded as intrusion. It’s worse in city centres than in suburbs or villages, but I have experienced in Amsterdam and The Hague trams that a normal enquiry would seriously upset the person I addressed – particularly if that person was elderly. However, once they realised that I wasn’t about to mug them or ask them for money to feed a drug habit, they usually obliged – enthusiastically, even – and we got talking. In my experience, as a people we (not only the Dutch, but also urban Germans) need to get rid of this initial fright for social contact – it is becoming a serious handicap.

    For comparison: when I fly to the USA, I generally enjoy more spontaneous banter waiting to pass border control or waiting for my luggage, than I do in Holland in a year.

  57. Rick

    Dutchie here, i think we dusch people are just more pragmatic when it comes to conversations.
    We don’t mean to be rude we just think a friendly; “Hallo, Hoi, Goedemiddag, etc.” is enough.
    we are not used to the fact that a total stranger asks you how you are and frankly i think it’s a bit silly since they do not care what you awnser (with doctors, nurses and other medical staff as the acception ofcourse). why bother to ask… We just like a friendly hello thats all, we listen to tone of voice when it comes to determaning the mood of the person and if they would rather see you leave then stay… just hello, why pretend to care when you do not…
    it could be me but the “niceness” show this way, makes my hair stand up and i think it’s kind of creapy

  58. JB

    Being a French liing in the Netherlands, I prefer by far the american way of being then the Dutch. I think that the Dutch are very fake people, never telling you what they think, always speaking behing each other back. Their smile is anal and fake, they voice sounds fake, espacially when they do the little high pitch note at the end of their sentences. I can hardly be at ease with the Dutch. The problem is that they just never come up with something interesting/ original / funny to say. The Americans and the britsh are just more friendly and are given the chance to develop personalities mutch ritch than the Dutch because they evolve in a friendly social environment. This might be a bit harsh on the Dutch but this is my feeling after having lived 3 years in this country.

  59. Bertine Centen

    I am Dutch, and go to the US every year, usually the west coast. I love the way I am treated in the US. I actually like the “Hi, how are you” and usually respond with a smile and “(Fine) Thanks, and you?”. I have worked in bars and restaurants here, and always was pleasant and friendly with my customers. They were there to have a good time, not to endure my bad mood, or general unhappiness with the job, which it feels like to me here in the Netherlands a lot of the time.
    I have been in a lot of places where the wait staff obviously think they are doing you a huge favor waiting on you, accompanied by a long-suffering sigh…
    Like someone else said though, why would it all be fake? I mostly loved the bar and restaurant jobs and it was reflected in my attitude. And my livelihood didn’t even depend on being nice….

  60. Silvia

    ”I live in Groningen; waiters here are rude and we do not get many tourists. It’s a Dutch thing”

    Totally agree!

    I live in Hilversum and the waiters are also rude!By the way everybody in this country isn’t nice.
    You are very lucky if you find a very nice Dutch person.
    The nice Dutch people I know I can count maybe in one hand.(Including my husband)
    Besides the fact they’re rude they’re also non hygienic at restaurants!For several times we went to restaurants and waiters gave me wet glasses.In Amsterdam I went to a restaurant at Ledseplein (Uruguayan Restaurant but all waiters were 100% Dutch).They brought me something that I didn’t asked I told them to change and the waitress start to argue with me telling me I had to accept what she brought to my table because she was sure I asked for it.
    I’m married to a Dutch man but he totally agrees when I complain about the stupid way Dutch people act with other people.
    They’re rude, unpolite, not nice, cold, and so many other things that if I would writte here I would be the whole day…..
    At the moment I’m trying an answer by Email from a Real State Agency and it was already one week ago and no answer…I have no idea what people are doing at their jobs (This fits in the post ”Not working”.I believe they get Emails and delete pretending they never got it.That’s what some Dutch people do were I work.
    I think this is unacceptable.

    • marc

      I’m not a fan of our dutch social behaviour too but with your comment you are acting in the same way you say the Dutch do. I think it’s “rude, unpolite, not nice, cold, and so many other things” the way you describe us Dutch. And to end in typical Dutch fashion not to disturb your stereotypes (ie rude, unpolite, not nice et cetera): You can always leave….or try to be aware of the phenomenon called ‘self fullfilling prophecy’……

    • Janneke

      Why on earth do you live in the Netherlands if you hate being there so much? I bet you have Dutch acquaintances or even just acquaintances with Dutch friends. Next time one of them is being rude/not nice, ask why they are acting that way. I bet they think they are being kind when you don’t think they are and vise-versa. You need time getting used to every culture. If you still hate it after a while … I’m sure you can get jobs abroad.

  61. marc

    We could do with a some more genuine friendliness and common courtesy here in the Netherlands. It would be a nicer place.
    @JB It’s funny because what you say contradicts with most impressions foreign people have of the Dutch…..ah well, your French…..(-;

  62. Miss Footloose

    I am amazed at all that negativity about the Dutch. Okay, I am Dutch, and I’ve lived abroad for decades, but I’m in Holland several times a year, and I’ve never “noticed” the rudeness of waiters and shop personal as a national characteristic. Sure, it happens, but all the time? Everywhere?

    This time – July – I was in Holland for two weeks, and decided to pay attention. I was in Amsterdam, a couple of small towns and in a village setting. I also was in several government offices and dealt with civil servants. My American dh and I ate half our meals in restaurants and cafes, and coffee and drinks in other establishments. We used public transportation as well as a rental car. I spoke Dutch and on several occasions spoke English to see how that made a difference. It didn’t.

