This list would not be complete if we did not discuss the elephant in the room: Dutch directness. Now you’ve heard the rumours, the stereotypes, the hearsay, and the clichés -and I’m here to tell you, that like the majority of gossip, they are, in fact…all absolutely true! Dutch people are direct. Direct to the point of shocking at times. Direct to the point of “what the [email protected]#$ did he just say to me?!?. If you plan to spend any times in the lowlands you had better get used to it, and fast!
This Dutch trait has gone by many names; call it what you will – abrupt, bad-mannered, barbaric, blunt, brusque, cheeky, crude, curt, direct, discourteous, forthright, frank, graceless, gruff, honest, ignorant, impolite, inconsiderate, insulting, intrusive, matter-of-fact, open, outspoken, plain, point-blank, raw, refreshing, rude, sincere, straightforward, surprising, uncouth or unmannerly. Essentially, the bottom line remains: the Dutch speak their minds.
Now, relax folks – don’t kill the messenger, I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m just appropriating the Dutch culture and telling you how it really is. 😉
Dutch people don’t mince words. You certainly won’t find them biting their tongues, dying for the courage to finally speak freely. Don’t feel like hearing from your co-worker that she actually doesn’t think your new haircut is all that nice. Too bad. Don’t want to know that the speech you made and worried might have sucked, did in fact, suck, big time. Get used to it. In the Netherlands you are likely going to hear a lot of statements, that in other cultures politely fall into the category of “better left unsaid”.
Whereas nationalities such as the British, Canadian and in some cases American, shy away from discussing “hot topics” such as religion, immigration, politics, money, etc. Dutch people revel in such lively and opinion-fueled debate. Dutch people value honesty and sincerity. What we (non-Dutch peeps) might consider rude or blunt, the Dutch perceive as honesty and truth. In fact, they pride themselves in having and expressing an opinion. Don’t have an opinion? Well, you had better get one fast!
The Dutch are in fact proud of all this directness and their very unique tell-it-as-they-see-it mentality. They often consider the English or American forms of politeness a sign of weakness, and reeking of insincerity and hypocrisy (two traits Dutch people absolutely despise). It turns out for the Dutch, there isn’t much in between those two startling extremes (directness and insincerity) and when faced with such a choice, there is obviously only one answer. Not quite sure which side you choose? Well, in the words of the famously
rude direct Dutch speed-skater, Sven Kramer, “Are you stupid?”
Hello! I really like this number 4! I’m from Brazil, and expat in Nerderland and for many, many times the dutch directness put me down, but I’ve found myself lately being a bit more direct that I use to be after 2 years living in here. tot ziens
Agreed! If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! 🙂
I am proud to be Dutch!!!! You do not have me ask twice what i meant. But we are gentle people with a open heart, always welcome.
Tambem sou brasileira e eu tive exatamente o mesmo problema. Mas depois que “I joined them”, eles nao gostaram muito of my directness towards them! Entao eles comecaram a falar que era o meu Latin Fire… haha…. Acredita! 🙂 Onde voce trabalha?
Speak English? (Not rude, just Dutch 😉 )
Simone e Rosana, eu sou do Belgica. O problema e muito reconhecer”äble”.
Hello Simone e Rosana,
Eu sou do Bélgica.
Eu diria que esse fenómeno, para mim tambem, e muito reconhecível.
Oi Simone, Guy e Rosana,
outra coisa sobre o holandês, que geralmente falam mais de uma língua, e são tão direta naqueles, fazendo o que eles estão dizendo ainda mais rude, às vezes. Eu podia ler seus textos, mas precisava usar o Google Translate para compor este, por isso, se ele é “lixo”, desculpe.
Funny how chauvinists seek refuge in speaking another language in front of others who are not allowed to know what is being said…now that is rude!
But funny enough secrecy by obscurity does not work on the internet Rosana: I can read your language very well, though I am very Dutch.
And Guy is a stereotype Belgian who tries to exhibit flair and at the same time rudely implies that the other person is not as civilised as he is…how typical.
How is it going with your affaires, Guy? 😉
Tja van Veen here is illustrating EXACTLY why we dutch are direct!!!And point out what the problem is here. This so called rudness is misschien gewoon mensen de waarheid vertellen, directly, in their face and just beeing confronting. Cant deal with that….? Don’t put a comment here. I think he is is kind of right here about the rudness from Simone, Guy Rosanna and Bertina. But no offence I really enjoy the discussion here. I just want to clear out en don t mean It rude. 🙂
Helloooo!! Don’t hide behind a language I can’t read!! And yes, I’M dutch!!
Beste Rosana, Wat jammer dat jij vindt dat je hetzelfde probleem hebt, het zegt namelijk meer over jou dan over de Nederlanders die zich proberen aan te passen aan alle nationaliteiten die er in ons land aanwezig zijn. Jouw Latijnse vuur zie ik hier helaas niet sprankelen, da’s jammer, ik zie een persoon die niet de moeite neemt zich in het Nederlands te uiten in een land waar zij waarschijnlijk op bezoek is. Wij Nederlanders nemen ons de moeite andere talen te leren om zo mensen beter te woord te kunnen staan, Nederland is een klein landje, de mensen zijn eerlijk, als kleding jou niet staat krijg je daar een opmerking over en als je iets doet wat ons choqueerd of irriteert ook, denk dat dit een eerlijk gegeven is. Neemt niet weg dat jij waarschijnlijk (sorry ik kan ook U zeggen, maar het is een informele site, vandaar de jij) een leuk persoon bent, aanpassing is wel gewenst, je zit hier niet op een Brasiliaanse site… het zou attent zijn in het Nederlands te antwoorden.
Gente, fica tranquilo todo mundo nāo fala Holandês, é ridículo pedir as pessoas aqui para falar Holandês, isso é um site para estrangeiros na Holanda / Países Baixos sobre as experiências deles.
Stay calm people, not everyone speaks Dutch. It’s ridiculous to ask everyone to speak Dutch on this site seeing as this is a site for foreigners about their experiences in the Netherlands
Pff doe is even rustig, beetje onzin om hier te gaan eisen dat mensen hier Nederlands praten, aangezien dit een Engelse site is voor buitenlanders en hun ervaringen in Nederland.
Rosana geeft aan dat ze hier problemen mee had en dat toen ze zelf een beetje directer ging praten dat de mensen om haar heen het niet altijd even goed konden waarderen. Vervolgens vraagt ze waar simone werkt
Guy kan zich vinden in dit probleem, vervolgens geeft hij aan dat hij in Belgie woont, en dat het heel bekend voor komt (het probleem dat het toch niet altijd gewaardeerd wordt)
Bertine is gewoon Nederlander en geeft aan dat Nederlanders vaak meer dan 1 taal spreken, dat ze de berichten kon lezen maar google translate moest gebruiken om een berichtje terug te schrijven en ze verontschuldigt zich als de vertaling ‘troep’ is
“Nerderland”? Get back to Brazil! We don’t want you and don’t need you.
Houdoe. En de ballen. Laat ze niet vallen.
At least write the country name correctly. Don’t make me shy of being brazilian too.
Hey Simone, keep being sweet and polite to people because that’s the nicest way to be. It doesn’t pay to be rude or…er…”direct” as some people like to call it. Just a tip! Best wishes for you.
I think most Americans are more direct than the Dutch. Sure there are a lot of boorish tea-party neanderthals in the USA that are direct, some misguided libertarians that are direct, and some left-leaning regressive illiberals who at times can be direct, but all of these spout they same pre-packaged ideas that are part of this silly game of identity politics. The Dutch do that, too. Sure they can be direct, but most sound the same: like regressive-left illiberals who don’t think out of the box. They just play the game of identity politics loudly. Like most Europeans. You tell me where are the George Carlins, Bill Burrs, Louis CKs, Richard Priors, lee Camps, Kurt Vonneguts, Michael C. Rupperts, Bruce Bawers, etc. in the Netherlands – or Europe for that matter?
As a Dutchie living in the US for more than two years, I can tell you I very much disagree with what you say when speaking about daily life. I also think that might be observing the result of for example polderen, which should be discussed separately from speaking your mind. The indirectness of the Americans is so deeply embedded that even their way of speaking is adapted to that mentality. Examples are: avoiding the word “but” to give a contrast, instead using “at the same time” or saying that work is “interesting” rather than “I don’t like it”. Then, still, if you think as a Dutch person:”interesting means ‘I don’t like it’, so let’s check what they actually mean by interesting” and you try to understand what they mean, they will not just admit that something is bad and they are uncomfortable and back off. I might have a confronting personality, but I see big differences here. To me, people in the US hide behind facades and every day it comes to my Dutch mind “so much hypocrisy here”.
Ah yes, directness. We’ve all been on the receiving end of this. At least you know where you stand!
I’m moving to Amsterdam next week and this is one aspect of the culture that I’ve heard about and am dreading. We Irish are probably even less direct than both the English and the Americans – we are the polar opposite to the Dutch in this respect. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it without becoming a quivering, insecure mess! 😉 I’ve lived in Spain for the last 7 years and they’re in some way direct, at least in their manners (no niceties) and it took me a good 3 years to get used to. Please go easy on me, Dutch people – at least until I adapt! 😀
But it works both ways! Directness is by no means always negative. In “less direct” cultures, if someone gives you a compliment, you may wonder (especially if it’s a mild compliment) whether they’re just being polite or not. Hard to get excited about that.
But if a Dutch person gives you a compliment, you can be surer that they actually, genuinely like you in general or the specific thing they’re complimenting. So be prepared to have little things that might be seen as silly gestures of politeness in other places, genuinely make your day here.
I suppose the ideal compromise between often plain unsolicited directness or forwardness, usually nothing more than RUDENESS, and insincere fawning or complimenting, is simply to say nothing. Rather than volunteer a falsehood (“Oh, Dutch houses are SOOOoooo beautiful!!” etc. ad nauseum), remain silent unless asked specifically.
At which point, a constructive vs. destructive comment aka suggestion is certainly appropriate. If the other person still can’t deal with that, then it clearly becomes their problem, not yours. After all, they opened the door, you merely walked right in:-)
Don’t worry, go with the flow! You’ll love (most of) us, and we’ll love you! Have fun!
@ Eva, that is funny. I moved to Ireland 7 yrs ago and found it difficult to deal with the Irish not being direct. Once I got used to it I learned to appreciate it and how to deal with it. You will find a way too. Stay true to yourself Eva wherever you live, that is the most important.
Although I consider directness to be a good thing,it clears up things very fast you can be too direct. Sometimes it is very unnecessary to say certain things,you will only offend people for no reason.There are certainly a lot of people in the Netherlands that seem to think indeed that being rude is the same as being honest and that that is a good thing and without offending here,to me it looks like those people are more frequent in the western part of the Netherlands especially the Rotterdam area. That’s what I have experienced at least and I didn’t like it.
I personaly think that can go both ways. Yes, sometimes it’s not cool to tell someone their speech sucked, and how/why it sucked. But if people keep saying it was a good speech the person in question might not know and never improve his speech-giving abilities. There is a difference between honesty and tactlessness though… Speak your mind but do it in a gentle way.
OK, when it’s an important subject, but does anyone really need to hear everyone’s opinions on their haircut? If “speaking your mind” means hurting someone, or making them unhappy for no good readon, surely it’s better to be kind. Most people’s minds aren’t so fantastic that we need to know what’s in them every minute of the day.
acolade, I completely agree with you. I am very direct and I’m English and live in America. I recently had a conversation with a Dutch man and after talking to him for 2 days having never known him or spoken to him before, he asked me if I had a credit care, I blew up at him. I told him he was a gigilo and it was very dishonorable for a man to ask money from a woman. He eventually got angry and left. I told him not to write to me any more. He is in the service Army and won’t be home for his son’s birthday, he will be late, and he wanted my card. He seemed so nice at first but I don’t trust men who want money from a woman especially having just met them. I hope he learns not to use women this way for he seemed a nice person. He said his kids were all he had in the world, but I think that’s another line. He said he wasn’t married but I think that’s not true either.
I’m an American who has lived in the Netherlands for five years now. People in this thread keep on talking about telling people the “truth.” I think this really gets at the crux of the issue….whose truth, exactly? There is a certain arrogance in assuming that you hold an opinion so valid, meaningful, and/or helpful that it must be bestowed upon this grateful world. Quoting Mandy: “Most people’s minds aren’t so fantastic that we need to know what’s in them every minute of the day.” Well put.
But then again, here I am giving my own rude opinion to Dutch people who may be offended by my calling them arrogant…I guess the Dutch are rubbing off on me 😉
I like people to tell me the truth, specially doctors or dentists. That way I can prepare for treatment or for surgery. I do like people to be honest with me, as I am honest too. I do not like people who tell me one thing and stab me in the back with others. Honesty and rudeness are different attitudes. I am not rude and do not like rude people. My friends are not rude but are honest when they are looking for my well being. And that is what I call a real friendship. And I do the same. I try to find the good things about people and tell them what good qualities they have. I know in what friends I can confide. I have many relatives married with Dutch people. They tell you the truth. They do not conceal and they are not malicious. I find this a good trait. And they have manners, are wordly, know other languages, are curious and smart. They are also frugal.
What you said Joop is true. I am from Rotterdam , I’ve lived here my entire life. We are more direct than people from other sides of the country. Others and definitely non-dutchies would call us rude. We’re the kind that indeed would tell our friends: ‘Yes, you do look fat in those pants, if I were you I would never put them on again!…Ever!’
My friends, familiy and I like it this way. We know what we all think of each other and there is indeed no big elephant in the room. We know we can ALWAYS count on each other and be honest to each other.
I also have soms friends who live in the east, they told me to keep my opinion to myself, hahaha!
sorry, but it has really nothing to do with Rotterdam. Most people in Holland like to speak frankly, some don’t. You will find them all over the country, it is within the Dutch culture.
Dutch people hate to hear things (gossip) about themselves via other people. So be direct, it saves time. And another important thing is that most of the time the direct words are ment as joke.
Hello, I think there is a difference between being rude and direct – the overriding principle being that one should be mindful of the other person’s feelings. There is a way to be direct and tell people your opinion when asked and another to be evasive and not say something because your honest opinion will ‘hurt’ them. Well too bad! They asked!! If they didn’t ask and your opinion is being shoved down their throats then yes, you deserve to be told off for being ‘rude’ 🙂
I personally have no problems with my Dutch friends who are all friendly and nice people. They will tell me something they think I should be aware of e.g. my blouse is buttoned wrongly etc and I have not yet known anyone to tell me something that I do not appreciate being told. And like Sylvia says, it helps to know what each other thinks and this way some misunderstandings are avoided.
I’m from the Rotterdam area and if someone asks for my opinion or feed-back, I will give it to them (be it positive of negative). If it’s not a positive feedback and I think someone might have ‘lange tenen’, I will first ask “do you want the truth or a fairy tale?” 🙂
I don’t think it’s a matter of telling the truth or a fairy tale. I think it’s more about telling the truth in a more creative way instead of a dry way. With whom would you go grab a coffee after having had your speech, with the one telling you “it wasn’t a good speech.” or with the one telling you “not bad! now let’s go grab a coffee!”. What’s the point of being totally blunt in a remark in this case, making the person feel uncomfortable with you next time or just try not to focus on the negative performance and try to be more “gezellig” with someone?
Groot gelijk. Als ze erom vragen wel. Anders gewoon lekker laten joh.
it’s not so much what you say but HOW you say it that makes the difference
Being Dutch I can relate to that. That ‘directness’ is not something we should be proud of. I’m not.
Being Dutch and have been living abroad for a long time I fully agree with you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being nice to each other, especially at an office with your colleagues. In the US they are so much more friendly and positive and when I adapted that behavior I felt better instantly. When you’re friendly with others this will reflect to your personality too. I don’t want to pick on service jobs but it’s so much better when you are serviced in a nice polite way other than the Dutch rude “please f*ck off, I’m having a break” way.
It’s not just the way the Dutch say things or are too outspoken, it is also the fact that they lack social skills sometimes. Their attitude is a defense type and not empathetic at all to people around them, it is just common courtesy to listen to others opinion and appreciate it without always being so direct. I find that it is impossible to have a comfortable conversation, an open one here in Holland with the Dutch unless maybe you have known the person for years! They are not chatty or entertainers and you can live next to someone here for years on end and know nothing about them. I have lived abroad and believe me, it is very different here!
You are contradicting yourself about being honest and direct about yourself now… Why are you say sorry about being yourself?
Look up Apserger’s Syndrome, and you’ll find it’s a perfect fit for the Dutch Directness you speak of. It fits to a T. You are dealing with people that are either Narcicistic, have ADD or ADHD, or have Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s not coincidence, at all.
No wonder there are no prominent figures in the world from Holland…and the famous one was crazy!
Eh , being half German I think that the positive side of the directness is that it takes away some distance. But really in Germany under the right circumstance, the Austrians think about the germans exactly like the germans think about the Dutch.
I am Dutch and, even though I (thankfully) wasn’t born there, I grew up in Limburg. I have to say that all the true Limburgers are nothing like the rest of the Dutch, they are much more like the Belgians (I lived in Antwerp for 3 years); closed, shy and not direct at all, at times not even willing to talk to strangers. Lots of people would do and say all kinds of things behind each others backs. It was annoying, stupid and tiring. Experiencing that made me very proud of the Dutch directness.
I hate Limburgers.
Well that’s a nice thing to say Hugo. I’m a Limburger, and to be honest I find that Limburgers are a great mix of Belgians and really dutch people. We are not as timid and shy as the Belgians, but not as rude (yes, I’m sorry) as people in other parts of the Netherlands may be. There is some gossipping, but I’m sure this happens everywhere.
Limburgers are not dutchies… I lived there for 5 years, the only week in the year they can be there (rude) self is with carnaval… After that, just act normal, then you’ll be crazy enough…
@ roos, some gossip? it’s only gossip in limburg, there is nothing else…
For fun we say in the West part of the Netherlands ( Holland ) ” Limburgers are poor German speaking Belgians that think they are Dutch”.
Love this quote, always upsets the Limburgers who in fact I love for being so much different compared to the Holland part, that’s what makes me proud to be Dutch living in such a small country with so much variety of people.
well, I am proud that i can tell people the truth, and im glad i can handle it. Being Dutch is something i am so proud of, you shouldn’t have say that “thankfully” you aren’t born in the Netherlands. What’s so bad about it?
I grew up in Limburg as well. My father is from Rotterdam, where people are in fact direct and maybe to be called rude, my mom is from Limburg. And I really must say, it’s true: Limburgers are not Dutch at all. I even would say they seem to have their own country and culture.
People thought me funny for speaking with a ABN accent, “harde g”, and considered me to be very direct since I’m not avoiding any kind of topic of discussion. But when I moved to Amsterdam, where I used to spend all my holidays at my aunts place, people told me that the noticed me being a Limburger!
But actually it just means I’m in between being rude and being modest. So that’s fine by me but it’s often confusing when I’m visiting my family in Limburg. I think I started to prefer the rude mentality. At least it’s honest and I always felt more Dutch then Limburgs after all.
Vogeltje Hugo, je kunt me de bout haggelen!
What a fuss about Limburgers…they have a name that makes them seem edible.
But true, they live in the far corner of the country and some of them are identity snobs who think that they are really somebody just because they see themselves as the centre of Holland, Belgium and Germany all put together.
But you know, it is the high altitude, especially of Southern Limburg.
Though not higher than a few hundred meters above sealevel, they get altitude sickness nevertheless – it is going straight to their heads 🙂
As a Dutch expat I do agree with the fact that the Dutch directness is taken for rudeness. When visiting back home (we lived in UK at the time) with my children and staying with family, the children were asked what they would like to drink, and they answered a ‘soft drink please’. The second time around they were slapped down because they said please again and were told they did not have to say please all the time. This was years ago but they still tell this as an example.
and i bet you are from amsterdam joop?? 😛
Funny you made this statement because we in the western part of “the Netherlands” feel that almost everyone from the eastern part are like tourists, slow sluggish, mumbeling creatures and NOT worthy to call themselves Dutch at all. Be outspoken, bright and quick in your opinion and answers….so we can keep this blog going as truthfull.
For all you foreigners reading this, Holland ( the best part of the Netherlands….lol ) is like 125 Km across and maybe like a bit over 300 Km long and you can’t imagine the variety of different accents or dialects we have here on distances like 2-3 miles apart. Even habbits and behaviour are two seperate things in such a small country if you look at east and west. But once we travel anywhere in the world we all stand firm and together as Dutch or better “Hollanders”
Joop, hope you could take the comment on this……….to all of you
“if you aint Dutch, you ain’t much” haha
It is really funny to read this discussion. As for the East-West controversy: being from the East (Twente) I have been quite shocked by how *insincere* people from the West can be, so Jan’s remark really makes me frown. Amsterdammers in particular will lie, cheat, and just plainly mock you in your face by pretending to be sincere when they are not. They do this especially when you are not from Amsterdam or from a different social class, it is some sort of sport. This will hardly ever happen to you in other parts of the country. On the other hand when Amsterdammers are really sincere it can be heartwarming. This is the kind of sincerity that will sometimes happen to you on the street, at the market or in cafes, and the sincerity and directness in that case has a certain tenderness which I really like.
I’m from the eastern part of the Netherlands (Twente) and I can tell you one thing: they are much more direct (and more close to being rude) than people in Holland! Just one example, if you don’t fit the mainstream idea of ‘normal’, in Holland they’ll call you eccentric, in Twente they’ll call you weird. I’m always happy to be in the more polite Holland provinces.
Hi I was born in Hengelo O . but was raised here in the US My mother is very direct and I wondered where it came from .My aunts and uncles are this way also to different degrees I try to curb it but just comes out with well meaning advice and it fall flat sometimes .
So true, Joop. I married a Dutch man and lived in Kampen for ten years. Rude, and offending were the order of the day. I was learning Duch, and not fluent, but could understand them.and what they were saying about me or America was so unkind. Now that we are living in California, they visit us all of the time. Hate us? Not sure, but it was a reason we moved back to USA.,
Sorry to hear you moved back because of Dutch rudeness Barbara. In our defense I have to say though that Americans can really puzzle me and my friends. Americans seem all open and inviting, but the problem is they do not show their limits, they do not show what they do not like. As a result we as Dutch people can be totally surprised by a totally unexpected shocked or angry response from an American. The limits of what one can discuss and especially joke about with Americans is a mystery to me, even after having worked alongside many for a long time now. They can be surprisingly prudish and old-fashioned, from a European point of view, but they often seem to think they are culturally superior. A certain openness from both sides seems necessary to avoid situations like yours, where you feel you have to leave because nobody understands or respects you. I can assure you this was not the case. Most Dutch people will not visit you, even as a cheap holiday option, when they do not like you at all.
I tend to think that DD is just another form of Asperger’s disease, on the Autistic Spectrum, or being a Narcicist, or having ADHD or ADD mental problems. No other way to explain the aloofness, or “are you stupid” or no comprehension of what you say, and how it affects everyone elses feelings, as you are incapable of such, mentally.
Sensible comment. Cannot agree more. People like to hide under the “direct” when they are being totally rude.