    What can I tell you? Not once, not one single time did we come across anyone remotely rude. In fact, almost all were very nice, smiling and friendly. We chatted with waiters and waitresses, joked with shop personnel, and received help with a smile when asked. Even the civil servants were friendly and helpful.

    At one restaurant the service was very slow due to some crisis in the kitchen, but the server was friendly and apologetic.

    Is it just me? Do I bring nice out in people? Can I bottle it and sell it?

    • Anna

      I completely agree with you Miss Footloose. In the Netherlands I have not met any rude person. One or two bus drivers were not overly talkative but surely not rude. And at any rate, two in a lot more who were instead very kind do not count. True, some waiters in Amsterdam are not overly kind, but have you considered how many clients are there? have you ever considered what a mess is there in Leidesplein? The poor waiters are clearly tired and stressed, it is a miracle they still manage to be polite. My impression of the Dutch is very positive, I find them nice and ready to talk and help. also other friends of mine who have visited the Netherlands agree with me absolutely. Ppeople, have you ever considered how you behave when you ask for something? are you sure you are being polite, kind and friendly? Do you smile to the waiters? do you thank them? As to civil servants, are you the kind of citizen that walks in presuming they do not want to help or work? do you ask the first office you find without being sure it is the right one? Think carefully: very often we receive back what we give out.

      • Miss Footloose

        Thank you, Anna! I am glad someone else experiences what I experienced! And actually one of the most fun interactions we had with a waitress was right on the Leidseplein in a big outdoor “touristt” cafe! I am sure you are right: Very often we receive back what we give out. I have found that to be true in most places I have lived, and I have lived in a good number of countries around the world.

    • Sjaak

      I prefer ten thousand times true rudeness to fake kindness. I’d rather have someone being rude and not care, than being fake and pretend to care.

      • dot

        Ever considered that it may be real kindness??

  63. Judith

    Excellent post! And so true… I traveled to the US quite a few times and NEVER got used to hearing and responding to the “how are you today?” everywhere I go. I just have no clue what to answer, I started with fine, how are you (weird looks) Later I just ignored the question and did not answer at all (so far for Dutch politeness, haha).
    Regarding the waiters in Amsterdam, just don’t go to Amsterdam…. (it can not be worse than the Amsterdam taxi drivers though)

  64. jettte

    This is possibly the first post on this blog I really really disagreed with.
    I really don’t know what you people are on about. I’m with Anna and Miss Footloose. I’m German, but spent 8 years in Australia before coming to NL a year ago. I am perfectly adjusted to the Aussie “How’s it going?” and have no trouble choosing the appropriate reply from the range between “fine, thanks”, over “not too shabby, y’self?”, and “I’m a wreck, my mother just died” depending on how close I am to the person asking. And I greet everyone with “How’s it going?” myself, I’d even find it rude not to, even though I don’t expect to hear their life story. When I came to NL, I expected the Dutch to be as I remembered the Germans: unfriendly and reserved. After a year here, I still haven’t found a grumpy or unfriendly waiter or other service person. Not in Tilburg, where I live, and not in Amsterdam or anywhere else. I find the Dutch in general crazily friendly, nice, open and helpful. And that’s from someone who for all intends and purposes is as fake-nice as any Aussie (I think American service personnel are a bit further out there, probably due to the remuneration system they have over there as outlined in comments above 😉
    To me the friendly Dutch people are the best thing about the Netherlands!

  65. Manuela de Rooij

    As for me (Dutch, living in Holland), I find most of the Dutch people very rude… It is often like you said. They either look at you like you are completely insane, or they just don’t talk back, thinking that you probably don’t want an answer. I work behind the cassiers desk in a Supermarket and I make myself mad every time over the rudeness of people. Nowadays I just wait before I go and start bleeping the products. Because I will greet you properly and nice and I will wait untill you talk back to me, or atleast look at me and smile or something, meaning to greet back. I also dislike the people who will (for example) order sigarettes right away, before it’s even their turn, or before you have a chance to greet them. Or how you are explaining something they asked and in the middle of your explaination their phone will ring and they will just pick up and start talking on the phone, not minding you conservation anymore.
    And then, when I was in Belgium for a day, I was very surprised about how nice and kind and interested people were in other people they don’t know.
    We Dutch people can take a good example on that!
    So, I totally understand your blog…

    • Anna

      dear Manuela, what you say is sad but don’t think that happens only in your country.Your job is emotionally difficult because you have to deal with people who are in a hurry, tired, stressed, annoyed…. But again this happens everywhere. Foreigners say people in my country are kind. I am not so sure we are. In my opinion there is not a kind people, there are kind or unkind persons independently from their nationality. There are courtesy forms that differ from one country to the other according to different cultures and that can sound as kind or unkind depending on your own culture. We have been confusing here the use/non use of courtesy forms – such as “how are you?” – with real politeness and kindness. The two are completely different for me.

      • Miss Footloose

        A very thoughtful comment, and I agree with you. I was in Holland recently, and spent two weeks eating, drinking and shopping and didn’t come across a single rude person, and I was looking for them 😉

    • tim

      Did you shop in Belgium at Colruyt, Delhaize of Carrefour? Did you talk with cashiers there how they are treated by the customers?

  66. Freddie

    It’s just a norm of Dutchies. Another funny one is Dutch people hardly say ‘sorry’ when bump into each other accidentally haha

  67. Thany

    Well. Yes, we do like to keep it real. If you’re not interesting in how someone is doing, then don’t bother asking. Sometimes we just prefer to use as few words as possible to get the message across. It also works that way in Japan, so we’re not all that strange in that respect.

    Speaking of Japan, while people don’t generally say much (as silence is a perfectly valid and polite answer) people that are trying to help you at the other side of the counter, or a waitress or whatever, are overly friendly on top of being strictly polite. I’m not sure I like that, but at least it better than a Dutch waiter, that much I agree on. But a japanese waitress will never ask “genki desuka?” (how do you do?) because that becomes too personal for the customer. And I can understand why.

  68. Marjj

    I can definitely see how in general Dutch waiters or other personnel is not perceived as world most caring and polite but it’s so odd when you’ve kind of worked in those kind of businesses as well, like OMG am I one of those examples while I never even intended to be rude. I mean we were taught to greet customers, at least where I worked, formally, address them with ‘u’ so if you speak Dutch that’s how you know if someone’s being rude or not as well, and talk to customers if they seemed to be up for it, what more do you want from your personnel. So I always did all of that you know, but my face just seems to relax in a position that says: moody person here and sometimes I even got remarks from Dutch customers saying stuff like: “One more hour and then the store will close and you can go home” (as a friendly gesture, really!) and there are lots of expats in my town so I have the feeling that I’m an example that I didn’t even intend to be, believe it or not I didn’t really hate my job even though the pay was nay. xD I do also get the feeling that certain foreigners are used to way more service than Dutch customers because they made me do a lot more and a lot of stuff Dutch people would never ask without blinking or thinking also suggesting that serving standards elsewhere are on a whole different level altogether, fine I did it all because it killed time and if your bosses were about to make you do something you didn’t want to do you were glad you could say that you were busy helping a customer and that it was going to take a while.

    And about bumping, if I bump into someone in Amsterdam sometimes I look back and do a little hand gesture and half a smile or sometimes nothing because I regard the bump as a means of transport I mean you’re not seriously going to apologize for every single time you touch a person by accident when walking through a crowded city like Amsterdam? In my town I say sorry to everyone or well mime sorry to everyone and in the UK people say sorry to me before I can even think of saying sorry so then I’m left feeling rude and Dutch.’

    And when I was in the USA all the ‘How are you doings’ were incredibly confusing…. but I could get used to it eventually just like I can only take compliments on clothes from friends nothing or from no one else because then I think you’re joking or being sarcastic and mean.

  69. Amanda B

    Half Dutchie over here, and even though I have lived in the States all my life, the “How are you?” as a standard greeting does tend to irk me. If you’re not really interested in my well-being, then why ask?

    As for waitstaff in the States vs. the Netherlands, I never really noticed a difference. I never had a rude waiter at any of my visits to Dutchieland. I do know that in the States the waitstaff are working off mostly tips, so yes, customer service tends to be a bit higher, but I have had super rude waiters as well.

  70. Joanny

    Funny you mentioned Albert Heijn as I’ve worked there.. I was actually told by my manager not to ask people how their day’s been as most people are in a rush or just don’t feel the need to tell you but being polite and saying “Goedemiddag” good afternoon with a smile on my face was insisted, which is kinda obvious. On the waiters subject I really have to agree, there are of course a few well mannered once but most are just plain rude! But me being a dutchie and having the direct attitude tell them to stop being so bloody rude and do their freaking job and act as if they like it! (I do tell them this after I get my food or drinks in case they decide to spit in it or something)

  71. Liv Solveig (@PenguinSeymour)

    In the Netherlands people certainly never pretend to like you, unlike people in the USA. I grew up in Europe, and I actually like the American approach better. When I moved to the US a couple of years ago I thought everybody really liked me (aaaaaah…) and was deeply hurt when I found out the smile was fake and they actually hated me (ah well; didn’t give a crap about me is a better statement). I do agree Dutch waiters/waitresses and other front desk staff could be nicer. Whenever I go back now I immediately think “What have I done wrong? I just entered the store and she looks at me like I stepped on a basket full of puppies”. Swiss people are even worse…

  72. Jen

    I have always lived in the U.S., but I really do have a problem with fake niceness, fake compliments, etc. It really irritates me when I am asked how I’m doing and when I respond, I see that the person who greeted me with that question isn’t even listening. I have also been in situations where I answered honestly while having a bad day, and I made the person asking very uncomfortable. This did not bother me, as they need to know that if they don’t want to hear the truth, maybe they shouldn’t ask the question. Once, my boss called me acting really cheerful, asking about my family, etc. to which I answered honestly and positively. I was feeling very pleased that she genuinely cared. Then she told me that she had noticed something I had done wrong, and I realized that the whole purpose of the call was to tell me that. She was just “softening the blow” so to speak. I felt really embarrassed and betrayed, because I had rambled on about how everyone was, like she really cared, when in reality, she did not. Although, I would not have wanted her to call up and really be mean to me, I would have appreciated her just being direct and telling me what I needed to do different.

    I do use the greeting “How are you doing?” at times, but only if I expect a genuine answer. I don’t expect everyone to be comfortable enough to spill out all of their feelings, but if I ask, I am comfortable enough to hear it. I don’t ask unless I care. I do ask this question to more casual aquantainces than what the Dutch people would find okay, but I am still an American. 😉

    Many people in the U.S. find me to be a very negative person. This really depends on who you ask, but mostly it’s the really fake happy people. Over here, it is looked down upon to not be positive. It is hard to be around someone who is always grumbling and complaining all the time, but I don’t see anything wrong with seeing and accepting things as they really are. It can be helpful to see something besides only the positive side all the time. I don’t really think of my self as being a pessimest, I think of myself as a “realist” in this sense.