I agree with you. I believe anyone can be honest and direct without being rude and mean. But if you’re mean and rude to begin with you can use the excuse that that’s just the Dutch way. And that’s not being gentle or welcoming. People from other countries will want to stay away. It’s sad because I for one want to visit and learn other cultures but I don’t want to go where I’m not welcome.
Presumptuousness, incidentally, is hardly unique to the Dutch! Frankly, both the Germans, even the English, can come awfully close in speaking the first thing that comes to their lips, regardless of the often hurtful, potentially psychically damaging, consequences:-)
Dutch people, on the whole, have never been forced to accept “foreign” lifestyles or tongues, as has the US, for instance.
Therefore, many Dutchies out there feel a sort of G_d -given privilege in being entitled to say whatever they think, idiotic and self-righteous as it may be.
If you are direct and it hurts a persons feelings (and you know that) then that is being rude. Telling the truth requires some degree of tact and diplomacy.
“You are way too fat for that dress” or “that haircut makes you look like a chimp” will never endear you to anyone. Even if you are Dutch!
Having a point of view on any and everything is a good Dutch trait.
It amounts to “Its not what you say but how you say it.”
I totally agree. I would never say to someone your haircut is ugly even when I think it is maybe not all that flattering, even Dutch people would leave those things unsaid. But when you give a speech e.g. for work and it sucked one should be allowed to say (with some subtleness) that maybe this or that could have been better and should be improved for the next time..
Agreed. I’d go with “That dress doesnt show off your best features” and “I liked the previous haircut a lot better. Maybe i need to get used to this”
Tactful and honest 🙂
That’s not tactful and honest in (Western) Dutch opinion, but rather hypocritical and beating around the bush….. You are the example of the American way. 😀
Dutch would not say: “You are way too fat for that dress”, but rather: “That dress doesn’t suite you.” or “You look fat in that dress.” with a smile. The only time when Dutch would say “You are too fat for that dress”, is before one is about to buy a dress and asks -non verbally- the other for his/her opinion. The ‘bluntness’ increases among close relatives (i.e. mother/daughter, sister/sister, close friends). So, next time you can consider yourself closer to the hearts of Dutch people when you’re ‘bluntly’ adressed to.
It’s not only negative, cos you get the honest opinion and won’t have to doubt that. If something is great, you will also get a confirmation.
I was born in Rotterdam (Afrikaanderbuurt) and I’ve had (and still have) co-workers from The Hague and Utrecht whom also preferred the ‘blunt directness’. All though some people are offended by it, it is a very efficient way of communication. It gets rid of frustration and stress.
Some people assume that Dutch people are angry when they tell it like it is. But I can assure that’s not the case.
In my experience, people from Brabant and especially Limburg are less direct and form closed communities. So, I think it’s a ‘Randstad’ thing.
How much tactfull and diplomatic Dutch did you meet? >;-)
Many beat clearly around the bush!
There is a historical reason for the reputation of Limburgers and, to some extent, Brabanders for being “reserved” towards customary Randstad swagger.
Both Brabant and Limburg have long been known as so-called Generaliteitslanden – colonies, in effect, of much mightier (and richer) Holland (North & South, in the west of the country). And convenient economic milk cows to boot; for Amsterdam especially.
Another dichotomy was religious: Brabant and Limburg, south of the grand rivers Maas, Waal and Rijn, being overwhelmingly Roman-Catholic – in contrast to the overwhelmingly protestant West. Being socially and economically backward as well, in comparison – the many social evils and grinding poverty prevalent there (until deep into the 20th century, as a matter of fact) profoundly shocking even today – also made Brabant and Limburg easy butts for derision and contempt from that very same West (which, incidentally, preferred to “forget” that those hardships so cruelly mocked were direct consequences of “Western” greed).
The very attitude is still reflected in many contributions in these pages and other sections of this blog. And the annually recurring irritation, in Brabant and Limburg, of the – as per usual – raunchy, even lewd “spin” on the very Brabant/Limburg festival of Carnaval deriving from Hilversum (where most national broadcasters have been based, traditionally) is another small example of the same.
Also worth considering is that, after the Armistice (end of WW 1, in 1918), the then Dutch government narrowly escaped punishment for allowing German army units to cross Limburg, on their way to what were to become the Flemish killing fields – in spite of neutrality solemnly declared, some four years earlier. Accordingly, the Dutch were ordered to hand over the province of Zuid-Limburg to Belgium.
A successful appeal ultimately called the whole thing off – if I remember correctly. But some Limburgers still rue that day, I’m sure…
Enough to irritate the living crap out of me.
If I ask a question, I want an answer, not some vague mumbling that doesn’t get me any further than I was before asking the question.
Those people are just wasting other people’s time.
(Oh uhm, yes, I’m from the Randstad)
If the truth hurts, prepare for pain. If you speak your mind you will inevitable hurt someone. Should this shut you up? No. In debates any thought should be expressed, not surpressed. Personally I prefer an honest opinion. And I don’t mind to be critized myself. Being hurt, or hurting someone, is not necessarily a bad thing. It might help you (or the other) to grow (or take things less personal). Having said this, I must admit that I usually am rather tactfull in the way I express myself and take into account whom I’m speaking to. Not ruddeness is the flipsight of this coin, but only listening to your own opinion, and inflexibility in thought.
I’m Canadian, so rude insults under the thin disguise of “directness” will only get the dutch punched out. Gladly. Here’s a bit of directness: Why is the dutch personality as flat and boring as their landscape and why are they so ugly, miserable, drunk, stoned and racist? Are most of them just Nazi’s who decided to stay after the war to punish themselves? They look like long, skinny, unhealthy ghouls.
Cloghater, one thing I should probably tell you; we don’t really get offended by these generalisations, it’s the personal attacks that might get to some (weak) Dutchies.
Also, about your little list:
– ugly: beauty is in the eye of the beholder
– miserable: there’s an entire blog post on this page about how happy we are (#55: Being happy)
– drunk: because we can
– stoned: because we’re allowed to
– racist/Nazi’s: we were the first to allow gay marriage, were one of the front runners with feminism and have one of the most multicultural societies in Europe.. you might be confusing us with Germany.
– Long and skinny: thank you
– unhealthy ghouls: I don’t know about the rest, but for me that’s probably because of all the smoking.
Hope to have answered all of your questions! Have a good day!
Haha Cloghater, it’s not even true what you’re saying. Compared to other countries Dutch people do not smoke that much weed. According to this list Canadians actually are:
I’m a Dutch girl. I live in London. And I love being direct cos that means that I have got nothing to hide. And yes we are proud of our ‘directness’.
If you call directness speaking without thinking, then I agree that the Dutch are direct. If you call directness getting to the point and speaking your mind, then I have to disagree. I don’t think you should be proud about that.
Speaking about directness and rudeness. I’ve never seen so many direct insults and rudeness as in these messages. How easy it is to insult in text. Look in the mirror people and see how trustworthy you are.
I am dutch, and a debater. i think before i speak. just fyi, but i have met allot of people who speak without thinking, that doesnt mean they are direct. When you are direct, you want to get to the point, and if you have the ability to do so in a not completely rude and disrespectful way, you should definetly be proud of that.
hmmm…i don’t know how many friends i would make if i lived in your country…
What the Dutch call “directness” and “telling the truth” are often other terms for outright stupidity and sheer bloody-mindedness. This utter conviction of the universality of their world views and the missionary zeal with which those are trumpeted all over the globe usually leaves little room for different ideas.
One internationally notorious example of the latter was a government minister called Jan Pronk. The Americans especially regarded him as the proverbial pain in the backside. And because of this level of fanaticism displayed, the Dutch government as a whole got a bad name. Hence, it was “ont-Pronkt” (de-Pronk-ed), at the next changing of the guard. This word is still in the dictionary, I believe.
Secondly: contrary to Dutch beliefs, no such thing as”the” truth has ever been – and won’t ever be – in existence. There are as many “truths” as there are people on the face of this earth. This makes “truth”, per definition, SUBJECTIVE.
Not every Dutchman is a Pronk. Every group of people has their rude fanatics, and I don’t support the behaviour unless it’s with a purpose. Also, you are wrong for saying that there is a truth for every single person, because that’s not so. You should look into the differences between what is objective and subjective. When you speak the litteral truth(the moon revovles around the earth), you’re being objective; there is only one truth. When you speak an opinion(“the weather sure is shit today”), you’re being subjective, which is only a truth in the loosest definition of the word, because it’s only true to you.
Furthermore, the Dutch directness as I see it, and as how I like to practise it(being Dutch), isn’t aiming to be rude at all. Like some other commenters said, there is a fine line between being direct and honest, and rude. I hate being rude, and I apologise when I am. But I hate unspoken thoughts littering what could be a nice and open atmosphere.
And for the record, when I say this, I don’t care if I’m being rude, but you’re a pretty dumb guy, Pete. Taking one idiot Dutchman and basing your entire view of the Dutch people on him. It’s insulting both to us and yourself. Maybe you should think things over and calm down before you write such rubbish like you just did. You know nothing(exaggerated opinion) about the Dutch, yet you’re overly vocal. That’s a pretty shitty combination, it’s downright shitposting.
I have a Dutch nurse.
She is very direct and rude, and gets half her facts wrong, and she doesn’t even pick up the fact that i am mad as hell.
She thinks she knows the truth.
I think she is a semi-literate jackass.
I have already sent a couple of complaints to the Editor of the Toronto Sun.
I look forward to a dialogue, and the paper can put it on the front page.
As for her employer, i shall be drafting documents, like a good retired University of Toronto lawyer should.
I shall also read them out loud, preferably more than once.
It took me a whole week to research and write my 3rd year Law School thesis in 1971, I got an “A” and they gave it two pages in the University paper.
This is a bigger project.
Okay, but is her problem (or.. your problem with her) based on the fact that she’s Dutch or the opinion that she’s an a-hole?
Because I don’t see how this has anything to do with her being Dutch. I’m sure there are enough American nurses that have an equally shitty atitude..
@ John Harvard. To be honest: your story sound weird and I feel sorry for the nurse having to deal with you.
As a Dutch person, I can say I entirely agree with this and if I think of people my age (twenty-somethings), they are also not so much rude, but blunt and it’s something entirely different. Maybe it’s different in older Dutch people? I don’t know. But I really don’t like it when people are rude to me!
What I can imagine is that what I consider to be rude, is what foreigners consider to be VERY rude.
I agree! I am Dutch myself, having lived and worked abroad a lot, I am always wondering where this proudness of being rude comes from. I have many expat friends, and they still make fun of my directness, eventhough I think I am not that bad. They tell me they do think it is refreshing, but hey, they know how to sugarcoat their message;) I think there is something to say for honesty, but I agree with many people above, sometimes it is better to leave things unspoken. You can still sugarcoat a message a little and I we think we do this most of the time too. If a friend wears new pants that makes her ass look fat, I will wisely shut my mouth. However, if she would ask me my opinion about her cool new jeans, I couldn’t lie about it.. I would indeed tell her that I think that I have seen more flattering pants on her and that she should probably look for a model that covers up her love handles of something along that line.
Furthermore, I think the perception of Dutch rudeness is strengthened by the language barrier. Most Dutch people do speak reasanably good English, but lack the finesse, which makes my fellow countryman sound even more rude than we really are..If I hear Dutch people ordering a beer of indeed talk at all, I can experience “plaatsvervangende schaamte”: “I want a beer” , of “give me the check” or “what do you want” , “what do you mean” would-be normal in Dutch language (we do have more polite ways too, but it is about the tone of voice too) . In English, this is an absolute rude way to communicate. So please forgive me and my fellow countryman for the perceived rudeness, but praise us for the honesty and good intentions.. We really do not intent to make your live missarable, we try to improve it by telling you what you should/could do different;) And now I am going to celebrate Kingsday (#40) on the list. That party makes up for all things wrong about NL
Don’t forget that many people love Holland, the Netherlands, and the Dutch very much. The “direct” person in my life was my Gramma Bylsma. My Grampa Bylsma was a sweetie pie but I loved Gramma very much, and wanted to please her. All she really should have done was be as direct with praise once in awhile!!
This is by far the most rational, honest and kind remark I have ever road amongst the exchanges of opinions. Very succinct, but with a heart. No trouble at all being direct, but the manner how it is said matters. Best sentences I have read by far : “If you are direct and it hurts a persons feelings (and you know that) then that is being rude. Telling the truth requires some degree of tact and diplomacy.Having a point of view on any and everything is a good Dutch trait.It amounts to “Its not what you say but how you say it.” Dank je, rochejagu for being very factual and rational about it. I guess you wrapped that up exactly at it should be… 🙂 Proud of you!
How does that work in their marriages? Are most Dutch happily married?
Off course 🙂 In a marriage you should say everything what’s on your mind to your husband/wife, right?
Yes, and I know it because I’m dutch and we like to tell each other the full truth
Of course some of the dutch are happily married and some are not. For example my parents will be celebrating theyre 34th wedding anniversary and theyre still happy with each other 😛 mostly because they can say anything to each other
This directness also reflects in taking things literally.
Here are some good examples: http://www.minispace.co.uk/blog/images/Translation.htm
From a Dutch person: this list is very accurate!
Haha, very very true!
Seriously, folks, being Dutch myself, with a father from Rotterdam…. I think your “Dutch Directness” trait is a perfect match for a person that is either 1. Narcicicstic 2. Has Aspergers or 3 Suffers from ADD or ADHD. Go look up the symptoms for all three of those, and maybe throw in the Autistic Spectrum and People that are “NT” or :Neuro Typical. A brief comment and set of samples by anonymous wives. http://karinfriedemann.blogspot.com/2009/12/aspergers-syndrome-wives-need.html
British speak in riddles.
Oh God thank you for saying this. I grew up in the UK with a German mother who had not much time for social niceties and was in fact quite brutal, but this doesn’t mean the Brits are any better disposed towards one, this talking round in circles is an art form and one I am still not entirely au fait with at 40. I am considered rude and blunt but I would rather be straightforward than pretend to be nice and make all these little petty needling remarks, it’s hypocritical. There’s also such an emphasis on so-called “popularity” in the UK and being seen as a “good egg” or “nice person”. So much energy is expended on this to the exclusion of everything else, it is daft, I haven’t got the time for it!!
I have to disagree with your comment as well! Simply put, the things your mum “didn’t have time for”, i.e. superfical nicities, felicitous, albeit not entirely honest, remarks about something one’d othewise have felt differently about etc., seem to me often those intangible social lubricants which make the difference between war and peace. Germans have gotten into LOTS of battles over the centuries, usually of their own making! Can the same be said to the same degree of the “backstabbing”, face-saving Brits??
Something to think about!
Christiaan, yes you are right. I am originally Irish-British but have lived almost 40 years in NL which I now consider my own country. (I also speak much better Dutch than English but I’m posting here in English out of politeness), The way the British talk round and round in circles and retreat behind veil after veil of incomprehensible innuendo is absolutely toxic and hypocritical. You can’t trust them at all. How many times have I been stabbed in the back by the British! Also if you offend them, they very childishly “send you to Coventry” that is, they cut you dead and ignore you completely (which resolves absolutely nothing!), instead of going to you and saying “Hey, I didn’t like that remark you made. Can we talk about it?” I like Dutch directness, because you know exactly where you stand. Of course, directness should always be tempered with politeness and diplomacy. There are ways and ways of saying things. I’ve learnt directness here, but I always try and make sure I don’t hurt anyone, unless they have behaved really badly to me in which case I tend to lose my temper (very un-Dutch but it’s in my DNA!)
That’s why Dutch and the entire world have difficulties dealing with the English.
The British are not honest in what the say compared to a lot cultures. In Holland we call that backstabbing and lying, you will get the title of “scumbag”.
Also one of the reasons the dutch common opinion about the British… “you can’t never trust the English” combined with “the English have a hidden agenda”
1 question: do you have sarcasm in your language??
Which by the way leads me to this: if that list is true, how you Dutch people understand american/english/western-world movies ?
Anyway, I think many Dutch girls are very very hot, so if you’re reading this, leave me your email! 🙂 We can have some interesting intercultural exchange here 😛
Way to go! Do not get me started on backstabbing and the fact that Brits hate competition / excellence / real inventiveness and ability and have to pull everyone down to the lowest level.
I have often found I have got on with South Africans and I am wondering if this is the Dutch influence. Maybe I really should emigrate, I have been in the wrong country for too long!
@Bob: absolutely agree, about most British being backstabbers and I am originally Irish-British myself. The Scots are the only ones I feel I can trust. In many ways they are a lot like the Dutch. And Dutch people may offend foreigners by their directness, but they have so many wonderful qualities like kindness, gentleness, patience and tolerance – the like of which I have never come across in any other nation, that their directness shouldn’t really be a problem. Why not focus on these good qualities instead? And I’d recommend all foreigners living in NL to learn Dutch! It will give you a whole new insight into NL and its delightful people – besides being a common courtesy vis-à-vis the host country.
Yeah, but there’s also the fact that they don’t get super-defensive in return. They’re more likely to say something like “OK, well, that’s your opinion. I think it’s stupid. You think mine’s stupid. Let’s grab a beer.”
(Awesome site, dude. Love it!)
I often get a “let’s agree to disagree” and the conversation moves on..
Sue, that is intelligent and honest! Thanks.
Love this site but I must say this….if you ain’t dutch, you ain’t much!….LOL! p.s. no rudeness intended.
Die zit !!
Zo is ‘t maar net, LOL.
Using their directness to be indirect is an art. They can give ‘complimenten’ to which you don’t know whether to feel insulted or smile. How to say when a co-worker with a genuine smile in t he face tells you “you can wear something pretty every once in a while, ‘zeg'”. mmmmm Thanks?
Well I’m 100% sure he/she means you are too pretty to wear normal clothes and you should show yourself off and not hide.
That’s irony, wich is indeed an art. Not to be confused with sarcasm by the way.
this entire discussion has got me laughing so much i nearly choked! it looks as if a national flame war is happening here and the comparison between things confuse me, because i’m dutch, and i have been abroad to southern europe, northern europe, western europe and eastern europe, and honestly the difference in clothing and physique of people is not that big, and most clothing i see comes from larger multinational stores, so a dutch sense of clothing can’t be discussed, because people in many western countries buy the same clothes.
don’t know what the argument is about,(i’m talking about the comments of course) and dutch honesty as it is known here is not the insulting many people think it is from some about experiences
now i feel stupid, i meant the discussion below, don’t judge me! i’m new at this thing
I now tell people the truth and say that my middle name is ‘Cheeky’. And I often test their hearing, by saying ‘Goog Moaning’ when I first see them in the morning. Only one or two did hear what I really said…
like in italian “buona sega” in place for “buona sera”: happy wanking in place of good evening 😛
Well lets not exagerate here. No one here says to a girl whose dress is making her look fat that she’s looking like a cow or hippo or something. I think the difference between the Dutch and the more southern and eastern cultures are that those cultures experience some criticism as an attack on their manhood or pride or something.
Giving it is all good and well…but can they take it? Can they handle the fact that Dutch music is crap, that their food sucks big time, their supermarkets are shite (I have been worshipping at the Temple of Waitrose for many years, so I know what an ace supermarket is), that the dress sense of the average dutch person would have people gasping with disbelief in most hip europan cities…
Music is one of our biggest export products. But if you are pointing at our schlagersingers and pirate artists I couldnt agree more with you. In fact in the music scene thats more hidden like jazz, ska, reggae, blues were quite good but that kinds of music never surfaced into the mainstream. I agree that our kitchen is crappy. A big reason for this is that the houseschool we once had in the time that only men had jobs, they simplified the recipes for the cookbooks so a lot of ingredients were written off the chart and started a downfall of the dutch cuisine. Not that it was ever very great but it was a lot better. But on the other hand we have a good ol’fashioned dutch candy tradition including ‘drop’. And lets not forget the deep fried snacks everyone loves here like frikandellen, kroketten, kaassouffles, bitterballen, nasischijven etc etc. And our beers have world fame. Every dutchman falls in love with the very huge supermarkets in France so believe me we want them here also. But there is a kind of supermarket war going on and oh well. I dont really care. Well and about the dress sense. I dont know. I think every european city is the same. Well one thing is that most women in Holland dont like that their women so if you mean that I will agree with you. There are way too many fat women in Holland. I dont care if that is sexist or not. Too many of them think they can get any guy they want by just looking plain and never wearing a nice dress or something like that. I had holidays in Prague and Krakow and most of the women there had a good figure, nice tan. Same goes for Croatia and Serbia. Seems women there like the difference between men and women.
To Gido (sorry for writing your name wrong below) don’t you think Dutch men should equally spend a little more attention to their appearance? When going out it’s not just the women that don’t wear fancy clothes, men wear sneakers, tshirts, jeans, etc. I think both sexes could dress up a little more. Although at the same time I like that fact that you don’t always have to fully dress up if you want to go out. And I think for example in England it has maybe gone a bit too far (sooooo much make-up, everyone has styled/curled hair, super high heels, super short dresses, etc) so we wouldn’t want to become like that either..
Also are Dutch women more often fat (and fatter) than men?
You tell ‘, Anna! The men’s sene of style is just as bad as the women’s. And Dutch women being fat? No, since the Dutch are the tallest people around, the women are big too. So Dutch girls aren’t as cute and petit as for example Italians. But bottom line is that the Dutch are behind when it comes to fashion. It’s a fact. (And also on cuisine, and super markets, and partially on music too.)
Greetings from a dutch guy! 😀
I totally agree with Anna!!! I have lived and been in many places in the world,….and yes in some other countries women do dress more sexy…one of the main reasons is that women dont get as much chances as us women here in Holland …we dont need to dress like that to get a man..we can take care of our selfs…as supposed to the women in some other countries!
And I have to say alot of times when I wear a dress and high heels..I feel overdressed cos most women here in Holland dont go all dolled up!(I dont mean the British way..cos they (I think) overdo it!!)
And one more thing…exactly what Anna said…dont you think loads of men here in Holland think its cool to have a beer belly…boys that are 17 years old have little beer bellies…dont expect a Victorias secret model when ya no Calvin Klein model yourself …..
Women are not just there to look at. I really don’t care what others say about my appearance, You state that “Most women in Holland don’t like that they’re women”, have you have ever thought that maybe they don’t mind at all, but they just don’t like being your stereotypical, sexist idea of women? It’s just outrageous how references to fashion immediately get you talking about women. You should be ashamed of yourself, women are human beings with a lot more to offer than just looks. Excuse me for rather spending time on getting a good education than doing my make up.
Let me just sit here and ignore everything you say untill you can prove to me that you are in fact a supermodel who wears a suit everyday.
Now you are being rude as opposed to direct! As Rochejagu said: “Its not what you say but how you say it”.
I agree that Albert Heijn is nothing like Waitrose but then again Waitrose is really quite expensive. Is AH really that bad or is it just not what you are used to? Not everything can be the same as in your home country so you should show a little open mindedness .. Also maybe you can buy the products you are looking for at biological/ecological or specialist delicatessen stores? Or if you live in Amsterdam (or Haarlem) then Marqt might be something for you?