    For me, being polite is completely different than fake friendly. You can be having a bad day, but that doesn’t mean that you should treat everyone you come into contact with as if it is their fault and they should be punished for your terrible day/week/life. Politeness and respect doesn’t mean that you have to smile and be bubbly. 😉

    Reading all of your comments will be a real help to me for when I do get to visit the Netherlands. I will try not to overcompliment or be too invasive with my questions.

  73. rich

    it also depends on where you are in America, too. people are agonizingly polite to each other down south (Bless their hearts!), but the moment you step into New Jersey or New York City, people can be very rude and standoffish. There is a saying in New Jersey: “Why cross the street to talk to your neighbor when you can stand and yell across the street.” I have seen people have in depth conversations that way.

  74. Amber

    Well, I used to work at a bar and in a store and I was always totally overwhelmed when an American asked me how I was doing. Honestly I answered something as: ‘Well, busy day’ or ‘Thank you, I’m fine. How are you?’ and they always looked at me as if I was crazy! And it used to take me minutes realizing they didn’t really want to know but meant it as a way of saying ‘hello’.

    Somehow that really disappointed me. I know people in the horeca are unfriendly. That’s what frustraded me the most when I worked there. I always tried to be nice and chat a little but then my colleges shouted that shouldn’t do that since it was a waste of time.

    But still. I can’t understand why you would ask such a question and be suprised when someone actually answers. I didn’t answer because I thought it was a test but just because I forgot that it is just a greeting. I must say I think looking at me as if I am crazy answering is as stupid as being rude.

  75. Borisvdb

    The Dutch aren’t big on rhetorical questions, that is true. I see this as both a good thing and a bad thing. I disagree that dutch waiters are that rude though, I have met several pleasant waiters in Amsterdam where I have ordered a “toastie” and a “pannekoek” and that waiter lightly joked but still kept it real.

  76. Lynette

    I love reading this blog and all of the comments! I can’t understand the Dutch words at all, but I am really interested in other cultures so this is great fun for me. As an American who has worked in all kinds of customer service for every job I’ve ever held I’ve noticed a few things as well. If you work in customer service you are expected to greet every single person with kindness and respect because you’re hired to sell something and make a customer feel valued, not carry your emotional baggage to work or show that you are bored to death working your shift or that you’ve already answered the same question about 20 times that day. Because for the customer it is their first and (only) brief encounter with you for probably the rest of their life, but how you treat them could impact whether or not they return to that store again. So, customer service here is seen as a bigger picture. Secondly, even though it is our job to treat you with kindness, we also give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Sure, the last customer was a giant turd we wanted to punch in the face, but that doesn’t mean the next person in line will be. Lastly, the American customer service “fakeness” comes with a price that most Americans are aware of and therefore, won’t complain about. If someone is flat out rude to us, some very brave people will continue to soldier on with a smile, but most of us won’t. If we are friendly to you and you are rude in return, the kindness stops there and we will do the bare minimum for you, “forget” to tell you about coupons, sales, etc, and at times refuse to help with your requests as long as our boss doesn’t get wind of it (this is true even if we are working for tips). The reality of the situation is that rude customers KNOW that they are making life miserable for the worker, that the worker is probably cussing them out under their breath, and cursing them and all of their posterity in the back, but they don’t care because they’d rather be rude anyway. Strange right???? Is it fake? Yep! But friendliness is competitive in the job market and we need to pay the bills. I remember the worst was when I was in high school working at a clothing store where a woman started yelling at me that a shirt was on sale when it wasn’t. She reached out and intentionally SCRATCHED the back of my hand with her nails. I picked up her stuff, threw it behind me, and said “Next in line!!!”. Then I got in trouble with my boss for not being friendly. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  77. Lynette

    OH!!! And even Americans can’t stand over the top friendliness which we then call “sucking up”. There were a few stores in my home town called The Buckle and Zumiez that no one wanted to step foot in because the sales associates were WAYYYYYY too friendly. We used to play “back wall challenges” where we’d dare someone to walk calmly to the back of the store, touch the wall, and walk back out without being attacked by a sales associate where they were hurried into a fitting room with a mound of jeans to try on with every sales associate in the store saying how awesome and perfect they looked in everything. Give me a break. They just reeked of commission sales.

  78. Lierin

    haha, the first part made my day 😛 but again, This isn’t the same the same in Belgium. the most people say ” hoe gaat het” . “Mooi weer hé” and more things like that

  79. Krista

    This is too funny. I live in Europe as well, and remember walking into my first store in an airport when I landed in America last summer. I almost cried when the sale clerk said “How are you?” Ok, I was a little jet lagged, but that right there was such a sign that I was home. So friendly. In Lithuania the Americans all complain about the grumpiness of the Lithuanians because you never see a smile anywhere.

  80. Kenny

    I’m dutch and I must say this is quite true and i’d rather like people to be direct and fair instead of “Fake”. But to be honest Amsterdam isn’t a good representation of the netherlands. I like The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht way more, or the villages.