(I meant Jim not Guido)
I am thinking of moving to Holland. I can’t keep my opinions of politics and religion to myself, would never tell anyone they look fat, hate supermarkets, love wine (but beer makes me fart) dress “feminine” and ride a bike. And I am very short. Would I fit in there?
Mandy, the answers on whether you’d fit in based on the traits mentioned by you in that same order: yes, sure (you’d be a polite Dutchie.. maybe you should live in Limburg or Brabant), yes (but then don’t watch tv, the commercials are EVERYWHERE), neutral (and a hesitant “not really” on the beer part), doesn’t matter how you dress, yes and no.
Music in Dutch language is indeed crap, food sucks (but not my Mothers), Supermarkets aren’t that bad…just a lot of candy, Dressing is bad, but the English and Americans dress worst….
As a Dutch guy (living in Amsterdam) I was/still am pleasantly surprised each time I go back to London about how the people dress themselves. Even the men take great care of what they are wearing and how they are wearing it… in general that is, of course there is always the exception to the rule. (I’m talking about London here, not the UK in general, I wouldn’t know since I haven’t visited much outside of London)
The Dutch are still wearing trends that Americans and Brits were wearing back in 2006. To be quite honest, the Dutch clothing “style” is very tacky!
Crap music? Ever listened to De Dijk, Trockener kecks, the scene, Acda & de munnik to name but a few, they all sing in dutch and still rock.. I agree with the palingsound and kampermusic being crap.
We can take it if it is said in a normal way. Not in the way written above. Also, even we don’t make a big list of nasty remarks like you do. You are free to leave the country anytime, how about yesterday?
Haha! Love it! You people get over it, why are we bad-mouthing Holland all of a sudden, So not what is was about. We are direct, take it or leave it!
I can’t believe someone just decides to write a whole list of bad stuff about Dutchies, pfff, how rude!
Fashion is an outer layer, an exposure. Dutch don’t like layers, we like being straight forward (we can appreciate your comment).
Your food is shite for other cultures. Some cultures like to eat maggots, dogs, snails, testicles of a bull, termites, whalet etc..
Music, the same, based on personal opinion. How about Tiesto, Armin van Buren, Junkie XL? Not my cup of tea (I like progressive/alternative music).
All the things you mention are basically based on personal opinion. You have yours, I have mine and that’s fine. As apposed to you, the Dutch don’t worship easily.
wow, and dutch people were supposed to be rude. This is not even a normal comment, just a list of things you hate.
Hey look, the awesome thing is, that i can just say, Fine, that’s your opinion, but im pretty sure you don’t want to hear mine.
If you want to say so: fine with me. I think everyone has the right to make stupid remarks, so why wouldn’t you be allowed to say this? Feeling better now?
Cheers mate! I certainly do not agree with the food thing!
@Jim, where are you from? And how long have you lived in NL? If you actually do live here? Why are you only focusing on negative things as YOU perceive them? A lot of Dutch music is excellent but you have to know where to look. Canto Ostinato by Simeon ten Holt is fabulous. And what about Douwe Eijsenga’s Requiem 1953. I admit that the way they run their restaurants does leave a lot to be desired, but after all the French are the only Europeans who really know how to cook and enjoy good food (by Europeans, I mean that in an ethnic sense to include Europeans in the diaspora).
Haha, I have enjoyed reading these……but it’s 2017 now, and the supermarkets here are fab! Especially Marqt!
Thought I could be `rude’ to them, as and when on an appropriate ocassion..dealing with the `rudeness…’, but the words just couldn’t spill out. But living here, u have to blend it that way in order not to feel `out of place’ and `offended’. another thing about the Dutch is (so much more to write about the Dutch….oh man….), they work like a Robot. The customer service of my internet service provider called earlier to fix some problems and which led to a simple request of them calling me back tomorrow for an answer as I simply cldnt call them because they have a centralized phone system with long voice systems in dutch, , hence, they gotta call me. But she hesitated and felt sorry that I couldnt understand their language and asked me to log in to their website tomorrow instead and click on `Bel me’. (it means, call me). I said what for? she said, with that, then they can call me. ????? WTF. sorry but the Dutch’s mentality keeps surprising me on and on and on.
She probably meant it well, because when you call, it costs you money where as if they call you, you wouldn have to pay a penny.
But the ‘robot clerk’ has nothing to do with Dutch mentality, that’s the influence of big companies that try to reduce the costs with standard scripts. Typically telco’s and ISPs.
I’m Dutch, but the things you point out also irritate me. We Dutch like autonomity, but big companies like McDonalds, UPC, Vodafone drill people to work with fenced standard procedures. I would say typically NON-Dutch.
However, in the series Little Britain, it seems that it’s not only a problem in the Netherlands: http://youtu.be/9ROaZXdMLmY
Yes, that sounds like a procedure. Not much the agent could do about that.
Working with many foreigners and being Dutch i see the complaint about the Dutch voice systems a lot. On the other hand, Dutch is the language we speak here. Never had a Dutch voice system when I was abroad as well. But always found somebody who was willing to help me.
Most Dutch people do speak a little English and are happy to help you out. Just ask for some help.
Zou ik maar in het Nederlands of in het Engels antwoorden? Perhaps I’ll try the latter, in case people out there are less familiar with Dutch:-)
As an American who grew up bilingual in German and English but who speaks Dutch as well, I found frankly the Dutch more arrogant about their English skills than even the Germans or the ScandinaviansLOL
When last in the Netherlands, I joked that as I’d hope people would kindly correct my Dutch, I trust therefore that noone would mind if I corrected their English. Apparently, I’d committed a mega social gaff. Seems pride goeth before the fall, and many Dutch are soooo proud of their school English, they enjoy rubbing our noses in it. I was reminded of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor Has No Clothes”. The Dutch speak perfect or at least, excellent, English and foreigners are almost afraid of telling the absolute truth.
Guess directness in the Netherlands DOESN’T cut both ways!
So you live in the Netherlands and expect a centralized phone system in English? Think about it…. What is wrong here?
I found that for the most part customer service was just lacking in general. To me rudeness is when I am left standing there with a shirt in hand to buy and you sit there on the phone chatting to your friend. As for them being “blunt” that too has it’s limits and I feel that they overstep at times using the excuse “Oh I’m Dutch and I can say this”. Do I think they can dish it out as well as they can take it? NO.. simple. I had one too many experiences with that!! My ex’s friend is a perfect example, he can say what he wants when he wants and not care, but the minute I told him to take off his shoes in my house he had a fit and told me it was rude of me to suggest this. Same with a lady in the store, interupting my personal conversation with someone (having it in English) she told me to speak Dutch. She had no idea who I was or if I lived there or was a tourist.
I agree with Rood, that’s just a rude person, which has nothing to do with him being Dutch.
Yep, very recognisable. Esp in Amsterdam. No service whatsoever in bars or restaurants for example. Prob because they have a set salary, and are not dependend on tips? And yes, I dó think that this Dutch trade is overstepping the line too often. I do like ‘our’ directness but the rudeness … It can bow ur mind sometimes.
Ów, and I’m Dutch myself.
You could be right with the ‘tipping’ thing……but to be honest, when I went to New York I didn’ t like the ‘over-politeness of the personnel….it was to much…the truth should be somewhere in the middle (Dutch saying) 😉
I know places in Amsterdam where the service is good and staff is friendly. If that’s so at least I am sure they mean it. In the US I found the service seemde good, but was hardly sincere. I always felt it was the tip, not the customer they cared for. Once you had payed their inyterest was gone. So in Hoillend you may get bad service and that’s a reason never to come back. But if it is good I know that’s because they care for their customers.
yeah, these people are just rude, this has nothing to do with the real “rudeness” of the dutch. you just met some impolite people, by the way, are you actually dutch? just curious, i don’t mean anything about your habits or such
@ melissa: WTF but that’s your house! Actually in other cultures it is actually expected of people to take of their shoes when they enter someone’s house. This guy is a typical Dutch xenophobe who thinks his culture is superior to other cultures (unfortunately there are a LOT of xenophobes in The Netherlands)
I personally like the directness but not the rudeness. And a lot of Dutch people are borderline rude!
The Dutch are very direct and people from other nationalities might be a bit more (or a bit too) sensitive and when those two are mixed it seems like all Dutch are rude. I think the difference between directness and rudeness is partly the intention with which something is said (or the lack of care as to how it’s perceived by the other person). A lot of the Dutch people honestly don’t mean to be rude. So maybe if the Dutch tried to be a little less direct and other people keep in mind that it’s not meant rude then there will be less hurt feelings allround 🙂
I think xenophobe is putting it too strong (again that’s a very pessimistic way of looking at things, as if Dutch people don’t care about other cultures and think they’re less. It just takes Dutch people a while to ‘warm up’ to new stuff). I agree that Dutch people can react quite star/rigid to new influences but once they get to know the different cultures/traditions (and the ideas behind certain rituals) they almost always like them or at least respect them. Or at least that goes for all the people I know. Maybe you’ve met a lot of people who are not like that, but are they representative for all the Dutch people? I(‘d like to) think not!
@ Adriana. It seems u don’t like the Dutch very much. How can u survive in this country!
Have to agree with Jeroen on that, with Adriana hating Queensday, Sinterklaas, and the Dutch directness…
Exactly……so i guess Adrianna is being “direct” aswell…but cos she is not Dutch its okay whatever she says?!?! im disappointed in this!!
@Adrianna…isnt this the pot calling the kettle black moment?!?!
yeah, but remember this is one individual, just about everyone i know would not mind if someone asked them to take their shoes of.
We don’t wear shoes in my house, and my Dutch husband’s family *still* refuses to remove them on the rare occasions that they come to visit. It’s been 8 years. I’ve never had a problem with any one else here not following our request. Maybe it’s genetic. 😉
You are right about the shoes, but it has nothing to do with the dutch culture.
He might have been outspoken about how his parents raised him.
In other words he thinks he’s right above anyone else. (annoying)
mirror mirror on the wall…
this was meant for Adriana..
wtf, I reply on her comment and I am under Cloggy?
This guy is a arrogant xenophobe because he didn’t want to take his shoes off? It’s not a costum here to do so, so it’s a strange situation when we’re asked to take our shoes off when we visit someone. The guy might have overreacted or she might have misunderstood him, but it’s perfectly normal to be surprised about this question when it’s never asked off you.
Also, calling him arrogant and a xenophobe, just because he’s used to something else than you are.. doesn’t that kind of make YOU the arrogant xenophobe? Especially when directly after that, you go on calling most Dutch people the same thing?
What’s rude to you might not be rude to others.
In holland we have more of an ‘everybody’s equal’ state of mind. So in stores and stuff custumors are not really ‘king’ any more(is that a dutch saying? Hope you know what I mean). Directness is also often to prevent people from doing something stupid a second time. But yes, we can go too far.
There was an english exchange student in my class, who just didn’t do what he should in our group-project. When he was gone again I told him to get back to school and do what he said he would do,, he told me I was rude.. So sometimes I just don’t know how to put it elsewise, cause I felt he had it comming. I mean, is that just dutch rudeness too?
But mostly I try to be nice, but I can not not be honest, that’s more rude in my mind. So when someone has a really bad haircut, I try not to say anything. But if they would ask.. I most often go like ‘mwah, I liked the old one better, sorry’. Not meaning to offend him/her or whatever, just because I think everyone deserves honesty.
I rather go for pizza then boerenkool, but our snack’s are awesome. And also, I think that it’s really dutch to get all the best things out of other countries. So we always have a nice mix of stuff(and people btw).
Excuse my english btw, sometimes it’s crappy:).
If a FRIEND asked me about his or her hairstyle then i keep in mind that my FRIEND likes this hairstyle. If the hair is cut in a wrong way we both blame the hairdresser !
To T I think you were right when you told your classmate to get back and do what he said he would do. It is not wrong to call people out when they are not living up to what they said. That is not rude. If someone asks your opinion then it is right to give it…honestly AND gently. I think people are put off with directness when it is not asked for. Lastly, your english is pretty good.
It’s funny this directness, my husband, early on in our relationship, would feel slightly embarrassed at diner parties where I would “revel” in exciting debates about religion, politics who to vote, why are you put on this planet & etc (instead of the English topics such as cars, house prices, mortgages & council bin collection!!! AND getting bladdered – even after 11yrs of living in Britain it’s still the same topics) ! Also he felt that most of the time my family just argued when in fact we felt we were having a nice evening with a lively political debate. He over it now and we made him an honorary Dutch person!!
I sometimes miss the directness and trying to figure out where you stand with people I feel, living in England, can be pretty tough. Since no-one is really like the Dutch. However I now have some really good friends – all for Yorkshire who seem a bit more “Dutch” nice & blunt!! Just the way I like it!
sorry if only I could spell
I actualy felt like the people in Liverpool were quite similar to the people I’m used to in the NL, somewhat more brash and not beating around the bush. Especialy compared to London (stayed there for a few weeks and their “reserved” nature was getting on my nerves since I had to hold back pretty much all the time) Liverpool was a breath of fresh air. Never been to Yorkshire but it sounds awesome 😀
My british friends often complain about the dutch rudeness and how improper some habits are.
The rest of the evening I have to listen to them complain how pissed they are, go figure
The lack of customer service relates (in my opinion) to the fact that almost every-one thinks “if you fire me, I will have a new job tomorrow”. Not positive but a fact reality. The dressing up (or lack of it) derives from the past. Calvinism, the Dutch saying “doe maar normaal dan doe je gek genoeg” (act normal, that’s crazy enough) is a heritage from the past. A dutch millionaire buying a ferrari is not necessarily perceived as cool – a Dutch millionaire drive a volkswagen brings more respect. (dandy behavior is not part of the culture). Supermarket-wise, very true that they make look products better then they are in fact. Having lived in Tokyo for a while (and traveling a lot), I have never seen such high quality level in any other country. And if you want to pay for it, you do have access to relatively high-end products (Marqt or much better, buying straight from wholesalers) The multi-cultural nature of Holland does enable you access to the best foreign cuisine (e.g. the only Japanese restaurant with a Michelin start outside of Japan is in Amsterdam). Try some Dutch lobster or shrimps, they are considered the best quality available in the world. I understand some of the arguments and fine with me! However, I do feel more comfortable being surrounded with honest (direct) people around me to know what they really think opposed to bla-bla. (and believe me, that’s not restricted to the Dutch…). It’s a mindset that many people have, it’s just that relatively more Dutch people think that way in my opinion. The good side effects of this behavior is that the Dutch seem to be an out of the box thinking nation. If you think you have a better idea than your boss, you just say it.
The Dutch speak their minds.
OMG I thought it was just me! It’s a relief to know it’s me and another couple of million Dutchies.
Dutch girl in Oz.
The point of the article is not quite “the Dutch speak their minds” but more like “there is a thin line between speaking your mind and being a tactless asshole and the Dutch often like to get too close to it” (or at least, more often than in other cultures) 😉
Although, to my dismay, I have experience how certain Dutch people (of course, not a majority) who are proud of “being direct” (which often includes derogatory opinions about your country) can’t handle “directness” in the opposite direction.
Being a foreigner in this country I don’t feel that this “Dutch directness” is such a big deal, it’s just part of the “cultural divide”. However it tends to create awkward moments and an impression of arrogant behavior.
well said ignacio!!
Please keep in mind that there are a lot of Dutchies that do not understand you completely and do not speak english on a regular basis.
A lot of them only hear it from Hollywood movies and even intent to use the same lines used in said movies, complete with the F- word and S- word (a lot!)
Nothing personal from their side, incredibly rude to your ears.
I have experience how certain Dutch people who are proud of “being direct” can’t handle “directness” in the opposite direction.”
Give an example.. because that doesnt make sense at all. How else can they live with each other? Still having discussions laugh in bars and like each other..?
Usually you feel like its arrogant, because the other party might be coming over as strong confident person within discussion. Kind of “no fear” in discussions. That might be seen as arrogance but its not…I even bet that a dutchy dont even think about being arrogance. Its the perception of the other person who is dealing with dutchy and have difficulties with the directness.
I think this is a matter of what you’re used too. What non-Dutchies consider too close to being a tactless asshole, the Dutch themselves are used to and brought up to be. Our line lies further ahead than it does for you.
That’s just a difference in culture. And well, how can I say this without sounding like a tactless asshole to you.. when you go to a different country with a different culture, you have to adapt to that culture, the culture isn’t going to adapt to you.
I also believe that Dutchies who are proud of being direct, can handle the directness in the opposite direction from other Dutchies. I know that might sound slightly racist, but it’s not like that. We believe you should get what you give and give what you get. Non-Dutchies tend to get offended by the directness, so we get offended when they return the favor too, where a Dutch person can say just about anything to an other Dutch person.
It’s a two way thing you know. You can’t expect us to compromise when you won’t do the same..
Oh and when faced with a non-Dutch person trying to return the directness, there is also the slight problem of that person not getting the tone of voice, gesture or choice of words right. We speak “directness” as a second language. We’re brought up to say these things in such a way that we are not percieved as rude while still saying what we think. A non-Dutch person didn’t grow up with that advantage and might, without meaning to, actually sound rude to a Dutch person.
We don’t see it as rude when said in such a way that it is clear to us that the other person doesn’t mean to offend.
I’m not Dutch. I’m Indonesian, but I like Dutch openness and directness 🙂
More or less, we are Indonesian like drops and hagelslag chocolate sprinkles as well. 😀
Have to say though that there’s no such thing as THE Dutch. Holland consists of many different subcultures, religions, believes. Within 300 km by 150 km you will find extreme differences. Bottom line still is that “Dutch” have proven in time to be flexible (business), liberal (softdrugs, gays, religions), open (immigrants), generous (spending most per capita in the word on charity, EU support). These conversations probably take place in every country but I am kind of getting sick of people making complaints here (I work in an international work environment). If it sucks here, sure – fine, your opinion, but then just leave!! (or am I being too direct?)
Sweet, this is exactly what I meant in my previous comment: “we are direct, but we can’t handle directness in the opposite direction”. Pointing out things that most expats and foreigners dislike is really far away of saying that The Netherlands suck! but I find so funny how the most common Dutch answer for the slightest complaint about their country is “just leave”. I have heard it so many times already (to the point of being annoyed myself). Dudes, assume it,in every country there are good things and bad things. And if somebody lives in NL it’s because the balance between the good and the bad ones is fairly positive. Unless he’s a masochist!
Yeah, being a masochist might have to do something with it sometimes(….)but in general it is just a case being born somewhere and not everyone having the talents/skills/conditions.
I dont know how you expressed yourself the moment before they said ” Just leave” but I can imagine if you were talking ONLY negative things, that it happened, yes.
But not everyone reacts the same.
In your reactions and certain others I see alot of black & white.
Not every Dutchie is the same.
Maybe you stayed in Amsterdam?
There they tend to be full of shit and arrogance because THEY live in THAT city. Ignoring the fact that the attraction to tourists lies in the beauty people from way back created there.
There is a lot of influx from other regions in Amsterdam, maybe more than elsewhere. As soon they live there they tend to become chauvinist pigs, hahaha.
Btw, I live in the area of Rotterdam. I now live in the city but was born 30 miles away.
In both places people attribute all kinds of nonsense to the people in the other place.
Usually people share more than they differ. Think about that.
I don’t really mind the directness of the Dutchies but what I do mind is that when i join them on being direct, then I’m being too bitchy or ofensive. They can be direct but cannot take the directness from others towards them. huh?!?! Of course it is not all of them! Most of the people in this country that I have met are genuine and nice, but every country/culture have its bad tomatoes! So why should this one be any different?
During my first few months here i had doubts on what i should think about some people I met. I really wonder if some of them have the slight idea how rude they are. I know some of you take the rude x direct as a quality but there are some things specially towards some people (specially elders) that should NOT be said or if you do want to say it, say it when you are alone with that person and not around a group of colleagues. I don’t know if those people have that sense of alert of how rude they can be.
Totally agree. The Dutch dish it out but can’t take it.
Rosana, concordo com vc.. e senti que as pessoas nao tem limite nem senso de quão rude são. Aprecio a ‘directness’, mas desaprovo o exagero que se torna claramente ‘impolite’.
yes but they should take as good as they give….
but they cant
Because intonation and non verbal expression is very important. It is very subtile, when you grow up here (the Netherlands), you recognise these differences subconsiously.
A small, barely recognisable eye lash can make the difference to hostile or friendly comment.
You can say the most terrible towards Dutch people without upsetting them. But it must be clear that you are joking.
It’s like learning to speak the language, mpst will never master it completely, because it is not in your system.
this can be really strange if you did not grow up with this, because when i was on a cultural trip to England, me and my classmates were joking around, having fun, and talked about family and friends, when suddenly we were stopped by some policemen! apparently a couple of people saw and heard us and thought we were going to fight. it really is just some small gestures which can be the difference between a conversation and a fight.
To Simon: I think you´re right about this. It´s also true that, on occasions, people choose to feel offended.
I’m dutch and I never considered myself to be too rude, upfront or direct to anyone. It’s just that after i migrated to spain and met a lot of people from other european countries (u.k. mainly) I started to think about it. A couple of situations I found myself in made me wonder about people not being direct.
A good example would be the following. An english friend of mine had a birthdayparty for his daughter at a local mcDonalds (terrible idea). Since my daughter was invited aswel, we went to this party. Now the spanish staff was supposed to take care of the food, cleaning up the tables, provide a bit of entertainment, and failed miserably at all of the above. Eventhough the kids didn’t seem to mind ( they got along just fine ) my english friend was getting more and more aggrevated and at some point he told me with an obviously annoyed facial expression “I am not impressed with the service overhere!”.
He really got me there. He clearly thought the service sucked. It’s what his facial expression said, it’s what his tone of voice said, it’s what was painfully obvious to anyone, but his words (to me, a dutch guy) meant something like ‘yeah well, its not too great but i really dont mind too much’. So this got me very confused. Why not just say it sucks? And why say it to me, why not say it to the staff??
Another good example. I went to a local phonestore and couldnt help overhearing the conversation between a british customer and a spanish staffmember. The customer seemed to have trouble of sorts with his phone for well over 3 months. Apparently he’s been visiting the phonestore many times before to utter his complaints at the 16 – ish staffmember who hardly speaks any english just to frustrate himself some more because he couldn’t get her to see his problem and give hime a new phone. He stayed polite in his complaints all the way, didn’t get anywhere. Told his story once again, still no luck. Complained a bit louder, still nothing ofcourse. Ultimately he and his wife left the shop, slamming the door and cursing and swearing on the way out.
The slightly miffed staffmember mumbled someting i couldnt understand, so I asked what that was all about. It turned out since the complaints weren’t all that serious to her ( spanish get very loud if they want something done, or feel they’re being had which is probably the only thing she was used to. ) so she didn’t think his problems were serious enough to act upon.
Apparently all he had to do to get things done was drop his politeness, be direct and say something to the likes of “this phone died, i’ve got warranty, give new one now”. That would have saved him 3 months of aggrevation ( and possibly even a stroke :))
Other than just these examples I love people being direct. Why not? It’s the least confusing way of communicating. At times my wife will tell me “Je stinkt uit je bek” which means i got bad breath and should brush my teeth. It may not be something pretty to hear, but at least you now know what you need to do.
Another one is this. I really hate it when people ask ‘how are you today’ whilst they really don’t care how your day was but merely uttering a polite way of saying ‘hello’. Why not just say hello if you don’t want to hear my day was nothing special? It’s not that hard nor offensive.
So today I stumbled upon this blogpost and immediately thought, this guys’ article is spot on immediately followed by the thought… Thank god I’m dutch 🙂
Pet peeve of mine is similar to your “how are you today”… that when someone asks you that question and you reply by saying something like “not that good, I feel like shit” and they’re offended that you even replied with anything not positive. Oh well, stuff like that keeps life interesting 🙂
i assume you are referring to other countries where they ask that question such as the US. Here, they really don’t want to hear how you are doing…this irritates me. When Dutch people ask, they want to know…so, I don’t know whether you were talking about Dutch people or not but if you are, it is BS. Hoe gaat het ermee? means we want to know how you are doing bad or good….
In my previous job, there was this girl from administration. Everytime we met during lunchtime I would ask “how are you” and she would simply say “good”. I finally had to tell her: “You`re not supposed to say ‘good’. That is a conversation killer! You`re supposed to complain about your health, or the weather, or the phone company, or the government. Then we can talk about it and show sympathy with each other.”
I am American and when I ask how are you today….I really want to know! But I understand were you are coming from, you don’t like the insincerity that comes with that remark. I find that irritating too.
Tom, just one question: could you handle the same directness back? or is it just one way? (dutch towards the rest of the world)
Hi Diego. Obviously dutch directness is a two way street. If you’ve been raised in an environment that encourages you to speak your mind, you are also raised to be spoken to in a similar fashion. The thing is you also learn how everyone is opinionated and if other peoples opinions about you or the things you do are negatives ones, you are very well adapted to just shrugging that of. So, can I handle it? Ofcourse, I can.
However, it can become problematic if people who weren’t raised this way are having a go at it and fail miserably, cause the line between being opinionated and being an insulting dick is a very fine one. It’s not unlike learning a different language, you can learn the basics from a book, but you’ll only get the right techniques down by practicing.
Well said, Tom. You hit the nail on the head.
There’s a fine line between being frank or rude and if you grow up surrounded by Dutch directness, you come to learn where that line is drawn.
I lived in Spain for a couple of months and became friends with two other students: Raul was Spanish, while Susanna came from Finland. We hung out together and from day one Susanna and I surfed on the same wavelength. We shared a similar sense of humour (mildly sarcastic with a good-natured wink) and were equally direct in our observations. And don’t you know it, the Fins love salty licorice, too! 😀 Anyone who spits out a dropje in surprised disgust like Raul did, loses a bit of esteem 😉
Enjoying salty licorice wasn’t the only thing Raul couldn’t understand. At times he would feel offended by something we said and we had a hard time explaining that we were not meant to insult him and that our comments would not have raised an eyebrow back home.
Then Raul decided to have a go at this directness himself and ended up being rather rude. (Oh, wtf, it’s not like I’m speaking to an Englishman: he ended up being a total jerk) He was used to such a different set of social customs, that to him, being frank and being rude was all the same. The boundary was blurred and sometimes painfully absent.
Therefore, Diego, it’s not a Durch inability to take the same directness back, when the directness is NOT the same.
I can relate to that ! Being direct is not the problem. Being rude is.
A colleague of mine also had bad breath once, but was passing through my departement on his way to his departement. A coworker made a gesture behind his back just before we met. I obviously notices what the gesture meant when he got closer and greeted me.
I took him aside and told him he had very bad breath. I did not expect him to get angry because I wanted to shield him from a lot of gossip.
His face turned red not from anger but from shame, after witch he couldn’t thank me enough for pointing it out to him. He just wasn’t aware. I gave him a roll of peppermints and called him in sick. He went to the dentist straight away. Problem solved, no gossip, friends forever.
Now I would like to know how a british colleague would have let him take the fall.
There probably wouldn’t have been a “fall” as you see it, because we are more tolerant. Not everyone looks (or smells!) just perfect, including you and me. It seems to me that “Dutch directness” – is a thinly disguised “German rudeness”, poking very cold noses into other people’s business just to dominate them, when the fact is… wait for it…. NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR OPINION. You are just one person, so do your own thing and allow others to do theirs, without comment. Why do you think people need to be told how to behave? Let people be themselves. Would you be grateful to be told that nobody wants to sleep with you because you are fat, ugly, smelly, dull, and have a tiny penis? According to you, you should be grateful that you can improve on your faults! In fact, it just means that you need new friends. I find it astonishing to see, on these comments, people complaining that the British are too polite. But let me point out that, through history, it has been the “polite British” who have had the courage to fight wholeheartedly against wrong-doing; NOT the Dutch, who were too busy telling people they had bad breath. I have lived in other European countries for five years, and I have learned to behave as ME – which means, just as I please, within the law, and treating people with respect and kindness, but not taking any c*ap from anyone. I am moving to the Netherlands for a year, and if any herring-eating giant makes a rude comment to me, he or she will get it back X 100.
Herring eating giant? What a shining example of being polite Mandy…
Im dutch too and yes I cannot agree more..people are so nice outside the Netherlands 😉 The good aspects for directness: you will know faster who you are dealing with. The bad aspects: if untrained..and you dont have a solid opinion about yourself: you can get hurt. Anyways..its not that bad if you would live here for a while..you will see that the directness gradually will transform into a national sport. Every culture has its own characteristics, and so do the dutch. Personally, I’m happy to have experienced this ‘difference’ by living abroad..even the homeless people are so polite here! 😉
Funny, this statement about hypocrisy. This is indeed how many Dutch people see it, and I know it because I am one of them (and don’t agree). The funny part is that the Dutch themselves are in my opinion bigger hypocrites than most, take the self-proclaimed tolerance for example. Clearly, any Moroccan could tell you how tolerant the Dutch are. Tolerance only exists in some aspects of governance (i.e., prostitutes and reefer), and certainly not all if one looks at immigration laws and the way immigrants are treated. Tolerance certainly is not a special Dutch trait if you look at how people think. Doe maar normaal dan doe je gek genoeg says it all, that’s not tolerant, thus making it hypocrite.
Sadly, could not agree more…
Thank you for being frank, honest and non passive aggressive, you are clearly an exeption when it comes to hypocrisy, very refreshing.
This is quite good to be direct, as Tom describe it, I am from Bretagne and we are quite direct and stuborn there too! Being direct just to be direct without any reason can sometimes not be needed; being hoonest is good, but if it is not constructive then why not keeping quiet?!
And if being direct is good, the only pity though is that this directness sometimes or often only works one way and it is more “do what I say not what I do and do even think telling me anything”! try to say what you think to a Dutch person especially if she is cought being wrong then refer to N°42! ex: in the line waiting, some tall Dutch sneak in, the “I don’t care if you’re here, I am going to get in front of you” type of person, you say something to make that person understand you were here before and they or ignore you or start to call you name, same when on the bike the person who have a give the way still cycle on and nearly get you falling, if you say “dude, you are supposed to stop here and let me go” you can again get a bunch of dissease name flying around, cannot the foreigner be direct in return then or is this just that a lot of Dutch (amsterdammer??) are non compliant with rules, in other words lacking of respect, and do not like to be told?
Amsterdammers are extremely verbal and have a reputation for arrogance. It`s not that they are all bad though. There are some very nice people in Amsterdam. I should know, I am acquainted with all three of them…
Amsterdam is NOT the Netherlands.
I’m Dutch myself, and I agree that many Dutch are very direct. When you grow up here, you actually get used to it. When you visit the Netherlands, you might find it shocking.
My girlfriend is Argentinian and lives in the Netherlands for 8 years now, but still didn’t get used to the typical Dutch directness. It sometimes leads to hilarious situations. Once in a while she interprets comments that people make as being extremely rude, while I don’t really see why. Then, in turn, she gets really defensive, which in turn, can be interpreted as being rude by the Dutch.
The typical Dutch directness, can be found especially in the western part of the Netherlands (in the provinces of Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland and Utrecht). In the other provinces, this directness is less present.
Baarnaar, are you the Crown Prince?
And even then you cannot say everyone in the West is the same 🙂
finally! someone wrote it down:-)))BEDANKT! its soooooo, soooo true! and its very disturbing for all other, non-Dutch persons…although after 7 years here I start to realise that its is somehow contagious…grrr!
Dutch are frugal, impolite, and invade vakantie places all together in caravans with supplies bought from Aldi!
Now…. one can not be refined if one meets fellow dutchman in the campground…. can he??? There is your answer! Heel Mooi!
During my visit to Holland to finalize the expat agreement, my new boss invited me to his house for dinner. We walk in, I greet a 9 year old son who loudly states “wow, hij is dik.” Quite embarrassed, the new boss tried to overlook the statement. I pulled it out of him and was told that “I was fat.” Being true, I agreed. I now have a favorite sentence in Dutch, “Ik ben dik, maar slim.”
At 9 years old that kid should have known he can’t say things like that out loud. This isn’t the dutch directness as described in this article, it’s just a poorly trained kid. The fact your boss tried to overlook it instead of correcting his kid strengthens my thoughts on this one.
Your response (im fat but im smart) is a weak one in my opinion. I’d prolly say something to make the kid cry instead.
Even though your thoughts on poor upbringing sound true, making your host`s kid cry on purpose would not only be extremely rude, attacking his offspring breaks all rules of hospitality.
I’ve seen it from adults way more times than I can count. But it cracks me up more than anything. Someone’s fat, old, disabled, whatever… just facts… why people over the age of let’s be generous and say 18 ever make these sorts of observations aloud just makes them look amusingly simple and uninteresting. Overstating the obvious. Not even an opinion. Very different from saying, “I hate fat people” and so on. On a side note if someone says, “That shirt makes you look fat.” I sometimes want to say, okay cool, “what’s wrong with fat?”
Now you know how your new boss raised his kid.
Says alot about him !
I am a very polite and sweet-natured Englishwoman, but I am willing to integrate and behave like a native. So, does that mean that if I see a Dutchman picking his nose on the bus I can call him a dirty diseased bastard and punch him in the face?
No you say: heh gatverdamme wil je dat effe laten viespeuk :o)
I live in A’dam a number of years and was prepared for the Dutch frank discourse. After awhile I began to recognize that many used this cultural phenomenon as an excuse to be deliberately rude and off-putting. They enjoyed the sense of power it gave them to poke and prod. They’d smile like it was cute; it wasn’t. As a guest in their country, I’d smile and keep my mouth shut, but to this day I am annoyed by the preposterous and brazen ugliness I experienced so oft in the people there. Not all, mind you, I had some lovely experiences too, but I left thinking, “hmmmm…such a wealthy country with so much to feel blessed about and yet daily so many encounters with bullies.” That Dutch speed skater — yes. Quintessetially Dutch.
actually, the speedskater was sooo right to say that (“are you stupid?”)….bc if you are a reporter you should know what the fk you are reporting about. I mean this nonsense for editing purposes is BS (their excuse for not having a clue). She could have said “we are here with Sven Kramer, winner of the 5 km gold”….but she actually had no clue who she was talking to, as is general with these ditzy reporters in the US. So…kudos to Sven..that was absolutely brilliant.
I am going to try to put this politely. I am merely trying to express how I feel about your post, Dennis, without trying to get into a flaming row or anything. I respect your opinion and everyone has his own truth and reality, but:
Your post is exactly the polarising statement that this country is full of. And it’s getting ever worse. People are just thinking of themselves without considering other people.
No, he was not right to handle that situation like that. It show that he thinks he’s some sort of God. But he isn’t. He should have just stated his name and country and what he just had won. And think whatever he wanted to himself. I agree with Lola here. It is typically Dutch and it’s downright rude. I know Kramer has worked his arse off to accomplish what de did, and yes, if a reporter doesn’t have a clue, that’s rude too. But all of that does not grant him the right to put them off like that.
Some people just don’t give a damn. They’ll shove you over and be proud of it, mixing up assertiveness with aggression.
I’m just glad Lola has had some lovely experiences too. Fortunately not all people alike. Just wondering, Lola, what did / do you think of the Dutch / Amsterdam sense of humour?
Very well said, Dennis.
Hans, Sven did have the right to say what he said, and said it. The one thinking she is a god is the reporter, demanding of a world champion that he identifies himself for her little videoc clip. What is she, a drill sergeant? “Identify yourself, soldier!!!”
You started with a negative attribution before you even arrived!!! Maybe they sensed your biased ideas about them beforehand and felt like provoking. 🙂
Even stupid people are very clever in sensing that, you know.
As a Dutchy living in rural England, I cannot tell you how much I miss our directness since I always have to guess what people really mean here. I miss AH, I miss the ‘gezelligheid’, walk in have a coffee at a friends house. I miss to go out in my jeans, I miss the cloths shops in Holland because everything is real cotton, real wool instead of cottonish or woolish here. Do I have to continue…..
No. Expats everywhere miss things about their homelands. I miss 24/7 openingstijdens for example. And having a quiet coffee without being labeled asocial if I choose to read a book rather than discuss the rain while I do it. And supermarkets with endless array of useless options. Does that mean these things are better? Probably not, just what I grew up with.
P.S. I would recommend simply asking people what they mean if you’re confused — in a respectful way. Explain that you really don’t know and that you want to understand. They can’t fault you for that. My guess is that they are already aware that English communication can sometimes be too subtle and unclear. 😉
I’m Dutch and I live in Texas, and the very first evening my American husband and I went out with some of his friends, one of them mentioned the death penalty. So I started to debate it with him, and within minutes he was completely pissed off, took it all personally and walked away! And yes, with my directness I often put my foot in my mouth or seriously thought someone meant what they said when they didn’t. I took a while to read between the lines…
Oh, good luck to you Barbara, as an American I definitely don’t envy you Texas. Entrenched politics… no prisoners warfare about them. Really, good luck. You might find the west coast (I hope) a little easier about these things. But yeah, Americans in general sometimes have a hard time not taking it all personally. They think that having conviction requires that of them. Sad mistake.
Hi Piet, for some reason my notifications don’t give a link to what this was a comment on. Could you let me know so I know what to answer? Thanks,
Some people learn to speak as if they stand in somebody else`s shoes. This does not mean this is a personal opinion. It only means that you roleplay and try out, for the fun of it. It also means you can live with dissident opinion. Lots of Dutch can`t swallow that either.
I think it really depends on which part of NL the Dutchies we met are from.I got to know my bf who is from the east of NL,among him and his friends I’d say they are being straight and honest with their opinions.No beating around the bush and no offensive sort of remarks/opinions.
However I ever encounter 2 Dutch ladies who were travelling in Singapore.Now those two were blunt/brash down right rude! Why? simply because they had no right to butt into my conversation with my bf and then seeing that he had gone to settle the bill. They had the nerve to ask me a personal question! ‘Are you going to marry him?’ To which I stared point blank and responded ‘Well,if he finds me worth all the trouble just to come here (Singapore) from NL to meet me every 3 months…then the answer is yes’. That did it.And I even told my bf about it after we walked a bit further,his response? ‘Yeah,typical city Dutch’ as he shakes his head.Pfffft
As a confirmation of what some people said about the people in the west of the Netherlands vs The Rest, I’ll tell you this story.
I’m from the south of NL (so that belongs to The Rest) and a couple of years ago I visited a friend of mine in Amsterdam (part of the west). We decided to go to a ‘eetcafé’ (i.e. a bar where you can have a simple dinner too). And while we were sitting there and talking about various kinds of things, a guy came to our table and said to us: “Hi guys, me and my friends are discussing what you guys do for a living and I think you (he pointed at my friend) are a bank employee. And you (he pointed at me) must be a high school teacher or something like that.”
My friend saw that I was speechless, so he answered for himself and for me. After the guy had gone, I asked my friend what he thought of that. “Well, I have been asked stranger questions here…”
As my name shows beyond any reasonable doubt, I’m Dutch. I was saddened to read how hurt non-Dutch people living in the Netherlands are by what most born-and-bred Dutch people would consider a harmless way of interacting – indeed, the only way we know how to be, basically. I am so, so sorry, because I know I’ve given offense on numerous occasions without meaning to.
I’ve come across the directness thing when living in different countries and however hard I try to strike the right balance between politeness, saving face and conveying my honest opinion to those who are important to me, I still tend to end up on the too direct end of the scale. My parents always told me: “you might not like to hear this, but at least we’ll be honest with you.” So to me, directness to the point of rudeness is a true sign of love and caring. Why risk somebody’s anger if you they are not important to you?
What shocked and saddened me most in the comments is the reaction “they can dish it, but they can’t take it”. This is quite at odds with the fair and open way I like to look at my countrymen and does not make for a pleasant environment for people moving to the Netherlands. So I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
We do tend to have “long toes”, ie, be sensitive. It might be, that we don’t bear grudges, so getting into an argument is not as bad as it is in other countries. There is no sustained feeling of hostility. It might also be that the Dutch directness isn’t as clear cut as it sometimes seems – there’s a lot of nuance to what is being said to whom and how. Because it is a mode of communication that is utterly foreign to basically all other nationalities, maybe the subtleties are less readily picked up on? As I wrote above, directness in certain cases is a sign of love and affection, at least in my family. Also, it might be a well-intentioned attempt to invite an open discussion? It could be hard for a non-Dutch person to then react in the apprioriate direct-but-not-offensive-way – since they do find it offensive. And maybe in their country there is no such thing as a direct-but-not-offensive way?
When I talk to Belgian people, I make a conscious effort to lower my voice, since they are more soft-spoken. When speaking with British or Scandinavian people, I try to wait with my reply until they have fully finished their sentences (in the Netherlands it’s common to start your reply while the other person is still ending their last sentence – it is not impolite, but seen as a mark of great enthusiasm). I do this regardless of the place where I meet them, since I really do not want to antagonize anybody. When speaking with a fellow Dutchman however, I relax and give them a piece of my mind. Sometimes a non-Dutch person is caught in the middle, for which I apologize.
The kind of discussions on this weblog are good for understanding different point of views and for enabling us to talk to one another across our cultural differences, without getting bogged down in the outward appearances. Really, this way we get to know the person, without our different cultures standing in the way. Thank you for sharing your insights into our Dutch cultural psyche!
Great observations, and I learned things from you. Offense with the so called “directness” is merely a sort of difference in personal boundaries. In my opinion there are generally wider boundaries among many Dutch for a style of communication they see as open and honest which to many native English speakers is seen as transgressing normal personal boundaries. So what whenever I’ve felt offended by “directness” it usually has much to do with a sense that someone has stepped into a space typically reserved for more intimate friends or family (or my pet peeve of the overstatement of the obvious which I brand as tedious, not clever, too simple). These are delicate lines, and because I choose to stay in this country, I’ve learned to accept these things, and to speak a little more openly and directly when I feel it is appropriate. I was brought up with the belief that expressing everything you think or feel can make you look egotistical, self-important and that one must tread carefully because they are not always right. So it’s been a balancing act!
It is indeed tricky.
Dont push it too far, because your attributions might exaggerate the way we are.
Agreed thank you
That is a wonderful reply. And here you show that what counts is not cultural habit – the important thing is the intention to be kind, and good company – and that is down to the individual.
Gret reply Katrijn!
PS. I am however, I now realize, of the variety of Dutch people who think it is okay to ask you a personal question (such as your nationality or your job, not your marital status or whether your bf is going to propose!) when you are in a public place such as a bar (not when you’re having a meal with your friends!) This is not a typical Dutch trait (I think) but due to me being morbidly curious. I had not realized this was in the “rude”-category. I will watch my questions more carefully!
Given the opportunity lots of people will gladly talk about most of the things you mention, right? I mean being open and friendly is more often appreciated than its opposite. People are pretty good about giving cues (visual and otherwise) if you are approaching the line of what they feel comfortable talking about. Being yourself is better than being stiff and artificial, as long as you act from kindness and in a respectful way, right? It’s rarely about the question so much as about how it’s asked.
Personally, again I am Dutch and even from the west part/Rotterdam region, but I do feel uncomfortable also when people ask me about my profession in the first 15 minutes.
Katrijn I think it is ok to ask personal questions when you are getting to know someone. I am American and not offended if someone asks me personal questions when we exchange ideas and finding out about each other. I would tell someone if something is too personal. I do not think it is appropriate to listen in on a conversation of people you don’t know and then start asking them personal questions or butting in. I think it is all about respecting other peoples boundaries.
From all the posts of people who moved here from other countries, it seems that Dutch culture (omgangsvormen) is especially hard to get. That there is a huge gap between the Dutch and the rest of the world.
I think it is necesary to see things in a bigger perspective.
I think that every person moving from one country/culture to the other will find differences in how people act and how people talk to eachother. It is not strange at all that in another culture, there is another way of communicating. Some cultures are closer to eachother, some ar further away from eachother. I personally think that people should try their best to adapt to the dominant culture. For it is respectless to force your way of interacting on to people in a country that is theirs.
I am not at all a racist or an immigrant hater. I love to meet people from all over the world, and I have no negative feelings when coming across immigrants or their children. I don’t want everyone to act the same and to hide where they are from, but I do think people should adapt to what is there already.
when I am in another country, I do my best to live up to the cultural expectations there. Sometimes this is easy, when the differences are small or clear to me and i KNOW how to act (Romania, Germany). Sometimes it’s hard, when I am confused and it is not clear to me how I should act (Scotland, Portugal, France).
I know that a lot of dutch people act ignorant, rude, impolite etc. in other countries. But I also see:
– Brittisch people living in southern Portugal for years without learning to speak Portuguese, without any effort to relate to the Portuguese culture.
– People from a German minority in Romania thinking they are far above Romanians and using only German names for places, even though they are less then 1% of the people living there.
These are both LANGUAGE issues that cause a lot of misunderstanding.
It seems to me sometimes that different cultures are simply bound to clash and to disrespect eachother. But I will allways try to understand people.
And when the dominant culture resists your advances? I’m always in the absurd position of being the last and only person at the table speaking Dutch long after everyone has switched to English (and not certainly because I’ve asked them to). I’ve tried to reconcile this… and I’ve come up with the hypothesis that an integral part of this culture is its cultural and linguistic adaptability. To find the great variety underneath the surface of “Dutch” culture was a challenge. But it proved to be a great treasure once I discovered it. The dominant culture of the Netherlands is in my opinion deeply tied to a kind of cosmopolitan-ness (if I may) with a long tradition of accepting huddled masses (well, merchants in any case) and allowing them assimilate at an unpressured pace, in a (more than average) unprejudiced way. A positive thing.
Great post! You give a food explanation. We are froendly people and i think we are quite educated in speaking languages or try to speak the local language on holiday. Our directness doesnt mean we are rude, that’s not our intention at all. Why should we? There is no reason to be rude. It’s a different culture. Hard to understand for a lot of people. The advice i want to give is: don’t stick at your own culture when living in an other country, it will help you to integrate and understand the people.
Learning the language, maybe that is also a form of showing respect instead of flaming to others manners.