  81. aliceaimeeroberts

    Mmm… I wonder about the American AND British thing. I am English with just a hint of French and I don’t know what to do when asked how I am by somebody working in a shop in America. I certainly don’t take exception to it, I just don’t what to do in response! This has started to happen in shops in the UK and it does seem a bit odd in this context (especially if delivered in an indifferent robotic voice instead of a cheery voice!) For me, artifice in more offensive in social situations like small talk etc rather than momentary transactions.
    The blog is very entertaining by the way. I came across when trying to find Dutch classes in Liverpool I intend to move to either Belgium or the Netherlands in the next couple of years… I’m fluent in French but wanted to learn another language, and like the idea of working in a museum in this part of Europe….

  82. Kristy

    Oh jaaaa!! I’m not dutch but i have many good dutch friends, whom i meet a lot and i have to say i totally agree with this, that they don’t like if you are asking too much about “how are they doing?” … i don’t do and also really don’t like it! it’s really just unnecessary! a simply and honest “Alles goed?” is sufficient and enough if you ask it for real not for a must or to seem to be a nice person! i love the dutch people and how do they treat things like these!
    btw. what a brilliant site! found it not long ago and enjoy it very much 🙂 thanks for making it!

  83. Allard

    Let’s just say someone who is being “fake” usually lose all respect and all their friends within 1 day. Don’t act nice, Say what you think and dutch people will respect you.

  84. Dan

    I’m from Texas but also lived in Brighton, England, California, and Chicago before moving to Amsterdam 4 years ago. The funny thing is that in some places in the US, mainly Texas and the South, “How are you?” is meant genuinely. There was a funny Budweiser ad about this when a Texan travels to New York and frustrates the heck out of everyone when he answers the question as if they genuinely meant it.

    I find generally that the times when I find Dutch people rude, they’re really not intending it and they are being direct. As for the service, service at tourist-traps the world over is awful. Amsterdam has a LOT of tourist traps. If you know where you’e going not only can you get great food in this town but some of the best service in my life has happened here! Yes, the economic motivation means that you can’t expect waitstaff everywhere to always be friendly and omnipresent but that’s Europe, not just Holland.

    I’ve also noticed that as a man, Dutch men are 100 times more likely to be rude or dismissive of me than Dutch women. My female expat friends find the exact opposite experience. Perhaps Dutch are more friendly to the opposite sex in general?

    Dutch “directness” has definitely rubbed off and I did unintentionally shock a few people on my last trip to Texas. But while Dutch themselves despise “fake”, I constantly hear comments from Dutch colleagues and Dutch customers about how much they love my American positiveness. If it came across as fake or in the “It’s so awesome to be here today!” it would come across as fake American nonsense — which even I can’t stand. Like everything in life, there’s a happy balance somewhere out there.

  85. Celine

    Exactly the problem I had when I went to Canada. I had no idea how to respond to this question. Should I just answer, or should I also ask how they are doing? Ignoring it seemed a bit rude. You are spot on when you say it’s so unusual for the Dutch that it becomes downright scary, or in my case just plain and simple awkward.

  86. crystalclog

    I think it also has to do with intonation and body language. When you think about it, British people calling you ‘love’ or ‘dear’ is much more affectionate than what we Dutch would say to strangers, but there are no flailing limbs or ear-to-ear smiles.

    Not that most Americans are like that, I don’t think so anyway.

  87. T.B

    It’s funny to me when the Dutch say that they don’t like fake people and prefer directness, but as soon as someone voices their opinion about their country or culture they become defensive and immediately go straight to America bashing. As the saying goes don’t dish it if you can’t take it. First of all America is an enormous country roughly the same size as Europe. So just like different countries in Europe have different societal norms, the same goes for every state in the U.S. Going to a different state in America can sometimes feel like going to a different country all together. So when Europeans lump all Americans together, that is pretty ignorant on their part. I can guarantee your experience in the South is going to be vastly different from your experience in the Northeast, Midwest, or West coast. In New York City where I’m from, we like to keep it real too, we just don’t do it to the point where we make everyone miserable. Based on what I am reading on this blog and the comments, Dutch culture seems to revel in that sort of unnecessary misery.

    • Kenny

      Nobody bashed the US, what you just said was unnecessary. :/

    • tim

      What a long defensive post. Are you always that defensive when you feel someone attacks your country?

      • eugeniamb

        Yes, because you actually attacked it. He’s right, he’s being real direct now you mad? LOL. I thought Dutch people liked that.

  88. Olivia

    All i know is the US has “homeland security” and they call any foreigner an “alien”. I lived in MA for 15 years, but on my very first trip to the Netherlands, I immediately noticed that the Dutch in supermarkets even are much friendlier and more genuine than in the US. Dutch ppl are direct, but also very polite and respectful…

    • tim

      You have to understand Olivia, when Americans call foreigners “aliens” that is different. After all the US of A is so multicultural, there is no racism there. The word “alien” is a sign of endearment. Unlike of course the word “allochtoon”, which proves that all Dutch are filthy racists.

  89. Sandy Heerschop

    Well this Dutchy actually prefers ‘fakeness’…. just as long it’s not from my family and friends.. When I was in NYC a couple of years ago, I felt right at home.. Here in Holland we do our best to avoid contact with strangers, but over there nobody is afraid to speak to anyone and that is so much better! But I have to say… not everyone was as nice… just like not every Dutchy is a ‘botte boer’ 😉

  90. Georgina

    Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog!

    We are a group of volunteers and starting
    a new project in a community in the same niche.

    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.