I agree with you,Lukas. I find it irritating that Americans are looked down on all over the world for being ignorant of other cultures and not learning the language in other countries, but when people immigrate to America they stay to themselves and want to change our laws and way of living. If I moved to another country I would embrace the culture otherwise why bother to live there? It is wonderful that there are so many people to learn from.
I was born and raised in the Netherlands and have been living in the UK for about 3,5 years now. Recently it was pointed out to me some people have issues by the way I speak. Which, basically means, how I voice my oppinions. At first I didn’t even think about it but the more I did, the more I realised that what people must have meant is my directness and me saying things the way I see and feel them and not being shy. And now I am actually the one feeling offended…. Because it is just the way I am and the only way I ever plan on being and when it comes to the overexagerated English politeness… well…. I’ll leave you to imagine the appropriate Dutch reaction…
I’m Dutch and I’m following the Leveson inquiry with interest. I’m rather amused by the barristers ,Robert Jay and particularly David Barr. They are very polite and soft spoken but when a witness does or says something that is out of order, they politely will say something about it, but at the same time I can almost hear the sound of a whip. It’s really subtle and I think, I would not notice that kind of subtlety during a normal everyday conversation. 🙂
So, let’s see… You feel offended because people don’t take you for who you are, but you can’t take it if people have issues with the way you address them. That means you don’t take them for who they are. You must be Dutch… Not willing to adjust, thinking that people should be considerate with you, but not willing to return the favor. Thinking that the world evolves around you. Forgive me my directness, but I’m just pissed off.
There you have the difference: you don’t have to apologize to express your opinion. In fact an opinion is welcome, especially if it contains constructive critism -which your reaction lacks-. That’s a difference, you could have offered some tips to help/explain. You are probably offended, but as we Dutch say: “That’s your problem, not mine”.
It is typically British, that some one only recent (she had been there over three years) told Christel that she was doing something that didn’t conform to the local standards. It seems that, according to those same standards, it was impolite to give her direct feedback.
However, I’m convinced that there is a lot of understanding, too, in Christels surroundings. Only a few are truly offended by her ‘bluntness’, while some others appreciate it…..
I’m amazed how a piece of text writen by someone you don’t know can piss you of in a way that you get rude yourself stating “you must be Dutch ” and the rest.
That’s not quite the open mind I thought you had.
But again becoming angry is a chemical proces inside your head.
Btw you contradict yourself.
I would think it extremely difficult for many of my favorite Dutchman to transition to British culture without some bumps. English speaking countries generally have a very different sense of personal boundaries than do the Dutch. Speaking one’s mind in every situation could bring unintended consequences, offense, even a feeling that you have violated someone’s privacy — which is seen as a serious transgression (worthy of the de-friending button). Language and culture are so wrapped up together and this can be especially dangerous if you are translating Dutch culture into English language (a source of continuing misunderstanding and unhappiness going both directions). My advice: ask a native what’s appropriate if you think you might be approaching the line. If you explain that you simply don’t know the rule, they will appreciate the question and will gladly give you advice. I do it all the time here in the Netherlands and, honestly, people are very kind and quick to come to my aid.
But why are you offended, if you appreciate “directness”? Obviously, you are only content if YOU are the one causing offence to people by voicing unnecessary opinions. You can’t take criticism of yourself, you are easily offended. You know, you say you can only be yourself? Well, the same applies to other people. They, too, can only be themselves – so why do you think you are so magnificent that you have the right to make personal comments? Do you think you are better than others? I can tell you – you are NOT, and nobody is interested in your opinions. Concentrate on being you, not on trying to dominate others, or you will be thought of as an interfering bully – and nobody will like you. They may not say “We don’t like you”, because British people respect the freedom of people to choose their behaviour, and if you choose to be an interfering bully they won’t try to stop you. But they will avoid you because an interfering bully is bad company, and you will be very lonely. So, if you can’t say something nice about someone – say nothing. Who another person is, and what they are like, is none of your business. Your only right is to be just YOU – and you will find that the polite and considerate English manner is designed to respect that. You are living in another culture – why not learn from it?
Christel is saying she is feeling offended. However, these are her personal feelings – she did not say that she is sharing this with the people who have ‘offended’
her. She also has not said she is feeling better than others in her post.
You contradict yourself by ending your post that ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ as well as telling her she should ‘learn from British culture’.
Both may be good advice, but it is hardly ‘nice’ to be so blunt and telling her to ‘learn from British culture’ is contradicting ‘Who another person is, and what they are like, is none of your business’
Thanks for contributing so much to this thread btw 🙂
This whole discussion basically proves that dutchies in general tend to set the margins of what can and cannot be said wider on many points than people in particular other cultures, but the still everybody is different. My experience is that what you can say or can’t say, and in which way you should say it, depends on your relationship with the one you are talking to and your own experiences. Even more – it depends on the specific situation too.
So whether something is rude or not depends on whether the other will be offended by it, and the latter depends on this person’s previous experiences (which we usually don’t know much about, but often with some clues, general knowledge and basic care we estimate).
Above are many examples of what to me is just someone’s opinion, no need to get all fuzzed up about it; but I saw some dutchies claiming it was rude. I also saw some examples of behaviour that are apparently things that happen more often but to me sound outrageous and stupid. I guess that people have various degrees of sensitivity to what the other can take or not. Large differences on this part between dutchies and especially with non-dutchies makes this only more difficult.
The Sven Kramer incident that you commented on is more a case of Sven being a typical dutch person trying to speak english 🙂 I would bet anything that what Sven meant to say is ‘Are you crazy?’. Although still pretty blunt, it’s not totally unheard of in english speaking countries to blurt out ‘Are you crazy??’. Especially when your english comes from what you see on TV.
But, being the dutch person he is, he translated ‘gek’ (which is the same as ‘crazy’) as ‘stupid’ instead. Stupid of course being a major red flag in social interaction.
Just my 2 cents as a dutch person that is married to an american and living with one foot in both circles.
I think so too.
A lot of Dutchies get their english from t.v. so some of them speak like they are Al Pacino (a lot of F- word)
only the dutch are allowed to call people BLACKS and think it’s a compliment
only the dutch are allowed to criticise people and their culture, while actually visiting and living in that OTHER PERSON’S culture and land.
only the dutch can colonise a country and strip it of ALL its natural resources and then expect a THANK YOU!!!
i could go on and on.
the dutch are the ultimate rippers off
reapers and killers
thanks to them that
the dodo is extinct
the niger delta is a quagmire of pollution
south africa, canada and parts of the US were colonised
the UK still to this day pays the Dutch royal family for ‘giving’ them South Africa and Canada
GO READ THE REAL HISTORY BOOKS
the first slave ships where theirs
They are the most ungracious people when it comes to receiving criticism
THEN you hear it
HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE YOUR HOST COUNTRY
HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE OUR CULTURE
HOW DARE YOU………
oh p l eez!!
for far too long
but then, what do you expect from bog dwellers??
people who say
GOD CREATED THE WORLD
BUT THE DUTCH CREATED HOLLAND
I think you are being a bit dramatic and most of your arguments are direct to the dutch folks that lived hundreds of years ago. That is not fair to this generation.
Also, I too, like many of my fellow countrymen, think “BLACKS” is not an offensive word nor a compliment. To me it is as offensive as calling a person from china/thailand/etc an asian. Please explain to me why you think it is offensive.
Well that was a load of crap. Are you done now?
Every country has some black pages and done some things that they are proud of. Every one of them.
Well, wasn’t that a mouthful.
The expression ‘the dutch created holland’ is the way it is because ( as you obviously misinterpreted ) much of The Netherlands was under water some hundred years back. The Dutch made all the water go away and built walls to keep it out. A lot of land was created by doing so.
Also, because of the knowledge the dutch have of water, countries like the USA often consult dutch experts on such matters.
Besides. The Dutch are not from Holland. The Dutch are from The Netherlands. Holland is just a province, nothing more, nothing less.
Thank you for pointing out the deficits of me country in a direct and what some people would call rude way. We Dutch would say that you are “ingeburgerd” (integrated).
Yes we are optioned and ‘Jingoïsmes’ is this arrogance, maybe but not more than the France, the British, Americans or Germans for that matter.
We never had a colony in Canada. And south Africa was takeover by the British 200 years before apartheid.
The slaves we transported and sold, we bought from Africans (blacks selling blacks) unlike the British, the Frances or Arabs how actively hunted for slaves in Africa . Was it wrong to transport the slaves? Yes, of course it was and when we found cheaper labors we stop. Yes slaves where to expensive!
the UK still to this day pays the Dutch royal family for ‘giving’ them South Africa and Canada
this is not correct the British swapped the colonies with the Dutch Republic in 1648 (treaty of Utrecht) +/- 150 years before we became a kingdom. So why would the pay the royal family
Yes oil companies are evil but shell is not more evil as BP , Elf, Exxon, or Chevron hoe are al operating in Nigeria. To blame shell for al lives lost in Nigeria is one side and false.
p.s how thus it feel to being sold be your own people?
And all this time I thought “black” is an English word, used by people in English speaking countries to describe black people.
After reading your message I seriously doubt you have ever
even been in the Netherlands. It’s been a while since I’ve
read anything that makes as little sense to me as your posting
but hey… Just for the heck of it, allow me to retort
>only the dutch are allowed to call people BLACKS and think it’s a compliment
In my 42 years of living in the Netherlands I can’t even remember
if or when I’ve ever heard the word ‘zwarten’ which is the literal
translation of blacks. It made me wonder if you perhaps meant ‘negers’
which literally translates to ‘niggers’ and is generally accepted as
a negative label for black people in english. (or at least I think so)
So lets assume you meant ‘niggers’ instead of ‘blacks’. You might have
a point there. I’ve never regarded that word as anything negative nor
meaningful. To me it was always just a label, or an abbreviation of the
much longer label ‘people with dark brown or black skin’. And as you may
know labels are just labels, they don’t mean anything, they don’t describe
anything theyre only made up to index a description of a thing, an animal or
in this case a group of people with some common feature.
However as languages tend to keep evolving and we’ve become more aware
of the negative cargo the label ‘niggers’ apparently holds in other
countries we’ve stopped using that word for the most part. Best example
would be a sweet chocolate pastry that was called ‘negerzoenen’ which
translates to ‘negro’s kisses’ ( how on earth can that refer to anything
negative, its a pastry, its sweet! ) is nowadays simply called ‘zoenen’.
See, we left the ‘neger’ part out. Isn’t that considerate of us 🙂
>only the dutch are allowed to criticise people and their culture
>, while actually visiting and living in that OTHER PERSON’S culture and land.
Not true. You as an immigrant are allowed to spout whatever critism
you might have. Lots of english, american, canadian, scottish, polish
and a boatload of other people died to guarantee you eventhough you’re
not native dutch have every right to speak your mind as much as the dutch
themselves do. Infact, most dutch will be curious to learn how others
think of the Netherlands and its inhabitants (just take the popularity of this
blog, and see how often its visited by dutchies). Do you really think
we wouldn’t be open to criticism or discussion while we’re laughing our
butts off just as hard as you do about our very own internet mirror?
> only the dutch can colonise a country and strip it of ALL its
> natural resources and then expect a THANK YOU!!!
I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about. I don’t think my dad, granddad
or his grandad ever colonised anything. But if they did and I’ll find out
when there’s some inheritance, i’ll make sure to let you know about it 🙂
> i could go on and on.
And so you did.
> the dutch are the ultimate rippers off
> traders off
> reapers and killers
Interesting. I wouldn’t know about the ripping and trading thing, eventhough
I don’t think being a merchant of sorts would be a negative thing in anyones
book but the reaping and killing? Would you care to elaborate on that?
Could you perhaps point to a valid source of research clearly indicating how
the dutch do a lot more killing and reaping than any other people?
(mind you, I dont have the slightest idea what reaping is. Assuming a typo there?)
>thanks to them that
> the dodo is extinct
Would you even have heard of dodo’s if they hadn’t gone extinct? Don’t get me
wrong, I’m as much as apalled by humans destructive nature as you are, but the
dodo’s only claim to fame is the fact that… it did go extinct.
> the niger delta is a quagmire of pollution
You might have a point there. Then again you might not. Never been there so
can’t comment on that one.
> south africa, canada and parts of the US were colonised
The entire continent of Africa was colonised, and so was the continent
of South America. A whole lot more territory than could ever be covered
by the dutch. But here’s a newsflash. Most colonised countries (if not all) have
been independant for ages now.
> the UK still to this day pays the Dutch royal family for ‘giving’ them South Africa and Canada
> GO READ THE REAL HISTORY BOOKS
Again, I wouldn’t know about this either. It would have been helpful if you’d
have taken the efford to point out a few reliable resources on your statement.
> the first slave ships where theirs
Ah yes. I still hold a grudge to this day to my grand fathers fathers father who’se
grandfathers father had an uncle whose grandfather actually piloted one.
I’ll make sure to tell him off about it next time I see him.
> They are the most ungracious people when it comes to receiving criticism
> THEN you hear it
> HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE YOUR HOST COUNTRY
> HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE OUR CULTURE
> HOW DARE YOU………
> oh p l eez!!
> been there
> done that
> for far too long
The mere fact I actually bothered to respond proves you wrong on this point doesn’t it 😀
> but then, what do you expect from bog dwellers??
Again you are referring to a situation from the past like at least 10 generations
out. There are no bogs left in the Netherlands, we’ve all ‘Poldered’ that stuff up.
The only thing dwelling in those regions are a couple of birds
(not dodo’s mind you, we killed those gnarly critters for your convienience).
> Well anyway
> people who say
> GOD CREATED THE WORLD
> BUT THE DUTCH CREATED HOLLAND
Now you’re just being ignorant. The dutch indeed did create holland.
Just clicky here http://www.historyofholland.com/dutch-history.html
You’re welcome 😀
Ah thank you, this was fun !
Are you British?
i speak from personal real experience
we are from south africa
white people from south africa
it took us 5 months to find a house to rent
whenever we called
they could hear we were not dutch
they asked us where are you from
we told them
then we wait on the line
then we are told
sorry house is not available
after a dozen calls – I KID YOU NOT!!!
my husband called the last agent back and said
we will be coming to see the house at 5pm
you will show it to us
when he saw us
the people in the neighbourhood said that they dont want foreigners…….
and this was just 35km from amsterdam
north west holland
after 18months we left
and our agent said we were the best tennants he has ever dealt with
and he told us
it is a pity you landed in noordholland
if you had gone to the south you would have had a totally different experience.
lived in Switzerland
we have NEVER EVER been treated with such disrespect as we were in Holland
and i wont tell you the experiences we had with doctors.
it just left us bruised and shocked!
it was absolutely awful
Holland looks picture perfect
and that is how i will enjoy it
sure, we made a couple of amazing friends, but only when WE were direct with them and made the first move…. but boy it took the wind out of our sales.
Being born and bred south africans
from dutch/english heritage, we now know where the Voortrekkers came from and why they called the natives people of southern africa ‘beasts of the field”
go read the autobiography of David Livingstone.
I’m sorry to hear that but to me your story seems to be a lot of bad luck. Holland is flooded with immigrants and they all get houses. Many of them sooner then Dutch people. Renting a house gets easy if you know the right realtor-companies here. That could be a jungle if you don’t know the local rules.
But blaming all Dutch people for what some Dutch immigrants a couple of hundreds of years ago did on the other end of the world that were leaving Holland anyway is just silly. And you know that too.
I am curious what happened with your doctor though.
Sorry, That is typical Dutch buddy. Let’s look at the demographics:
Major ethnic: Dutch 79.3%
Now correct me if I am wrong, are these numbers showing that Holland is being flooded by immigrants?? I think the renting is based on the collective, social (near communism) system. But even with the numbers listed above, it clearly shows how the general Dutch character is one of always pointing the finger at the others then their own. This also shows what kind of cowards Dutch are behind your directness, 2.2% is Moroccan and if one speaks up almost every Dutchman I have encountered shits his pants, due to the fear if they carry a knife! I don’t know but I was brought preach what you practice and think twice before saying anything. This is to protect yourself then looking like a utter fool.
On top of that, I find the Dutch are really selfish and also have no etiquette. An old lady or a pregnant women is unable to sit in the bus because nobody wants to stand up.
And for the Dutch women!! They are always talking about being emancipated and that their career is everything. This is coming from those of the 75% part timers of the whole female work force. Hypocrisy is the key to Holland. Speak right, go left. Talk big, act small.
Anyway my two cents,
Happy leaving this country.
I know that Holland are two provinces and the official name is The Netherlands
Thing is some people seem to be more or less equal than others. Try to remigrate. After more than 30 years of marriage (I am Dutch!) my wife will be treated as if she were trying to sneak in! This direct Dutch unfairness….
Hmmz, it took my mother 12 (!) years to get another renting home in Rotterdam. Every time there was someone else with a higher priority. Until my mother got sick from the climat in her old home.
I don’t think your experience was normal. Maybe it was just that you looked at places which have been advertised long after they have already been let? I have been looking for a house to rent – I have pets and I am English, a self-employed writer, with about ten words of Dutch, so not the most popular kind of tenant – but found I had to delay visits three times because of problems with my property here in France, and commitments in England. I feel terrible for messing with people’s schedules, because to me, that is very rude – but the Dutch (agencies and private rentals) have been very patient, and very helpful and understanding. The only weird stuff I have experienced so far is one person who wanted to discuss my tenancy with the German women who lived next door, (because he says “they are very fussy”) so I won’t look at his property (I am going to pay rent, and an Englishwoman’s home is her castle, so I don’t expect to be equal to anyone, not policed by a couple of Germans who, in my experience of that nationality, will complain every time I move.) Of course I might find everyone is a psycho when I get there, but if so, it means that everyone I have dealt with so far deserves an Oscar for their acting performance. And what the hell – I have lived in France for five years and if I can survive that, I can survive anything!
@expat in Holland. I have no trouble you point a finger at us for what is mostly true, however, any subject (or ex-subject) of Her Majesty better be aware of their own rather sordid history before calling the kettle black. Or do you really believe the British empire was founded on love and kisses?
As far as our South African friends are concerned, they would do well to remember that “Apartheid” was invented under British rule and that the only way the Crown managed to subdue the Boers was by the way of concentration camps, which were in every way as horrific as their German counterparts of WW II. You might want to read “A rainbow in the night” by Dominique Lapierre, before referring to Mr Livingstone.
Is dit een site om alle nederlandse mensen af te kraken :P? Ik vind het heel rot voor je hoor van het huis en wat die geene daarboven zegt maar scheer niet alle nederlanders over een lijn. Het kan me een worst wezen of er zuid-afrikaanse mensen naast mij zouden wonen ja of nee en ik denk dat veel mensen er ook zo over denken. Daarnaast wil ik graag iets zeggen over het onderwerp van dit gesprek ( waar het dus eigenlijk over moet gaan): directe nederlanders. Ik ben zelf een nederlander zoals je ziet opgegroeit in de randstad. Ik heb nog nooit tegen iemand gezegd : je ziet er dik uit in die jurk: NEVER. Ik ben het er mee eens dat nederlanders direct zijn maar er zijn grenzen. Wanneer een vriendin echt haar eerlijke mening vraagt over een bepaalde kwestie dan geef ik die. Hoe kunnen mensen elkaar vertrouwen als ze nooit eerlijk tegen elkaar zijn? Ik denk dat de meeste nederlanders er zo tegen aan kijken.
Ja Lisa, er zijn er een aantal te enthousiast met Nederlanders neer te sabelen. Je hebt gelijk, er is een verschil tussen direct zijn en onbeleefd.
Me being born and raised in Holland moved to Sweden a few years ago. I immediately noticed how rude I was being all the time. I was always honest and direct. It is appreciated by my friends, though when I meet new people I have to be careful with what I say.
I love your writing, you made me laugh out loud
I find it unfair how we are all taking the piss out of Holland, issues that we face today and what is part of our history. Lets start to talk about the German Nazi’s, American obesity, British teenage pregnacy and binge drinking, let us talk about the poverty in Argentina and let us not forget the Euthiansia in Switetland.
EVERY single county has things to be proud of. Dutch directness is something to be proud of, and other subjects- maybe not.
I am Dutch myself, and now I have lived in the uk for 6 years and yes my directness has gotten me into trouble but let me tell you this; I am now known as the “honest person” and they appreciate my bluntness. I find myself begging my friends to just be blunt because if I put it bluntly the politeness and people walking on eggshells just gets annoying.
I am also known as ‘argumentative’ just because I WILL talk about things that actually matter. And to be frank British people don’t know how to voice their opinions, how to complain and will not talk about anything that could even be considered ‘taboo’. So that is politics etc of the table.
Being blunt is good as long A’s you don’t hurt peoples feelings- and so people JUST NEED TO GET A SPINE!
The Dutch people think it is acceptable to tell you and your country’s failings, out loud for everyone to hear, but when you bite back and tell them the problems with their own country, they cannot take it. They elect fascists to their parliament, but still think they are tolerant! Their TV is shit, so is their music. And sorry, Dutch people, all the world only knows that the Netherlands is famous for drugs and prostitutes. That’s because we never think about you, but you always think about us!
You are like living with a bloody chihuahua.. Insignificant little runts…but think you should be heard…God god..you were not even invited to the G20 ever mind the G7!
Yes I have a grudge. My ex was Dutch and lived in London with me. His father was the most outspoken, snobbish person you could ever meet. Yet he was fired twice, from a company in Amsterdam and one here in London for stealing. Yet he never apologised, and still continued to put the British down. His wife was/is the most frigid person on planet earth, opinionated to the extreme..On my trips to Amsterdam, there was never any customer service anywhere..Their food is truly awful , fried, overcooked..chips at war..bitter balls..urgh!
jesus christ, if you need to vent about your ex, do it somewhere else please. Assholes are everywhere, as are thieves, so don’t use this one experience you’ve had to condemn all the Dutch.
Thank you Aldiedingen……..the dude above apparently has still some sort of anger towards his ex and therefor feels the need to bash all the Dutch…maybe therapy a good idea?!
Oh, let’s not make assumptions on that all-coveringt little story shall we 🙂
Yeah Steve sure
You do like hagelslag don’t you !
Is that a medical condition?
Hahahaha, awesome. My friend, you have been poorly mislead. Seems like you went to the wrong part of the country 🙂
A direct person is simply rude and uncivilized…it’s like saying “You know, John is not really an asshole…it’s just the way he is, that he’s direct”. WRONG! John is an asshole because he’s direct…
You’re a true asshole, John 😉
I am proud of our directness. HA!
Ah, the endearing Dutch directness.. My former neighbour asked me, when I was 6 months pregnant: ” So, is it true what I heard, that you’re pregnant? I talked to other neighbours and told them that I thought you’re just fat”… Thanks a bunch, haha!
You know, people, I think we really ought to make a clear distinction at this point between simply being forward, i.e. “direct”, vs. out-and-out RUDE!!!! Any unsolicited comments regarding a virtual stranger’s anxiousness, poor language skills, taste in clothes etc.. is plain, friggin’ out of bounds. Having said all that, if a fair and solicited question is asked of someone in sheer good faith, for instance, “How good do you think I know Dutch?” etc.., for which an honest, if socially guarded, reply is called, a direct answer, i.e. “Well, it’s so-so….” (compared to the insincere gushing of sooooo many Americans, a la Sarah Palin..) is certainly within reason. The trick here is to know when those bounds have been exceeded.