    You have done a marvellous job!

    • Bill Stewart

      Georgina – Thanks for visiting here and having a name that’s a link back to your web site, which looks like it’s some commercial endeavor that’s probably paying you a commission for spamming the web with links to their site! It’s amazingly wonderful how popular such a strategy has become in the shiny new internet web things these days!

      Or, translated to less fake, please don’t spam, eh? (And it’s ok to delete this comment after deleting the spammer…)

      • Eddi-Wan

        Personally, I’m savoring the irony of a spam reply to an entry titled “Keeping it real.”

  91. Dutchiee

    In philosofy class last week my teacher mentioned the cashier saying ‘nog een fijne dag’ (have a nice day) after they’ve helped you. We all agreed that that is stupid to say because they actually don’t care if our day is good..
    So apparently that is a very Dutch reasoning.

  92. Rudy

    When I was in the states I hated the ‘fakeness’ they pretended if you are his/her’s best frend.
    just say what it is and how you are feeling about that. American documentary’s are quite the same. I can’t stand the ‘American Bullshit’ as I call it.

  93. Robert

    Belgians are no different in that regard. I’ve lived in the US and I don’t think they are fake at all, I think that a “fake” “good morning or how are you” is better than a cold, dead stare that a Belgian store clerk gives you. If the Dutch are complaining about the authenticity of this why don’t they act the “real” way rather than running away to abandon non-familiar interaction altogether.

  94. Sanne

    Love your blog! Always makes me laugh. I’m a Dutch living in Canada and your blog really helps me explain myself to my Quebecois friends and colleagues. Especially the fact that I eat bread with chocolate sprinkles for lunch makes them laugh every time. Now they know I’m not the only one in the world doing that :).
    Yes, we are very direct people, but I don’t agree on Dutch waiters and supermarket employees being rude, at least not in the smaller cities and villages. If I compare it to the waiters here in Montreal the Dutch are extremely friendly!! Here my general experience is that they sort of throw your plate, cutlery and a glass of water on the table and take away your plate the minute you’re finished eating (or sometimes even before). Might be that I just picked bad restaurants so far, but that’s my experience…

  95. Mariska

    We should accept cultural differences as they say “when in Rome do as the Romans do”. There are nice and ignorant people worldwide. Try to be positive and polite it makes this world a much better place.

  96. Janine

    ”Unlike the word ”allochtoon”, which proves that all Dutch all filthy racists?” Oh come on… Like ALL the Dutch people sat together once and all agreed on using the word ”allochtoon” from there on. Racism is a bad thing but qualifying an entire country as ”racist” also isn’t something you should be proud of. We just all need to accept that there are cultural differences, whether we like it or not. About the so-called rudeness of the Dutch people, yes – some people might be considered rude but that’s really not only the case in The Netherlands. I’ve come across rude people in every country I’ve visited so far. It really is all about what you’re used to. And hey, we should be glad that there are these differences, otherwise there probably wouldn’t be such a thing like ”home”.

  97. Jess

    Coming from the north eastern part of the USA and now living in the south eastern part of it I can say that “American niceness” that you complain about really depends on where you go. New Englanders come off as cold and rude compared to the rest of the country. You won’t be greeted by much more than “hello” or “hi” in any of those states if at all. In fact most of us from that area are pretty direct ourselves. However waiters are trained to be that way they make a great deal of their pay on tips so they are going to be as patronizing as possible to make you happy with their service. Canadians are much more cheerful than USA citizens though and so are Australians.

  98. eugeniamb

    I find this blog interesting. I found it on top posts and started reading. I’m just an American from the Pacific Northwest. Although I probably don’t believe every Dutch person is rude, because many on this blog aren’t but many are, not direct just mean. I’m direct but not malicious. Also America has not only different regions that make us varied. We have lots of different ethnicities and racial groups who all act differently, I’m not boosting U.S. it’s just a country. But as a black woman in the U.S. what you’d probably find is that most black Americans are direct, we can be friendly if we trust you’re not trying to pull an okey-doke. So yea you get a lot of variety here, unfortunately the quick tendency on a bunch of the commenters to either wholeheartedly agree with the post or disagree has caused many to miss the nuance here. That’s too bad because it’s a funny post. But people tamp down the utter contempt of either Holland or U.S. and you might be entertained as I think the author intended.

  99. didie

    I am Dutch and I live in France for a year now, and for me it’s also very difficult to deal with the “ça va?” all the time. When you greet somebody, it’s normal to kiss them even if you barely know the person, which was already a bit weird for me (when you are with a friend, and your friend meets a friend who is with his friends you are supposed to kiss everybody ;)) and the question ça va always brings me from my apropos (what should I answer??). Now when I visit the Netherlands, I feel uncomfortable in a different way. People I didn’t see in a long time which are not necessarily my closest friends I greet from a small distance and it seems quite cold.
    Considering the Dutch rudeness, I really noticed this when I just arrived in France. When you are in the supermarket and somebody is blocking the way, you both say “pardon”, no one is blaming the other, while in the Netherlands the comments “je staat een béétje in de weg (cynical tone)” or “dat is niet zo handig hè?” are quite ‘normal’. Also when you want to pass somebody that is slower than you you just say “pardon” or “excusez-moi” instead of annoyed sighing. Even when you bump into somebody else both people say pardon, I think in a reflex.

  100. Edel

    I definately love the “How are you doing today?” and I hate the rudeness that most Dutch display in stores, restaurants or at work. I lived in the US for 5 years and still miss the pleasant behaviour I met where ever I went. It would not surprise you to hear that I feel welcome and appreciated every time I set foot on American soil. Thank god I’ll be there again in a few days. Unfortunately it is just for three weeks, but at least it is something. When people express their unbelief about the fake kindness of the average American, I always make the comparison with the average Dutch rudeness and ask them what they prefer. Guess what…

  101. Helen

    I think that regardless of the manner of greeting dutch customer service can be terrible! There is not being fake, and then there is being downright unhelpful. Once, my friend left her phone at a bar and the bar phoned me as the last person contacted so I went to collect it. I asked the barman if someone had left a phone here and – without looking at all – he said no. I told him someone from the bar had rang me and said the phone was here. He still didn’t look, and said no. I rang it, it went off right next to him at the till. Was he embarrassed, apologetic? No! He just wordlessly handed me the phone. Another time we went to a restaurant, and there was a whole catalogue of stupid things. They gave us the wrong food, gone off milk to go with our coffee, they accidentally attached someones bill to ours. I understand sometimes it just goes wrong in any restaurant regardless of where it is – but if this happens give them an apology, free drinks or at least don’t charge for the coffee with the gone off milk! I find these things quite funny when they happen, and they give me an excuse to tease my dutch boyfriend. He in turn loves sending me news articles about how unhealthy the British are, or daily mail articles about Booze Britain (I am British). Having moved here I have found that the stereotypical terrible customer service is just as true as the stereotypical British love of tea.

  102. Ivar

    When you are born and raised in Holland (30+ years for me), you are used to the “be normal” attitude and will find anything else over the top or fake. This is very unfortunate in my opinion. I’ve been living in Canada for the past 6 years and my way of thinking has completely changed.

    The amount of positive thoughts I have throughout the day, compared to when I was living in Holland has gone up by 893%. This is because people here try to avoid pointing out (what they consider to be) the negative. They are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings.

    In Holland there is a certain pride associated with being direct. Unfortunately this includes commenting on how someone looks, talks, eats, behaves. It will also include telling a friend you really don’t like the present they’ve just given to your daughter on her birthday. There is no filter!

    When I go to visit Holland or family and Dutch friends come to visit me, I’m amazed at the amount of things they point out to me when going out for a walk…..or going to a bar. All of a sudden there are so many people around me who are wearing something silly, are behaving over the top (overdreven!), are walking in a weird way, eating the wrong food….etc. I don’t see these things anymore….and when I do, I don’t feel the need to comment. There is no point to the comment, there is no gain to it. You might actually hurt someone’s feelings. What good does it do? It brings negativity to your day and life.

    Do I think the Canadian avoidance of any potential confrontation is ideal? No! You can’t solve issues like that. However, the combination of the two is. Be direct in moderation. Be direct when it serves a clear purpose. It is actually very much respected in Canada to be direct……with a filter applied to it.

    I’ve gone a bit off topic here, although I do believe this is all related to one another.

    As for the “how are you?” question……what would you rather have?:
    1. a cashier smiling at you and saying “how are you today?”….to which you can answer anything as she doesn’t really want to know how you are…’s just a welcoming phrase.
    2. a cashier at the AH who’s chewing gum and talking to a colleague at the other end of the store while “helping” you?!

    I’d choose number one any time!

  103. Diane

    hahaha.. this post made me laugh and the comments even more so:).. I had exactly the same feeling after coming back from an internship in the US.. If they were indeed saying ‘How are you?’ to be friendly it wouldnt be a bad thing.. the problem is that their fake smile and routine tone in their voice makes it fake, not friendly..
    In a restaurant it was even worse than in the shop. Every 5 minutes my conversation with my table partner would be rudely interrupted by a ‘friendly’ waiter asking if everything was allright. From the way it was said you could just smell that she did it all for the tip, NOT because she wanted to be friendly.
    I think the reason the waiters in Holland are usually so unkind is because they don’t care about the job, it is often a partime student job not their actual profession. Also they dont have to pretend to be nice like in the US because they dont live on tips.
    In France I find that the waiters are very polite and helpfull without being fake as in the US. They dont come to your table every 5 minutes to ask if all is allright, but they wait unnoticed untill you give any sign that you need them, like closing your menu, and then they arrive at your table asking if everything is alright or if you want to order something. I think the reason why waiters in France do seem genuinly friendly is that being a waiter in France is a profession, not a student job. The waiters actually get satisfaction from being good at their job not because they will get more tips.

    • Giorgia Roveri

      why is a friendly waiter surprising? I am italian and it happens all the time, you know, in other countries we love life and joy of leaving, that means that we smile and laugh sometimes…..hallo dutch??? it’s not weird it is called being happy of life and loving people around!!! you know how they say in rome??? “fattela na risata ogni tanto!!!” (just smile sometimes!!) got it???

  104. Josef

    How are you? or How are y’all doing? can also depend on where it is being said in the U.S.
    It is much more common in the South and MidWest. That fake friendliness is also much more common over all the farther south you go (as well as the highest crime rates in the U.S. – I wonder what that means?)
    A Maine clerk in a shop might just say “Good morning, may I help you?“ or more likely, just ignore you! Same in other parts of New England. (Caveat: chain and corporate stores anywhere train employees to say hello and can I help. So a Macy’s in California will be the same, in theory, as one in Maryland).
    But I agree, the How are you? is the same as See you later or Goodbye. I may never see a person later or wish them a goodbye that is actually genuine. Surely, the Dutch do the same when they say greetings and salutations.
    Also, many people just say “Hello” in the U.S.! Particularly to total strangers (not a friend and not a potential client or customer).
    Tot Ziens!