When I was once in Germany, I entered the lobby of a small, busy, middle-class hotel in Berlin. Once at the front desk, I greeted the concierge, a young student-type in his twenties, with a brisk “Schoenen guten Tag! Haben Sie eine Reservierung fuer mich auf den Namen_____?” Scarcely before I could finish, the young man practically barked, “Sir, my colleagues and I all speak English quite good and there are alots of persons….”
The moral of the story is that in this case, the fellow was just being rude, NOT “direct”. Had he responded in German and/or had replied that he enjoyed practicing his English with foreign visitors, it would’ve been a different story all together.
He’d obviously forgotten that the customer always comes first (…and I ignored his brusk behavior)>
I’m Dutch and I think that the directness you speak off is overstated. If you know that your speech isn’t that good. don’t ask the opinion of your peers and aspect them to lie to you. Lying to be polite is a insult to your intelligent in this case it’s sounds more like constructive criticism. Secondly about Seven Kamer versus the reporter, if you ask a stupid question you get as stupid answer. Then there are a lot of things you don`t ask someone because is considered rude. Like how much money you make. Last but not least we have a class free and open society and this requires a certain amount of crudeness. This will sometimes is aggravate by the close proximity we Dutch live to each other.
Rotterdam is more like the north and east of the Netherlands and Brabant, Limburg and Amsterdam are more like Belgium.
Being Dutch, I feel very strongly on this subject (which might be a bit contradictory to my message). I don’t like the fact that a lot of Dutch people are so rude to each other. Even worse, when you point it out to them, they’ll often excuse themselves by saying they’re being honest / direct. I think this is extremely rude; first they insult you and after that they make you feel like you are the stupid person here who just can’t handle the so-called ‘thruth’ (also, what is this pre-occupation with ‘the thruth’ being ‘harsh’ to Dutch people, expressed in sayings such as “de harde waarheid”?). I wished people would be a bit nicer to each other.
On the other hand, I also get very tired sometimes with more foreign and politer ways of pointing something out. Being Dutch, politeness sometimes does feel very fake and hypocrite to me. I have to add, I am often not aware how direct or rude I must be to other people myself (even though most Dutchies think I’m somewhat of a softie who should speak her mind more often). There have been many times I have been frowned upon in Belgium (country of my ex), because when while thinking I was posing a neutral question or complimenting somebody, I’d apperently had hinted at some sort of insult.
Reading your post, I actually realised this was one of the things my Belgian ex and I used to quarrel about. When he’d wanted something from me, he’d always hint at it, but I’d seldom get it until he just bluntly asked me. He thought that made me an selfish and uncaring person. I on the other hand felt like I was expected to be some sort of wizard who could just magically feel what it was that was bothering him. Yay to intercultural relationships!
Great reply. Totally agree. You can be direct without being rude… Its one of the main reasons why I don’t want to go back to the Netherlands. I always felt like I had to be ready to give a sharp comment back. Because someone could say something very harsh out of the blue, catching me off guard.
I supervised several students and I was always direct, but (most of the times) also nice. That’ s what I’ve been told anyway. You can point out a ‘mistake’ or give a different opinion without making them feel like an idiot.
By the way, I’m totally loving the irony of all these Dutchies responding in a very ‘direct’ manner how they aren’t pleased with your blogpost (and they don’t even notice)! 😀
confront a dutch person about being direct about something that inplies feeling or money, they are just not able to express themselves…and to get a reply or an opinion , takes long long days….
I always find this fable about being direct as an easy way to deny the fact that lots of dutch people are dramatically rude and tactless, like if they do not know any form of more refined communication…then they adress foreigner to be too polite, to be too soft to criticism. You can be direct while being polite…if you are polite and say what you mean everybody will appreciate that…
anyway they always know it better anyway…get used to it or run away!
“if you are polite and say what you mean everybody will appreciate that…”
Being polite is the best. But not everybody says what they mean.
Hmmm, there is a difference between ‘directness’, ‘tactlessness’ and ‘rudeness’, but many in Netherlands cannot see it. I see ‘since you asked me, no your new haircut really doesn’t look good’ as honest directness, ‘we don’t want you coming out with us tonight because you’re boring’ as tactlessness, and helpcentres hanging the phone up on you because your enquiry is not a nice and easy one is plain rudeness. Unfortunately rudeness and lack of consideration (or even awareness?) of other people would appear to be a national handicap, although it’s far more prevalent in the randstad than other parts of NL (I find people from the north, south and east far politer and more respectful). On the many occasions when I’m asked what the worst thing about NL is, I will say ‘the rudeness’ and people instantly assume that I’m talking about the ‘directness’. I fail to see what is ‘direct’ or ‘honest’ about, for example, not saying ‘thankyou’ or ‘sorry’, talking loudly over you in a group conversation, shop owners chatting away and ignoring the customer standing waiting in front of them etc. If this is ‘Dutch behaviour’ then there’s no way I’m taking part, I feel there’s much more to gain by being polite, respectful and tactful to people, and reading people here defending their rudeness is like reading Italians defending their pushing to the front of queues. And as we can see from the comments, there are Dutch people who will love to give their tactless opinion on anything, but hate to receive such comments in return which may prick their illusion of their own ‘perfectness’. Instead of integration courses for foreigners into Dutch society, how about integration courses for Dutchies into polite society?
Pfft getting so tired of all the people on here bitching about the Dutch and their culture ect….hey you dont have to come here…..you dont have to live here….its a free world if ya dont want to live here than get out….I just dont get how the top line says “the Dutch directness” turns into what we did hunderd of years ago and where the heck did the food in Holland come from…what the heck does that have to do with Dutch directness?!?!
Seriously people….why y’all hatin???
*NOTE—> oh yea and all the people that are hating on the Dutch are being quiet “DIRECT” themselfs….
I’ve been living in Canada for the past two year. Oh my are these Canadians polite! Growing up in the Netherlands I learned that you only apologized when actually you did something (very) wrong, and that it means a lot if some would say out loud ‘ I’m sorry’. Here they say it all the time, even if they’re not even doing something wrong: Squeezing through a crowd of people on the subway to get out: how else do you get out?? But if it’s just a bit too rough just apologize and smile. Doesn’t cost a dime and might even get you a smile back. I like it! It’s like saying ‘ oops’ and being polite, well-mannered, civilized. Instead of yelling: ‘Didn’t you see me coming? Why the h*ll did you just bump into me?!’ (admit; 99.9% of the times that happens by accident, right?).
On the other hand… sometimes I still get tired of people not just addressing something that bothers them. If you just say it in a early stage it isn’t a big deal at all! Why wait till frustration really build up until you say something? Than it’s a HUGE deal with people feeling ‘insulted’ about confronting them like that.. while it just started out as something small. “Oh really? I had no idea, oops, sorry.” Actually, I had several friends telling me that my straightforwardness was so refreshing. 🙂
What I learned here is that you don’t always HAVE to give your opinion and that apologizing can make you gain so much more than it costs (not a dime, maybe I little pride at times..). It wasn’t easy for this Dutch girl to just ‘let go’ of certain things, but I’m learning. And I actually feel like a nice person than I was before.
Tja het is inderdaat waar het is verheven tot nationale volks sport tot op het hoogste nievo (het zit helaas in onze “Gene”)
There are several factors that contribute to Dutch ‘directness’. The first is that they are a nation of farmers and merchants. They do not have an upper class they look up to, and try to emulate, like the British. They are not well mannered, meaning they do not possess studied mannerisms to fall back to in any given situation. Nor do they develop them, because they don`t have much need to. This may sound at odds with anecdotes above, but the Dutch are in fact extremely non-confrontational. Living in the densest populated country after China (no, Mexico-city is not a country) their personal bubble is quite small and they are easily intimidated by foreigners` assumptions on how they should behave because ‘that is how civilized countries do it’. At which point the Dutch, having no manners to help them out, will simply dig in their heels and navigate their way out with horns lowered.
The subtle ways in which the Dutch circumvene each other`s interests, though apparent to most Dutch, are nigh invisible for outsiders. The Dutch`s stubborn refusal to do certain things (‘dat doe je niet’) and their meeting culture – endlessly talking things over – are testament to this non-confrontationalism.
Dutch are also pragmatists, in that they don`t insist on using their own language even in their own country, when they speak the other`s language better than the other speaks theirs (a situation they are all too familiar with) leaving the high ground of subtle courtesy to the other. What is true about not having mannerisms in their own language, is even more true in another. Worse, clumsily formulating their thoughts in a foreign language will sometimes lead them to places they weren`t expecting to go. A quick sidenote on Dutch` mastery of foreign languages: While many of them like to believe that all the Dutch speak English, this simply isn`t true (their politicians being a good example). All Dutch speak some English, though, and most of it comes from watching action movies. If this is to blunt for you, you`re better off talking Dutch, but only slightly. The Dutch simply aren`t skilled conversationalists.
Another point to be considered, though, is that expats who`ve lived in the Netherlands freely speak their mind about the Dutch without really knowing what they are talking about. A book about ‘the Dutch’ written by an American-British couple enthusiastically blurbed their expertise on the subject by listing all the Dutch towns they had lived in – each single one of which was a suburb of Amsterdam! Amsterdam – although they like to believe differently – are not the entire country. In fact they are hardly Dutch at all. The most celebrated ‘typical Amsterdammer’ is the Jordanees, someone from the neighbourhood known as De Jordaan, which name is a bastardization of ‘Les Jardins’, a quarter build at the (then) outskirts of the city to house French protestant refugees. That`s right, the most typical Amsterdammer descends from the French. The Dutch reputation of tolerance comes from accepting persecuted minorities withing their borders, in a time when Dutch prowess was without peer, most of which settled in Amsterdam. Now there is a difference between people who flee their country to make a living elsewhere and those that stay behind: the former are usually more affluent as well as more assertive. As a true melting pot, Amsterdam evolved manners based on the most common denominator of all the different cultures that inhabited it: arrogance and rudeness.
So expats commenting on the Dutch by example of the inhabitants of Amsterdam, are really commenting on their own predecessors.
Holland is a county (not a country), Utrecht is a bishopry,. Gelre and Brabant are duchies and Fryslân is the only kingdom within the Kingdom of the United Netherlands, a conglomeration of tribal ethnicities grouped roughly into a germanic, protestant North (‘above the rivers’) and a celticised, catholic South (‘below the rivers’) with a Bataafsch Mid-East and a Kaninefatisch West, both of which latter tribes were invited in by the Romans, in order to keep the Frisians out of their hair.
Lol. Do you think you have manners? You are more direct than any dutchie ever will be.
That’s the issue here Cees, everybody is very direct and unmannered about the Dutch behavior. I guess that your reply is very rude too 😉
Ablabius: This is the best statement so far, very insightfull and very informative.
Het is inderdaad zo dat meeste Nederlanders typischerwijze niet erg handig zijn in communicatie; ik denk dat dit hoort bij de volksaart. Soms onhandig but not without it’s own charm.
The beginning sounds very much like the reasons for Finnish directness, except for the part about being densely populated, or being merchants… but I think being soldiers is even worse in that regard. There is no need for niceties if everyone around you knows you anyway, or not really time for them when someone is trying to kill you.
Very interesting, thank you for that.
If there’s anything that I like being Dutch, than it’s “het hart op de tong” (the heart on the tongue). It makes things so much easier.
absolutely and there’s a difference in being honest or being rude, you can be honest en still be polite…don’t judge 16 million people as if they were one, thats rude too!
Right, I consider Dutch direct but open minded and willing to take critisism without feeling offensed.
Once I asked a Dutch friend of mine, overhearing a conversation with half-a-stranger:
“Why did you ask him if he had sex last night, that’s rude!”
He answered: “He gave me the answer.”
Allthough my friend is a little extreme, and being Dutch myself,
the answer to why the Dutch are so direct is:
Because We Can.
If you don’t wanna know, don’t ask !
I guess this is rude too 😉
Depends on where you live in the Netherlands and what the subject is. In the west they speak their minds more than in the east/south. I have lived in the Veluwe for 20 years. I can honestly say that people here are not that direct and reserve criticism for the back room.
I cant stand people that are NOT direct.
I dont approve of people twisting things around, walking in circles, saying things when meaning something else, just be OPEN and HONEST for Ch*sts sake….
Its one of the main things i hate about my inlaws (not dutch).
rthe thing is, if people are not direct, they are VERY likely to be talking behind your back!!!!!!
And I totally dissaprove of that behaviour!
if you have a question, ASK. if you have something to say, SAY it!
Dont talk behind my back , while smiling in my face, because honestly, I will cut you out of my life completely!
I always say what I feel or think, and i am always open and honest.
however, i personally do consider other peoples feelings, I will say things in a decent tactfull way!
But I WILL say it.
I rather have someone else do the same.
Because I have no room in my life for people that are dishonest.
people that are not straight forward!
It has nothing to do with talking behind your back, in fact In the international company I worked before, the greatest back stabbers were the Dutch, talking about others in Dutch so you won´t understand. Besides, being direct and blunt are NOT the same as being honest. This is just B.S…. trying to mask and frame a general arrogance and lack of manners, politeness and simpathy. Above all that what really puts me down is that a lot of Dutch people love to give their opinion, specially when nobody is asking for it, even when they don´t know you, so thanks, but no thanks!
Who asked you for your opinion? LOL
I generally favor using a sort of mind/mouth filter — one that does not allow for twisting or walking in circles — sometimes I think, “wow, I really don’t like what person x is wearing” but then I think, “why bother telling her?, it seems like a waste of time” (and indeed it is). Or I think, “that person is really old” (I usually don’t think in that case, “should I tell her?” Because that well, that is already a fact, and she probably already knows that, and it’s of no consequence to me). I find that while I love my life in the Netherlands and I have many Dutch friends (and among them as you would guess some direct, some not) but what I find so funny is that people here are willing to go to such lengths to try to improve me, squash me into something their version of gewoon, do me the favor of giving me their opinion about the oddest things, again hair, clothes, bag — things I just think are superficial. Having escaped Los Angeles, I find it amusing that many Dutch people (not all I must point out) but many are more superficial than folks in Hollywood (more concerned with what I’m wearing, how much I weigh, what my hair looks like today). I sometimes think, “who has that kind of time?” But then I remember how long it takes for anyone to do the simplest tasks and I think, yep, “my friends the Dutch.”
You are so right. You are open and honest.
The world rather hears you say this but do that i guess.
I hope your partner supports you
I was proposed to by a Dutchman and he added ‘but please do something about the weight’. Needless to say I told him where to go. When the phrase ‘dutch treat’ was created to use for frugal ie cheapness – they were not kidding. He was the cheapest person I ever met. Wish I knew more about their cultural traits before having met him.
You truely are a Sad Sally, sorry to hear you met the worst Dutchman around…….but we have a saying; “Not a handfull but a Land full ” so don’t judge all of us over one dumbass.
Hope you have found your soulmate by now……..the “dutch treat” is something I don’t recognise at all, most Dutch will almost spend their last dime on friends or family and want nothing in return. I really love to know how, where and why that expression started. We are not cheap but will spend money wisely.
Yeah Exactly what Jan van A says; me and pretty much -everyone- I know are the type that think that spending money on others is always a good investment for friendship. We treat each other food, movies, going out, etc. Is someone short? We don’t care, that person is coming along and is getting drinks or whatever on our tab.
Most people I know don’t value money as important measure for saving, but as a means to do fun things, for yourself and friends.
Oh yeah. I married my Dutchie and sponsored him to live in Australia. He not only lied about his qualifications, he lost every job he did because of being unreliable. When we separated he wanted all the rent money back that he paid and thought he had been generous by buying his own airfare to Australia! His stinginess poisoned the marriage. He is living with his mum back in Holland. Boy!
I never really noticed this until reading this blog but its true. Every time we have a family get together my opa brings up religion or politics and gets into heated debates with everyone else, and there’s no sense trying to talk reason over his over the top opinions he refuses to ever admit his opinions are biased (or completely ridiculous which they usually are)
That’s not Dutch Cassandra, that’s the way of the world. Ever seen Italians, Spanish, French in a family discussion? I think they beat us.
That is Dutch directness!
Blocked by the FIFA, typical….
Like everybody says, I live in Nijmegen (the east side) and there they are less direct as in for example Rotterdam (the west side). A lot of people in Nijmegen actually think of people from Rotterdam being rude, so it really depends where you go in The Netherlands.
First of all, this is a great site!
Second: do not believe everything you read.
Third: every country and every people has its strange habits, especially the Dutch!
I’m from the North, Friesland – my parents are farmers, and I’ve been told many times “you are brutally honest” (even Dutch people tell me that). I agree, there are regional differences. I’m trying to think WHY I’m like this (and many Dutch are).
Being subtle, modest and humble is just not in my dictionary. Wasn’t raised like that. Never my intention to hurt anybody, on the contrary, I feel that honesty makes me connect on a deeper level with other people. Cut the crap, get real.
Now that sounds like a Dutchman Chrissie. That’s the way it is. Love each other and be honnest.
But what if you hurt them?
By the way, overall I love the Netherlands very well, though I am the first to admit that my experiences of it outside Amsterdam and Rotterdam are limited to touristic excursions when I was working in the conurbation.
If someone says something GRATUITOUSLY direct – or nasty – to me – like attacking my body or dress sense, for example, I just tune them out.
Brutality and cruelty aren’t nice, even when used as adjectives of honesty.
Oh, I’ve lived in Italy (and I speak Italian fluently) and certainly understand what people here are saying about devious, overly polite ways and fashion – “la bella figura”.
Germans can be very direct aka rude/cruel as well. I am fascinated by the differences between Dutch and (presumably Flemish-speaking) Belgians!
There are ass holes in every country and The Netherlands are no exception. A Dutchmen will not give you his opinion until there’s been ask for. Again I would say love each other and be honest.
There is a way to tell the true, but it should be said. As the blogger above said, do you want the truth or a fairy tale!? People are too polite and a bit two faced I find here in Canada with their ‘politeness’!
Truth is one thing — and not at all a bad thing when it is about something of consequence. An example of something of consequence: “You’re late for the third time in a row and it’s causing me to get behind in my work.” Something not of consequence: “You have a lot of pimples today, oh, sorry I’m really direct.” I’ve heard the latter. As if the recipient doesn’t already know (and probably feel sufficiently bad) they have pimples. Why bother even saying it? Again overstating the obvious in the service of truth is unnecessary, simple, and doesn’t take a genius.
When i moved to Canada 20 years ago, I was told that I was rude and too direct. However I adjusted. I learned a lot from living with so many cultures around me. Canada is a land of immigrants and people respect each other. Now I’m back in the Netherlands and I get upset about that Dutch, right in your face, rudeness. Dutch people push their opinion right through your throat. I prefer the Canadian Politeness above the Dutch, often, disrespectfull rudeness. When there is a chance, I’ll move back.
As long as being direct is really about honesty, it’s fine. But some dutch are just plain rude, even mean sometimes, under the guise of being ‘honest’ and ‘direct’.
Great post – like all the posts on this site pretty much. I wrote piece on the Kramer incident a while back… after much reflection, and living here for three years now, I am still in the “he’s a dick” camp, although I tried to be more diplomatic here: http://the5ringcircus.com/2010/02/24/now-and-sven-by-jeff-funnekotter/
The dutch have Tourette’s Syndrome, its a sad condition which removes their social filter and makes them throw up their minds… People without that, try to explain this by saying they are “direct”.
I´m gonna go and give an example of dutch directness, and show how it differs from actually being rude.
Let’s say my friend has got a new haircut, and I think it looks retarted on him.
Me being rude would be: That looks retarted on you.
Dutch directness would be: I don’t think it doesn’t look that great because of X and Y.
I can understand that the first option is frowned upon in many cultures, because it is frowned upon in our culture as well.
I can not understand however, that people would rather hear the lie “OMG THAT LOOKS GREAT ON YOU”, than that they would deal with some constructive critisism.
A third possibility which you have omitted would be to say nothing at all. Why get so wrapped up in what your friend’s haircut looks like? I’ve never understood the pains that people will take to offer unsolicited opinions and advice on any number of superficial subjects _______ (clothes, build, haircut, car, bag, etc.). It’s just a bloody haircut.
Once an old woman told me I shouldn’t eat the cookie that came with my coffee, pointing to my little belly. Should I have told her that she is old (her comment was meant to mean, “you’re fat”) What a waste of time. So funny how willing people are to overstate the obvious (I don’t find it brave, direct, honest or interesting. I find it odd, unsophisticated, and simple).
But why do you think you have to give an opinion about such a personal matter? What is so special about your opinion? Do you think you are the most stylish and beautiful person in the universe, and should decide what other people look like? Mind your own business.
To me at least there’s nothing wrong with directness or speaking your mind. The key element however is to find a balance between honestly saying what you feel or want to get across as a message without upsetting or hurting people’s feelings.
It has to be clear that the well-being, care for or love for the other person is the foundation for what you are saying.
In the link above http://www.minispace.co.uk/blog/images/Translation.htm it states that if the British say “you must come for dinner sometime” they don’t mean it while we think you do. Is it so strange to think they really mean it? Directness may never become rudeness, but the example above -if true- is of someone lying willingly and directly straight in your face…
Problem is that other get upset or hurt easely.
They take everything personal.
We (Dutch) learn at a very young age that words don’t hurt.
I am Dutch. I was travelling in the US and had lunch with our representatives, US citizens. This big guy was piling up his plate from the salad bar, using about everything that was there: Mushrooms, bacon, eggs, salad, tomato, etc.etc. He finished it eating with one hand (disgusting) and redid the whole ritual again. Drank enormous cups of coffee with it; than he went for the Kings cut of Prime rib, a one inch thick peace of meat that covered the whole plate, with side servings of French Fries en vegetables. Coffee and ice water. He gobbled it up, finishing his plate earlier than the other guys at the table.
I told him: You are going to see the doctor soon!
He asked me why.
I said: He will build a second ass-hole for you, there is no way that this one ass-hole of yours will be able to handle that amount of processed food much longer.
He told me: That’s rude Peter
I guess that is rude Peter but on the other hand caring for people. Someone has to wake up an irresponsible live style. I know Dutch will even criticize they’re own behavior.
I live in Holland. I hope I never sink to the level of the dutch and become as rude and awful as they are. There is a difference in being direct to be helpful i.e. – You have something green between your teeth ( so that you can go and remedy the situation) and being direct because for some unknown reason they feel they have to voice an opinion Your haircut is ugly… that is just offensive and serves no purpose other than to make the other person feel bad.
they are just a bunch of heathen farmers with no manners and crap food.
I could qualify ‘heathen farmer with no manners’ and ‘crap food’ as ‘rude’ and ‘awful’. But I don’t, because I’m Dutch. Want to have dinner sometime? I promise I won’t say something negative about your haircut….
Kind of rude to say this Allison.
Alison, like the two persons above, I’m going to break the news to you in a direct manner, because I’m Dutch: you have already “sunk” to the level of the Dutch (and probably below). You know, “they are just a bunch of heathen farmers with no manners and crap food” is just offensive and serves no purpose other than to make other persons feel bad…
Dutchies appreciate the fact that you want to look at your best (undutch right)
so they point out to you that you have something between your teeth.
Not to embarrass you. Dutchie already saw your imperfection so he/she wants to prevent you from looking imperfect.
Lets turn it around. You had a nice dinner after witch you went out dancing. Later that evening you come home and check the mirror. You see a big chunk of lettuce sticking out from between your teeth. None of your so called FRIEND mentioned it to you !
But the tall handsome (no dutchie) guy you wanted to impress already had his first impression of you witch he didn’t like !
Yeah much better right ?
Wouldn`t it be more convenient for you to go back to your roots, my dear? All those heathens and all that horrible food!
I have been acquainted with various Dutch people for over 15 years now. The culture can seem refreshing after you have grown up in the UK where people still seldom say what they mean and have to disguise their real intent with irony. I am British & it is true that people in the south of the UK are not all that friendly & if you have known people for years & years it is still entirely possible that they will forget you as soon as it suits them to. The directness of Dutch people is often because they are quite honest people, particularly in the north of the NL. However they are rather short on actual manners, the directness can seem rather teuotonic & rude, particularly from strangers. It is actually very hard to get to know people in NL, they will always treat you as a foreigner, moan at you for not knowing their language, pretend to not understand you when you do take the trouble to learn some Dutch and behave in a very stereotypical way. The NL is actually quite a postive place, but the spiel you get from people in the north about being friends with them being a real friendship compared to those fakes in Amsterdam is all talk. The self-same people stopped replying to my e mails nearly 10 years ago even when I took the trouble to call on them twice in the last decade. I will go the the NL now and again in the future but just to smoke some weed. I gave up trying to engage with any of them a while back.
I think you find out who your real friends are in times of trouble. I think it’s the same all over the world and has nothing to do with beeing from Amsterdam, Friesland or wherever. It’s about the person himself, where he or she lives doesn’t make a difference if they are real friends or not.
Yes, what you say is very true there, but the Frieslanders do give you a great big spiel about how your friends in Friesland are real friends compared to those fakes in Amsterdam and then turn out to be as shallow as people anywhere. I shouldn’t be surprised. The old saying that Frieslanders are hard workers and honest people is pretty much true. I have given up on having Dutch friends, it is very hard to get to know people beyond a certain level really.
You don’t know the language, and at the same time you complain about people treating you as a foreigner. Be happy that they still talk with you. If I pull that stunt in the UK or the US, and only speak Dutch, how well do you think that would go?
Yeah but the point is English is an international language that all educated people should know (in addition to one or two others), whereas Dutch is a peripheral language spoken by 3 men and a cow in a tiny insignificant backwater.
My parents were both 39 when we migrated from Gouda to Sydney, (via, via) in 1956.
For years there were regular ‘coffee mornings’, here in my (late) parents house, where I now live.
My Sydney-born children were often, if not upset, certainly shocked!!! to hear my father and particularly, his best friend ‘discuss’. (This friend really was most caring; extremely fond of my father, to the last. ) Even one of the women used to have to leave the room quite often. I reckon that this was an example of what this “directness” “openness” “honest opinion” came to as these two old men socialised the “Dutch” way, in their last years. I agree with Derrick and Wilma and others.
Haha you posted a link to The Young Turks, I’ve been checking them out since 2008, I like the show! Anyways, ontopic, I’m Dutch myself and I find it very interesting to read this website. Most of the things on here are actually true (to a certain extent).
About the directness, it kinda depends per person and your “social class” (which doesn’t really exist here, but I hope you know what I mean). Some Dutch are really direct, others are ass-kiss-kings and queens (am I being direct here?). They will tell you they like your new haircut even though they don’t, stuff like that, just to stay on your good side and.
Personally I like the directness, because it’s basically “what you see is what you get”. Even though I try to be direct, I also try to do it in an as much polite way as possible. To me, if someone isn’t direct, it gives me the impression they are hiding something or trying to fool me.
Giving someone a compliment isn’t “dishonest” – it makes people feel good, it is a gift – that’s why we say someone GIVES a compliment. Don’t be so suspicious. There is always something nice you can say about someone, which will make them feel happy. Why point out the bad things you see in someone, and make them unhappy, just so you can indulge your fantasy of being “honest”? You are just another person, no better than the person you are criticising. Nobody wants or needs your opinion. The world will keep turning without it.
Mandy. The question you keep asking over and over “Why point out the bad things you see in someone” has been answered several times already.
It is NOT to put you down
It is NOT to insult you
It is NOT because it makes us feel better bout ourselves at your expense
It is because we feel that if something sucks, it needs to be said it sucks. Plain and simple.
We don’t tell you we like your new haircut if we dont. You have to be british to be that hypocrite.
We don’t tell you “Oh and ehm…. by the way” if we feel the topic coming up next isn’t a side issue.
We don’t tell you the meal you cooked is very excellent if you reheated last weeks left overs. Again, you need to be british to be that hypocrite.
If you feel insulted about being notified you have spinach left between your teeth… Hey, By all means, be my guest, shrug it off and pretend the spinach is part of you and no one should interfere with that, but in our little corner of this planet it’s considered a courtesy to let you know it’s probably awkward to shake someones hand with leftovers of last nights dinner between your teeth.
Obviously you can’t grasp that concept. Well, great! Be as polite, friendly and whatever you think you are as you want, but please…. be like that in your own country.
I guess directness has its time and place. I am not sure how I would feel if directness was the norm. A little tact and social nicety leads to more harmony and impact than blunt directness. I think I would be able to deal with directness if I were younger but being bit older now too much directness would tick me off because as a older person my ways are set and my convictions are hardened so if someone criticizes my hair or my language or my dress there is little I can do to change all that. It would make things more pleasant and face saving if it was communicated with some social grace or still better not mentioned at all. I guess as an Asian I come from the opposite side of the spectrum where there is not that much directness (Which is a problem too) but I am certain much directness will bother vast areas of the asian continent.
I’ve been reading this website for the past hour and I’m partly shocked and partly amused. Dear me, some of you really hate ‘The Dutch’. I myself am Dutch and lived in London for a good few years. I am from a moderately sized Dutch city and I can honestly say that I found Londoners a lot ruder than the people in my hometown. Across Europe and regardless of the country, there’s a big difference between big town mentality and small town/countryside mentality.
It seems to me that expats find it hard to grasp Dutch egalitarianism. This is a classless society where even the lowest office employee gets to offer up his opinion at work meetings. The bottom line is that to do well in this country, you HAVE to be opinionated. Your family background, class, accent, and all those things that in a great many other countries you can rely on to get you respect, are meaningless in the Netherlands.
There are good parts to that and bad parts. Bottom line is however that this is what the Dutch feel comfortable with, this is the way they’ve chosen to live with each other. On that note, there’s an interesting contrast here between the comments of Dutch people who’ve moved abroad, and expats in the Netherlands. The Dutch people living abroad seem mindful of their own cultural ‘faults’ and try to adjust to their new country. I don’t quite see the same flexibility and open mindedness in expats living in the Netherlands. You’re in a foreign country, things are different than what you’re used to at home. Celebrate cultural differences, it will make you a much happier person in general.
Very good comment indeed!
Directness is not really the problem for the dutch. The common problem is “think before you talk”. Many dutch are impulsive and impatient. Giving their opinion before they thought it through. And then you have a situation. “Things have been said “.
If you are the “better left unsaid” sponsor, you dont need to deal with this problem.
As a Dutchman who has lived in the UK for about 14 years, I generally find the Dutch directness so refreshing, but also shocking at times because I’m not used to it anymore! All this beating around the bush and dancing around the issue in the UK drives me nuts sometimes, and yes, I’m often told I’m blunt, direct, confrontational and rude, but for Dutch standards I don’t think I’m that direct at all when I compare myself to my family. Being direct, however, not a trait unique to the Dutch. I have lived with Polish people and I’d say they beat us hands down. As for the UK, it really depends where you are – Northeners are known to be much more direct than the stereotypical Brit. I do find, generally speaking, that the Brits take everything so personal, as if they’re always looking for ulterior motives, while us Dutchies tend to take things more literally. You have to be so careful what you say, they can interpret it in a thousand ways that have nothing to do with how you meant it in the first place. I’ve recently gone back to uni and there is a young Dutch girl on the course and the stuff she blurts out makes others quite uncomfortable, but it makes me laugh as it’s so recognisable. There is one particular way of saying something in English that I’ve never got my head round: “What you’d probably like to do is this…” Instead of asking “Can you do this for me please?”. It’s just bizarre. In my first week in the UK, my boss said that to me, and I just replied “What do you mean ‘what I would probably like to do’? You don’t know me, how can you tell me what I like and what I don’t like?” Obviously, that didn’t go down very well. My parents came over once and we all went to the pub after work, and as we left my boss said to my dad “It was lovely meeting you, so nice to talk to you”. My dad just said: “Excuse me, you did not say a single word to me apart from ‘Hello’?” Hahahahaha! It’s so easy to make friends with people from France, Spain, Australia, South Africa, whatever, but I do find the Brits a challenge, even after 14 years, and the very good friends I’ve made here that are British are definitely not your average Brit. All this so-called politeness gets to me though, all this constant reassurance that’s needed ‘Do you like this?’ / ‘Yes’ / ‘Are you sure?’ / ‘Yes, I’m sure’ / ‘Positive?’ / ‘YES I”M F***ING POSITIVE WHY DO YOU KEEP ASKING I KNOW HOW TO MAKE UP MY MIND AAAAAARGH!’ / ‘Now, now, there really is no need to get aggressive’ / ‘And there’s no need for you to be so patronising!’ And especially people who say they are fine with something when everything about their face or body language says they aren’t OK with it, I just can’t be bothered with those. And if you are sharing a packet of crisps or biscuits with people and there is one last one left, no one will have it. If you want it, just take it. Or share it. And splitting the bill in restaurants here is a nightmare… just pay for what you’ve ordered, why do I have to chip in extra because someone else decided to have a couple of bottles of red or a fancy dessert? Especially when you’re with people you don’t know very well. I don’t care if people think I’m stingy, I tell them before dinner I prefer to ‘go Dutch’, unless I’m taking someone out and pay the whole bill myself. For all their so-called politeness I do find the Brits incredibly inconsiderate, a bit of a sweeping statement, but hey ho. Reading this back I think I better book myself a flight to Holland ASAP 😉
I’m from the Netherlands too. Personally I think you have rude, and you have directness. Like someone said before if you say: You look retarded with that haircut, I would say that’s rude. But you cán say: Sorry But I don’t like that haircut so much on you, you’d rather go with that, or that.
And besides, if I have a haircut that IS ugly, I really want to know because why do you want to walk around with a haircut that makes you ugly? That makes no sense to me…
Last note: What Peter wrote, about the man that ate too much, I think tha’t véry rude… That’s not direct anymore, just rude.
But who says your haircut is ugly? Are you really happy to style your hair on the orders of someone else?
All right, so here is the situation:
Me, a Dutchman, was sitting in a pub in Australia with an Australian friend. He was talking about someone and I asked him if he was talking about “that guy over there,sitting next to the fat girl.”
Now that Australian friend of mine was amazed of my rudeness while I was only trying to be descriptive. In my eyes being fat is a state, like being tall, short or skinny, not instantly negative. Can this be seen as an example of Dutch directness, or is it just me who has a different point of view on what is offensive and what is not?
Haha Teun, I gues this friend of yours thinks of ‘fat’ as a negative word/description for a person. So he prob would have chosen to say ‘next to the big girl’ because I think he finds it rude to describe a person with, what he finds, a negative word. As you are Dutch and direct, you see no harm in describing what you see, and to express that. You don’t consider it rude to point out the obvious (neither do I) because how could that be rude? I think it is a combination of directness, and a different point of view on what is negative and therefor may be offensive to people. I’m a Dutch girl living in Australia and reading these comments leave me with blushing cheeks thinking about all these times and situations I recall not understanding how akward and painful my blurted out opinion must have been. My Aus partner often corrected me, ashamed himself by what I said, which caused alot of frustration with me, not understanding what the problem was. Again, I think a combination of my Dutch directness, and a different point of view on what is negative and therefor may be offensive to people, according to their culture. To make things more complicated, he is half Thaï. No directness in that culture!
Hihi, I am so Dutch, making this fantastic assumption your friend would have said next to the ‘big’ girl instead of fat girl. But no, I think he would have said ‘yes, that girl in the (e.g.) pink shirt. Because I think he does not consider it rude to point out the obvious state of that shirt, but does consider it rude to point out the obvious state of that girl. Unless.. ofcourse.. if he thinks of the word ‘pink’ as a negative description. In that case…
The issue is the Dutch are judgemental. They pride themseles on it and it stems from standards observed having to meet arbitrarily established norms. Common denominators. It’s a good way of ensuring that creativity does not flourish.
I’m Barcelona now, and they can’t handle my directness. Some say it to me and i’m just like; i’m probably one of the most honest persons you met.
And direct language: i would like to refer to the article ‘Not working’, it maybe could be considered as an efficient language!
I know this is off topic but I am curious to know why most dutch people are so cheap and stingy???!!! For example I notice they always have fun and eat heartily at parties organized by other Nationalities, but when they invite you to their home/party, you do not get the same reception and their food is always limited….. (just curious)
Yes, we’re all the same Tasha.
I agree on the fact that the amount of food is most of the times restricted to the number of persons invited and nothing more. Or, even more common, there is no food at all, mostly, I presume, ’cause food is in the Netherlands considered unnecessary in certain situations or other said its consumption is more related to a private temporary physiological need to be quickly evaded than to a moment of conviviality and social interaction. This depends, I guess, to the sad reality that in Holland the food nothing special in terms of taste and variety and many people in Holland see the action of cooking as a big effort instead of as the pleasure of making your guests happy. As a consequence of this (bad) habit of skipping the food part or just not giving it the right role, Dutch people invited to someone’s place don’t expect anything more from their hosts than a fridge full of beer and wine and some nuts (but those ones are optional…).
An opposite role is instead given to alcohol, which is almost always consumed in social situations and in huge quantity.
Are you sure you saw all of the food ?
The Dutch have small houses thuss small plates so obviously the plates will be refilled in the kitchen. Next time walk straight in to the kitchen and check for more ! (not rude at all)
Albeit not always so, you are right! Pity!
I thought I was the only X-Dutchman who was direct for many years, thank goodness it is in our culture now I fell much better for it…damn that makes me happy.
As a born and raised Dutchman from Noord-Holland I love what I read here, and I can truely say that most of the critsism is true for being direct or rude. I have family living in CA where they moved to in the early fifty’s and I try to visit them every other year. My cousins born and raised in the US they are no longer familiar with the Dutch directness and they are always suprised when I vent my opinion about things they discuss with me, they look at it suprised but also refreshed that you can actually do that in a conversation and……..they envy me for being like that. Rude however is something you choose to be at that time and occassion, I agree it is not nice ( rude never is ) but let me be clear on this….it does settle things on the spot and it makes absolutely clear what you mean or want. So directness is clear and honest, rude is too….it just depends on the situation.
We don’t like to be rude…..but sadly situations sometimes simply demands for it.
I like to be direct and hate to be rude, but I can………is it Dutch ? reading all of the above I get to think it is more for the West part than the rest of the country.
Blame for it if you think you should……….don’t cry if you get a comment that might be unexpected direct.
ps. One thing must be said here…..please respect eachother and eachothers opinions that’s what makes us all unique.
Great site, good topic.
Dutch “directness” is just rudeness. Uncivilised and plain bad manners. Also just plain nastiness at times. .It is not truthful even, as they like to think, they are as two faced as anyone ! Many say they like “to know where they are” so “appreciate Dutch directness”. I don’t and I am half-Dutch married to a Dutchman but raised abroad.
I prefer as the saying goes : “it’s not what you say but how you say it”
I can be direct, albeit politely which is in my view better, as I hate i.e. the long meetings here in the Netherlands (which is strange as they say they are “direct” but they love their meetings which go on for hours. My form of directness is getting through the points and END !
The British can be annoying when they mumble around something, but at least it is pleasant.!
Not all Dutch are “direct” however thankfully. I find it annoying and very unprofessional.If they dont like a client they are rude for instance. NOT ON.
Worst thing is, they are PROUD of this horrible trait.
The article references the in(famous) comment made to a reporter by Sven Kramer, “Are you stupid?” What I find so funny about this is that when my Dutch friends discuss this story Sven is appreciated for his honesty, directness, speaking his mind. What an American hears (and I reckon plenty of Brits, Canadians, and Aussies as well) is what every B list celebrity in search of recognition says: “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” Always the mark of the minor celebrity throwing his fame around. Not what Kramer intended, and I’m certainly not suggesting that he is a B list skater. But when he changed lanes and was disqualified, there was such a collective amusement in the press because Sven at that moment took his place among the rest of the B,C,D listers befitting his comment. Honesty and directness can sometimes have amusing consequences.
Mm, I always enjoy the frank and honest discussions I have with my Dutch friends about Zwarte Piet. 🙂
The directness is based on arrogance – a cultural survival tool that has allowed the Dutch to be a very successful country – tough traders who don’t take a backward step. The fun part is to be direct to the Dutch – they find it confronting and uncomfortable and get very righteous and often aggressive. They can give it but they can’t take it.
So funny reading the complaints but never meeting a foreigner who is being direct back at me.
I’m not the aggressive type, but always open for debate on a friendly level but no one dares to play with me so to speak.
I don’t think that means the other people are cowards – I think maybe they just are not interested in your opinions.
I have lived in amsterdam for 8 years now and cannot say that dutch people are really direct with each other all the time. At work all the dutch people talk about each other behind their backs, just as much as anywhere else I have been. They all say that everyone else is rubbish and that they are the best in the team. At parties with a dutch person it is usually not long before they are telling you at great length why they are better than their boss. Then the conversation moves tediously on to why NL is superior to everywhere else, all done with zero sense of self depracation or humour.
I like the way that you can say what you think here, it is certainly more useful to know that something is wrong rather than going on believing something is ok, because someone is scared of causing offense. But it isn’t necessary to be rude in the way that many dutch people are. It seems that if you are nice to people here, they think you are there to be ripped off. From my experience it makes dutch people unlikable, to the point of avoiding contact with them as far as possible and making plans to leave the country.
Amsterdam is a multicultural place, and over the years here people from France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Columbia, Brazil, Switzerland, Nigeria, Ethiopia, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, The USA, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Portugal, Iceland, Sweden, Iran and India have brought up in conversation that they find Dutch people arrogant and rude. Inside NL maybe we’re wrong because we have to adapt to local culture. But from an international level, the vote is pretty clear.
As a dutch having lived abroad for quite some years now, I have been in numerous situations being surprised and needing to reflect on what I had just said as apparently people didn’t take it the way I expected them to.
So here is some inside information for all the non-Dutch who have been confused and offended by a Dutch persons` straightforward remarks or personal questions: wereas for everyone around the world a rude comment usually means the person doesn’t really like you, for Dutch it is likely to be the inverse! Speaking just for myself: I am (trying to be) polite to people I don’t really know yet or want to keep on a distance. But… as soon as i start to like you, I will be completely honest with you, start making very direct jokes and ask you any question that pops up in my mind. Weird, huh!?
By the way, as we don’t really do tact and subtility, we don’t pick up on it either. Then, of course, we don’t react the way someone making a subtle remark would expect us to, making us even more rude!
Hi you all , im dutch but live in London. And i think if we are openminded and speak what we think we attract our right fate. So if you were meant to hear what needed to be said, you can act upon it.. And the truth doesnt hurt anyone, if a painful truth, grow up and toughen up lol.. Look at the deceiving world around us, liars and cheaters! Im proud to be Dutch, i think our culture will always stay this down to earth. But i love English people, very intelligent and have more depth than most dutch 😉 all and all a beautiful inspiration 😉
All true. The problem is only that this attitude works fine only in Holland and not always abroad. So the Dutch should, when he goes abroad, challenge him/herself to find a more proper manner to say things unless he/she wants to appear brutal.
Being dutch myself and used to the directness of us dutchies I never realized how rude we can sound. When I moved to Australia for a year I learned the hard way that our opinion and mind is sometimes better left unspoken.
Being Dutch myself and living in Aus since last year, I can only agree with you! Oh, those akward moments…!
This has been a most informative site, as I was looking for a description of “stereotypical” Dutch behaviours…. I love the honesty and directness! It has been interesting comparing comments from Dutch outside of the Netherlands, and ex-pats inside the Netherlands. And noticing that the Dutch within the Netherlands comment on the different “tribes” that make up their country. Vive la difference! I’m teaching my kids Dutch language and culture…. useful life skills I reckon! (We are not Dutch…)
So true. I’ve been living here in Holland for six months now. One day I was sitting on a seat, waiting at the train station when this elderly couple, using canes walked over. Since I’ve always been taught to respect my elders, I got up so they could sit down. The woman started talking to me, and she asked if I was English. I said, “I’m American.” Shocked, she replied, “But you’re not typical for an American!” I asked, “how so?” And she said, “You’re thin!” I didn’t know whether I should be flattered or insulted. But, I laughed it off, because I’ve come to realize, that’s just how the Dutch are. I’m just happy that she didn’t say that I WAS typical for an American!
Hi there. I’m Dutch and I loved this article. It’s indeed very true. I’m married to an Italian man, so I get this thrown in my face a lot :). There is one thing however that I don’t agree with: the only thing we Dutch people are not direct about, is looks.. This is something that Italians for instance are much more direct about. I would rather say something “is not exactly my style” than to say it’s ugly. Italians would say it like it is: you don’t look good in that outfit: change it.
I have to disagree… From my experience, the Dutch directness is a lie. Dutch people just NEVER SPEAK THEIR MIND. The only direct thing about them is their lack of manners. They also end to communicate like robots, in a binary kind of way. For exemple, my Dutch boss would ask me a question, then I begin giving him information related to the question, then he interupts me and tell me: “tell me yes or no” but not all questions can be answered with yes or no, so by ansering yes or no, I give him an answer which satisfies him, but which does not create any value. And this is the bif problem amoung the Dutch. They don’t realise that communication can be more that black and white, it can be a way to share experiences, feeling, ideas… For a Dutch, water is water, they don’t want to know that it can be found in different states, have different proprieties etc. Their are just extremly reductionists is their communication and this just hinders they way of thinking, this is probably the reason why the Netherlands never produces a great mind of its history.
In a way I agree with you. Many times I ask my non-Dutch partner a question and to me, it’s like he just rumbles away. So I ask him to just say ‘yes or no’. Is that typical Dutch, rude, blunt, with lack of manner, robot like, black and white, disrespectfull to his feelings or ideas? Or just straight to the point to get to know what I need to know and move on from there?