  105. Giorgia Roveri

    I am Italian and I dated 2 dutch guys while being here, with the 2nd one it ended up that he said “you are too emotional for me” because of (according to him) my too intense reactions, he didn’t really get that when italian girls say “I miss you” to men it is the equivalent of saying “goedemittag” …I hope he really sees this post: Never meant to scare you dude, italians are emotional people but that’s just an attitude!! it doesn’t mean we are fake, just that we are living happily the moment like we just live every second of our life with joy of living!! but we say those stuffs to everyone we meet basically, so it has not to be taken too seriously!! Why dutch guys do not really get it????????????????

  106. Ralph

    This is really true, Dutch restaurants/shops etc can definitely learn more from other country’s hospitality. It is seriously at a very low level, even nieghbour country’s such as Belgium and yes even the Germans are way more friendly. Would definitely agree it is a Dutch thing…

  107. Leon

    Another one i get alot in the states while im eating is:

    “Are you good?”

    At what? Eating?

    We say: “is it good?” or “is it nice?” not.. “ben je goed?” “is alles goed?” .. thats a super weird question to ask and is only asked when someone appears to have a heart-attack of some sort

  108. Jazp

    Jeez… We don’t like the phrase because people only ask you how you are doing because they want to sell you something. Just say hi for crying out loud. And again, you’ve spend way too much time in the west. Where I live waiters are very friendly most of the time. Really, spend more time in the rest of the country and stop judging the country just by looking upon the “associale” people from the west.

  109. Pete

    I ignore that “retorical question” and go straight to asking if they have the item I’m looking for.

  110. Jess

    Nothing better than digging up old posts 😉 Just came across your blog and really enjoying it!

    Being a German in London I have to say Germans are considered rude – always (it seems a general stereotype around the world!) We are in the same boat in regards to the hello, how are you? not being popular or used at all. I have lived in London for the last 6 years and people greet you “hi, how are you?” and I reply “fine and you.” automatically. Neither of us are interested or care. For a while I had fun answering “awesome” or any other extremely happy phrase and it would actually turn into a conversation, but that got too tiring so the standard response comes out.

    Waiters in London are rude and fake at the same time and having started at the bottom I know why. Pay is poor, working hours a poor, tips aren’t amazing, a lot of customers can be quite difficult, some don’t speak enough english to order – it’s frustrating and all along you know that the pay you get won’t be enough to pay the rent and buy food and clothes, and maybe go out for some fun as well. It is a means to an end for most – not a career that you enjoy, which is probably where the problem lies.

    So I am not sure this is necessarily a dutch problem! I found people in Amsterdam pretty normal (by German standards) and really enjoyed them once we got in a conversation. However we did not go into the main touristy places but more smaller bars etc.

  111. Yogi Beer

    Living in Montreal, a bilingual city, I’ve learned to adapt quick.

    The anglos (anglophones, english-speakers) also say “How are you today?” or “How do you do?”
    I usually answer a quick: “Not bad. You?”
    If they answer, I find them polite. If they don’t, they care shit about you. If they’re caught off guard by me actually replying, they must be new (or I should really start to worry about what kind of clients shop there).

    The francos (francophones, french-speakers) are, I find, more half-way between the anglos and the dutch. They usually keep it to a “Bonjour” and only waiting staff in restaurants might find the energy to actually get to the “Comment ça va? (How are you?)” But they do expect an answer usually and interact more.

    But I still do, years later, truely believe that if you pose a question, it must get an answer. Otherwise, just stick with “Hello.”

  112. Mary Quile

    The service staff in Europe is rude, because the Europeans don’t TIP, if they start tipping the service industry will CHANGE. In the US the service is 100% better because is linked to the generosity of the Americans, Thank you the country that invent the TIP!

  113. Stephen

    I have just come back from another visit to my sister in Amsterdam who’s like me is from Ireland and it’s funny because we Irish will greet people with ” How’s it going ? ” or ” How are you ? ” but it’s more a greeting & ice breaker than a question and we will be quite happy to hear you reply ” I’m fine thanks ” because we wont be to over concerned about your present state … Lol ( unless of course you are really ill or in a bad way ) but than we would not be as suspicious , taken aback by the same greeting like Dutch people would , it’s not in our nature to be overly serious and it is a rhetorical in effect as to make a statement rather than to elicit information. I was in a Dirk van den Broek supermarket several last week and the lovely Dutch check out girl greeted me with the most wonderful smile and beautiful blue eyes that lit up and she my made my day .

  114. Astrid

    I see it as a retorical question! An ” ok”will do It,s really not that differt here, mostly if we ask how someone is doing we really don,t want a whole answer as well. It,s common curtisy.
    As for waiters or people being nice to you in a shop, that also depends on yourself, Mostly I see goodmorning(or something to that effect ), when I enter a shop or a bus etc. Give waiters a smile talk about the weather 😛 You can hace nice conversations with total strangers, if I don,t feel like it I shut myself out from other people, So it,s just what I like that day or moment.Love the blog x

  115. Daya

    When I was still working, if I asked someone how they were, I meant it–even if it was a pat “okay, fine”. And if someone asks me, I’m one of those nuts that tells them if I have an issue.

    Dutch directness FTW!


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