I just wanted to add that sometimes, for foreigners, dealing with the directness is best done with laughter and nodding. I met one particularly direct person, who feels free to say what’s on his mind as statements of fact even when they pertain to other people, and while most people just recede into stunned silence around him here in Asia, one guy really knows how to deal with it and that’s what I’ve been copying… just smiling and nodding as if his opinion-facts are perfectly lovely.
I have problems with being overly direct myself. I say “problems” because there is a difference between being honest and being obnoxious. There is no need to loudly state opinions that are hurtful. Who cares what someone looks like in a dress? If it makes them feel a little more confident, then isn’t that worth more than your opinion? As for saying that one person is higher on the economic ladder than another, why the hell does it matter? I think taking people’s feelings into consideration is important. In the important points we should be direct and honest, always. But in our day to day opinions, why not be kind? And a little humble.
Actually I think it adds value to be polite most of the time, so that when there is something important to be said it stands out. Even if it hurts people, that is the price of honesty, but why hurt people for “honesty” about your mere opinion on something that doesn’t matter?
Anyway, the general reaction to bluntness by more polite people seems to be ignoring it, getting hurt by it, or distancing themselves from it. I have been trying to become less blunt, and thus to see how others feel instead of loudly announcing myself, and it’s slowly making my life better and myself into a more empathetic person. I do appreciate many aspects of directness but it does get used by bullies to hide their underlying lack of empathy too.
Oh my God. I am married to a Dutch and his bluntness was something I couldn’t cope with .It used to hurt me a lot. We have disagreed on many things. He has a lot of shades of grey theories to back up his opinions to prove that he is right. I go crazy. He lives in my country. I am Asian and don’t our cultures clash. If I had known that this was going to be so difficult I wouldn’t have married him.
Im English and visited The Netherlands four times. The directness is what stood out most as a cultural difference between the English and Dutch. I took it as rude at first but after a while I understand this as part of Dutch behavior. I understand the Dutch people who feel English politeness is false because for example if you see English people in a restaurant and the food is taking a long time they will complain to each other but when the waiter brings the food they will say thank you with a smile on their face! I know because I do it, and yes its to aviod confrontation, it can be frustrating holding back but with some of my opinions and ideas I would upset more people than make friends. I would love to be direct like the Dutch but it would get me a punch in the face in England, in fact i will try it and see what happens.
Grin it can indeed be liberating to say what you think.
For the other foreigners: I apologize cause what most Dutch forget to realize is that there are many stupid people walking around in the Netherlands. Yeah I said it!
By the way : I am Dutch
These morons I am talking about; do not know common courtecy. They stare and blurt out their stupid opinion to every stranger they meet. They have almost no education and scream the loudest. And every street has a few of those, we are also stuck with them.
These are the ones who you get to know first, but please look past those horrors, there are better people around here in the Netherlands.
But Please do not think that these are the majority of the Dutch!
The majority of the Dutch is rude/unpolished here and there, a bit obstinate here and there but genuinly caring, facepalm* have a collection of dumb jokes from his/her family, but smart, welspoken, laid back in attitude and generally happy and nice.
Britons,when angered, will usually (although not always) remain perfectly courteous, but tell you exactly what they think all the same. This is called STYLE – or CLASS, if you like – something normally woefully lacking from so-called “directness-a-la-Hollande”. And, regrettably, absent from Dutch discourse as a whole, too, I’m afraid.
Let me guess, you are British?
Ever heard:”Am I so smart, or you so stupid?” on a press conference?
Only by a Dutchman!
hahaha prachtig he!
Nice conversation on Dutch directness. Love it. Remember the faces I’ve seen talking about sex so easely abroad as an reaction on our image that we Dutch are known for easy sex as they putt it.
Proud to say we have a right to vote and speak our opinion. But dealing with foreigners is often a problem. I always have to remind myself that other people are not that direct. I don’t understand why. As Dutch people we are considered being very efficient. It is probably because we will say what we have to say in 1 sentence while others take half an hour.
This blog is most likely written by an American/British/Anglo-Saxon and therefore it reflects the view of Dutch people that Anglo-Saxons have. This is a very limited and biased view in my opinion. To the average Canadian, Brit or Australian, etc I believe everybody else in the world might sound “too direct”, “rude” and so on. The Brits complain about the rudeness of everybody: French, Italians, Germans, Dutch, Polinesians, Spanish and Venusians. Perhaps on average the Dutch speak excellent English so they get “picked out” more often for their directedness?
I’m Italian, I live in the UK and I’ve been living and working with Americans, Brits, Dutch Germans etc. I have many Dutch good friends and I also dated a couple of Dutch girls, so I know something about some of them. I find it easy to relate to Germans and Dutch: based on those I’ve met, they behave like us southern Italians. I frankly cannot stand the “hypocrisy” of Brits and Americans.
My boss is English: I have serious issues understanding what he thinks of me. He’s always afraid to hurt, always afraid to say too much, always afraid to say too little. I would rather be managed by a person who says, “sorry this presentation is lacking here and there. Sorry you need to work on your syntax”. How can I improve if everything is coated with a layer of inoffensive words like “rather/quite/not too”? Then of course, they drink a couple of beers and hell breaks loose: it’s the moment when social conventions can be shattered, when men become suddenly aware of the existence of women, women become aware of the existence of men, and reproduction can finally happen.
One of my flatmates was Canadian: she was the most disturbingly fake person I’ve ever met. She clearly hated living with us (an Italian, a German, an Irish) and she never joined us when we invited her for pub nights, parties, concerts. She was basically living in a hotel, not a shared flat. Still, when we met her in the kitchen, she completely changed her attitude, and announced, in her high-pitched voice: “OH WOW HOW ARE YOU GUYS DOING? IT’S SO GREAT TO SEE YOU BLA BLA” or also “I would LOVE to join you but unfortunately bla bla bla. Have a GREAT night….”. When she moved out, after barely speaking to any of us for 3 years she was all big hugs and things like “it was SO GREAT to live with you guys and we’ve SHARED so much”…Why? Why ask us all this bulls*it when she clearly didn’t care? I would rather live with 100 Dutch telling me that today my lasagne are not as good as the last time, rather than living with opinionated Anglo-Saxons – who think the entire world should revolve around their views..
Hello Rigel – I am an “opinionated anglo saxon” who happens to really like the dutch. I haven’t actually found that they are “rude”, because honesty is not rudeness; honesty can be phrased kindly. But you clearly have a problem with the Anglo Saxons – so why choose to live among us? You obviously hate us, so why are you being dishonest and not telling us in person? Hmm? could it be that it is better to live in a country which – unlike Italy – is not run by mafiosi? after all, we all know that Italy is as corrupt as a sewer. But perhaps you think it is “charming openness” when someone steals your wallet, or when police destroy/manufacture evidence, or when politicians molest women in the street? Not so. filth is filth, and Italian society is filth. Of course, you may not recognise this because, like all Italians, you were born in a lazy, dirty, thieving cess-pit….. which is why you choose to live in the UK. But don’t compare yourself with the open, amiable, honest, kindly, forward-thinking Dutch. There is a big difference between being honourable enough to be honest (like the dutch) and being a snivelling weasel obsessed with his own penis, who throws hissy fits (like the italians.) By the way, Rigel, this is what most Anglo Saxons think of Italians, but we are too dedicated to giving the individual a fair chance, and treating people as equals, with courtesy, to tell you. ( If we were totally “open” about our feelings toward you, you may not have any teeth now.) How do you like it? are you going to book that ticket home so you can sit on mama’s knee again? Or are you going to man up and try to live among civilised people without whining?
Well well Mandy. What an interesting reply. And why, because someone dared to say something negative about the Anglo Saxons?
hahahahaha…damn refreshing to get it out there and call a spade a spade. I am a brit and ‘to be honest’ ( a phrase which does indeed sum up brits ) dutch say what all brits are dying to blurt out. if i had food stuck between my teeth, i would rather somone gave a shit enough to tell me. i do this every day now. it’s down the other to grow a pair and see this is caring, not insulting.. stiff upper lip ?nahhhh, wibble wobble and speak your mind. god bless. I’ve a date with clean pair of pants now. just can’t stop pissing myself with laughter after reading all of the above. thanks. 😀
Hint: She hated your guts. BUT Being Canadian would have prevented her from drawing first blood. If you had of insulted her on the other hand, she probably would have knocked your whining effeminate ass on the floor.
The people on the west side of the Netherlands speak about three times as fast as the people on the east side. And like Sabrina says we don’t beat around the bush.
Hello Mandy, I like you !!
There is a time and a place for telling it like it is… Rigel never replied. Maybe he was so shocked by my “charming openness” that he said “Addio, mondo crudele!” and cooked his own head in his delicious lasagne.
I’ve been reading this topic in an hour or so, I lost track of time.
There was a lot of stereotyping going on, but in the light of most
people/expats living in the “Randstad” its obvious why.
Peoiple who live in Amsterdam aren’t living in the Netherlands,
Amsterdam is a place of its own.
The rest of the country, certainly outside the “Randstad” is different,
like every province has it’s own things and character.
I myself live in the southwest (Zeeland), a part where probably not
many expats live.
Life is going on a slower paste here than in the “Randstad”,
People who are living in villages are saying hello to eachother,
I can be direct, if I need to be, but I’m mostly introvert, I don’t
like people who are rude, or blunt, or direct, but it depends
on the situation, who I’m talking to, etc etc.
Don’t feel the need to express my opinions all the time,
if people want to know, they can ask.
I also read about Dutch music, that it’s crap and stuff,
well, I don’t think you know all the different kinds of
music around here. But I do happen to know, that Golden Earring,
Within Temptation, and Caro Emerald are quite famous abroad,
just like Wouter Hamel.
The food here, well, every region has it’s specialties,
here it’s seafood, like mussels, oysters, but typical
Dutch is also poffertjes, and pancakes, locally babbelaars
(that’s a kind of candy, very sweet).
I myself don’t have a problem with foreigners, being friendly
and give eachother space hasn’t hurt anybody yet.J
And bytheway, I like the British, and the Canadians, haven’t met
Americans in real life
People keep mentioning the food, but I have been researching this, and the traditional Dutch food I have found sounds really delicious.
Oh yeah, the directness of the Dutch; We are indeed famous for it. Especially in the western part. I’m pro directness (From Amsterdam), but indeed people should bare in mind that there’s sometimes a thin line between directness and rudeness. If you are direct, don’t just say:”This sucks!!”. But tell them it sucks, why it sucks and how to avoid sucking again 😉
By the way: I really dislike the rude behavior in bars and restaurants and the poor quality. If the food was great and the waiters polite; Holland (yes, the western part) would be heaven on earth 🙂 (except for the weather)
I’m Black American and I was wandering was there a such thing as a black dutchman. I was doing research on my last name and it lead me to believe that the surname Moten is of dutch descent.
I think you touched a hot potato there. When is a person defined a dutchman? If he holds a dutch passport? if he was born in the Netherlands? if he was raised in the Netherlands by dutch parents?
I’d say there’s dutchmen of all color around and have been for many years. Since suriname and the dutch antilles were/are dutch colonies and a number of their indiginous moved to the Netherlans many years ago, i’d say there’s plenty dutch black people around.
Leaving the question, is ‘moten’ a typically dutch surname. I’m a bit sceptical about that one not having heard that name ever before. So I looked up ‘moten’ in the phonebook for the 5 mayor cities. No results found. Checked entire country. No results found.
Now unless no one in the Moten family has a registered phone or the dutch branch of that entire family died out i’d say the chances of your surname being dutch are very slim.
However Mooten seems to be quite common. Very often family names change slightly over the years, especially when people have left the country a long time ago. All the American Vander…. (e..g. Vanderbilt – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanderbilt_family) have Dutch origins but were written Van (space) der (space) name
Ruud Gullit is black ducthman
Your name probably IS dutch. After all…..the dutch invented the African slave trade. You can probably thank your ancestral dutch slave master for your name.
Well, my friend. What is wrong with being direct? What goes WRONG is when we HURT people’s feelings with it. We all have BRAINS and FEELINGS. Then put it in a good use 🙂 So maybe you’re a DEBATER. I am too. But I speak my mind and get INTO the point. Defo nothing is WRONG about that.
I can agree with both views: saying Dutch people are both direct and hyprocritical. About the hypocritical part: I am Dutch and I must admit I am not at all so open about what I think about other people. I do think I am an exception to the rule though, since even more direct Dutch people told me I am not very direct. And yes, this is seen as a negative trait, because it makes me look unreliable and I think there is some truth to it, because I appreciate it when people are open, honest and direct to me. I am just a bit afraid of conflict and making people upset, but I see that as my fault, rather than an asset. About the direct part: even though I (and others in Holland) think I am indirect, in other countries I have noticed people find me rude. Some examples from Ireland: (1) I pointed out to a lady at a gasstation that the pump was not working for me; the woman then said that it was a pay-first station; I then pointed out that another customer had started using the pump without paying first; the woman looked shocked that I pointed this out to her and then made up some story on how she didn’t see me arrive and that is why she didn’t press a button to make the pump work. At the time, I believed this response to be the truth, but when I drove off with a full tank I finally understood what had been going on: the woman at the gasstation knew the other customer and that is why this customer could get gas without paying first. The shocking thing for a Dutch person is, of course, that some people are being treated differently than others for no good reason. So you have to know people to get all kinds of little favours. And on top of that you always have to be like: “how are you doing? what a nice day isn’t it? blah blah”, because whenever you are critical of the service you are getting, whenever you point out that something is being done inefficiently, you will regret it for the rest of your life, because the person will never forget and will never try to help you out again. This is why I don’t go back to that gasstation anymore, because now the people there are just rude to me, only because I pointed out the truth and the obvious! (2) People tell me a lot it is nice weather. When I look outside and see rainclouds moving in, I tell them: “well I prefer it more sunny actually, it seems it will start to rain soon”. In my opinion, I am very polite, because what I am thinking is: “are you mad? what fairytale do you live in?” But of course me pointing out the obvious is so upsetting to these people. (3) We dealt with all these bureaucracies here, which of course exist in Holland as well, but the difference here is that they serve no purpose! The idea of a bureaucracy is that everyone is treated equal and that there is a system of efficiency so you know what to expect. How many times have I driven to some migration office because an official from a Ministry told me to go to that office and then that office says they are not the ones dealing with this. How many times did I drive to some office to get my car registration fixed and I come there and they just take down some information I could have given them over the phone. And the problem is that when you point this out, they get upset. It’s really not a mentality to improve things. So in that way, I guess I am direct and I do like that kind of directness and having things organised properly.
Confusing to see that the Dutch are considered direct. In terms of personal interaction the Dutch are rather INdirect. Personal values they don’t consider important and they all have that rational, simple, indifferent, UNexciting(sorry: normal) look in their face.
Just not impressed that often LOL
Consider this: Dutch directness also means that a *positive* remark coming from a Dutchman is probably genuine, and not just saying something they think you like to hear: if they say they like something, that is because they actually like it.
And for the record, being born and raised in the Netherlands (albeit now living in very indirect Switzerland), I cannot recall ever having heard that my haircut is ugly, and nor have I ever told anyone that :-). Things are a bit more nuanced in this discussion than they are portrayed by some posters above…
Well Wesley, maybe you have a great haircut !
Reading most of this discussion, everybody writing here is pretty direct 😉
@Moten “I was wandering was there a such thing as a black dutchman”
Look at the dutch national soccer team 😉
@Kate: O dear, don’t get efficiency into this too!
I’ve always got a hard time too when i want to say how smt could be done more efficient or in a better way, but on the other hand, doing this every 5 mins can become very annoying to 1 person…
try to choose your battles imo..
@Dave “Personal values they don’t consider important” Eh? Do explain..(please) 😛
I think the Dutch just think everybody has the right to think whatever they want aslong as it doesnt hurt other people. You can ofcourse get some response to “your” way of thinking, this does not mean they do not respect your values eventhough it can come across that way.
South African friends were so surprised about how a dutch couple (man/woman) can discuss a subject in a way criticising each other, but still being respectful and listening to each other and then sometimes one changes his/her mind. They were really surprised about how this was going on, haha 😉
leaves me to Wesley,
“Things are a bit more nuanced in this discussion than they are portrayed by some posters above…”
Agree with that 😉
Would like to add to that, for the non dutch people who might not have heard this before:
The dutch language vs the english language has little nuances itself.
Translated into english it just dissappears and the sentence then becomes way more direct.
Words like “even” (aka “effe” or “eventjes”) meaning “briefly” are mostly not interpreted as “briefly” (in a temporal meaning) but more in a way where it “softens” the sentence:
“Doe dit even” translates into
“Do this -briefly- ”
In english this isn’t really used, so then it becomes “do this” which is pretty “rude” 🙂
In Dutch the word does have a function, it makes the order/request less urgent, more “polite”.
Another thing the dutch use to say smt in a less rude way is the “tje” or “je” or “ie” form.
This is relevant for diminutives in modern Dutch, which are created by suffixation with “-tje”
Adding this to a noun makes it “little” or more “soft”, as you sometimes also do in english e.g.:
Girl – girly.
It results in an approx. nuance of the word either in the way of how “big” smt is, but it can also be used in a more relativating way saying smt is less “bad” eg “fout” meaning mistake” used in a “foutje” form means little mistake. Now with the mistake word you can translate it, but often, you cannot and those Dutch say tings so RUUUUUDE!! 😛
Hope it helps some “new” non dutchies by the way..
Wauw Irene, thank you. I tried to explain my non-Dutch partner (Aussie) about the words we use to soften en polite a request or opinion. He didn’t get it, for I was just not able to translate what I meant to say, because the literal translation made absolutely no sence. He’s been upset many times over the last 3 years for he finds me at times demanding, rude, inconsiderate and arrogant. I won’t blame this all on our language differences haha, but most of the times it truly is because I struggle to tell him what I really mean. Your comment has given me more understanding of what went wrong and I will show him this. Maybe he believes it when he sees it written by someone else, haha!
I agree with the common opinion that the Dutch are very frank, often blunt, in their remarks. However, I also agree with Irene who explains about untranslatable words and nuances in the Dutch sentences. Moreover, as I noticed regarding my kids, the Dutch don’t learn at school about this problem. They are not taught using ‘friendly’ sentence constructions with ‘might’, or that they should translate ‘even’ with ‘please’.
It’s pretty normal if you get annoyed by someone you say “houd je bek” (shut your mouth) or “opflikkeren/opkankeren” (let’s not translate that)
They will know you mean it and shut up.
Saying they have to be silent nicely will make them even talk more because they think your a pussy.
Being direct is perhaps typically Dutch, being rude is not. I’ve heard much better rudeness on British television than I have heard at the Albert Cuyp.
By the way, why do a lot of Dutch people think they are able to speak (and write in) English? We are all trying, it seems, yet most of us can’t grasp the subtleties of the English language. Or just translate our use of the Dutch language directly into English, which doesn’t work and which sounds – although unintended – blatantly rude.
Well, I think our directness is funded mostly on what I would translate as “an-eye-for-an-eye mentality”. Dutch people love to know what others think of them. When we find out someone has been lying to our face, we feel hurt. we feel like people are afraid to tell us the truth, or even worse, that we are not worth being told the truth. So because we want people to be direct with us, we do the same to others. When a Dutch person speaks bluntly, he is trying to give you a compliment. He is actually trying to say: I really don’t want to lie to you.
It’s weird. I’m from the Netherlands and have lived here my entire life and I’ve never ever witnessed any of this so called directness. I think it’s more a thing in the west side of our country. This is also the area where most telivision programms and papers etc. are ‘created’, our media centre. Dutch people who aren’t from that side of the country call people who are from that side arrogant and rude. This is also a reason why Amsterdam’s football club ajax is called arrogant by supporters of every other football club. Most tourists visit Amsterdam and think they have an idea of what the dutch people are like. I would recommend touring through our whole country. Yes it’s small, but I bet you’ve never in your life seen so many different people. Every province is different and even inside these provinces people are very different.
Noem je nou Amsterdammers arrogant?
Irene, values are not the same as way of thinking. You excellently stress for me what is so typical Dutch, because in your reply to me you use words as think/response to “your” way of thinking/discuss/criticising/listening, all very mental, rational things and what’s so typical in the Dutch outlook of life.
The Dutch come across as rude because they don’t incorporate their values in their lives and easily overlook them in other people (explains also the bad customer service), they’re only focused on rationalty, normalcy and to APPEAR to be ‘part of the crowd’.
I would explain Dutch directness to people not familiar with it as ‘direct communication’ or ‘mental directness’, Dutch directness is very much based on openness (not open-mindedness, that’s something quite different, Dutch have very fixed opinions), not having any secrets for one another. As individuals the Dutch are not direct and the culture doesn’t encourage it.
Like this comment!
“The Dutch come across as rude because they don’t incorporate their values in their lives” I have heard this before from foreigners, and I got the impression they thought the Dutch are rational and not spiritual/feeling/mystical/religious. And therefore they don’t ‘incorporate values in their lives’, right?
The way I see it, is that the ‘value in their lives’ for the Dutch is to be rational and normal. That is a true value, necessary to live by to be seen as a ‘good person’. For instance, if you would act ‘wrong’, by being full of yourself because of wealth, fame, education, luck, beauty, your family’s name etc. then that is considered to be a bad personality trait. And it is perfectly acceptable for someone else to point this out and say it out loud (or stare or sigh) to that someone who is not behaving ‘normal’ (…according to the Dutch rules). In the view of the Dutch person it is only right to look at things objectively instead of subjectively, to look at justice and not compassion as a guiding principle. Apparently, this way of thinking has a religious background, historically (Calvinism).
So I don’t agree they do not incorporate values in their lives, but they may be different values than what you are used to.
I’m white and not foreign so I’m well-known in the Dutch peculiarities..
You seem to confuse what are values(what makes someone/something more special/desirable) and norms(I give you a hint: necessary protocols). (I stopped reading when I saw Good/Wrong.)
do you really think like that about holland? :'(
we are not rude i think we are very friendly because when you wave at someone you don’t even know he waves back with a smile on his face 🙂
That sounds like infant behaviour. Wave and wave back, hahaha. That’s the dutch in their most hospitable way you can see them.
i am proud to live in holland
did you know the happiest children lives here?
Is that not because in NL the child is the boss of the family? My childhood would have been just as happy if I was allowed to get away with what some Dutch children do.
I’m from Amsterdam and I must say this is true. Honestly I didn’t really few our so called directness as directness, until I read this very well written article. In my opinion the Dutch have a very sober point of view on life, they don’t make things uglier or more beautiful than they really are. So what I’m trying to say is that if you ask us “What do you think about my new haircut?”, you’re actively asking us for our opinion, so our opinion you’ll get. If we answer with “It really looks good on you” and we mean it, obviously there is no problem. If we answer with “I don’t know, kind of makes your face look a bit fat”, there might be a feeling of offense for someone who’s not used to “the Dutch ways”, but clearly we do NOT mean it as offensive. I’m going to be very Dutch right now: if you don’t want to hear an honest opinion, don’t ask for it. And exactly, if you can’t beat us then join us and say “Well I like my new haircut :)” and the dutch person will most likely be like “Well if you’re happy with it that’s most important right? Want to grab a cup of coffee?”. And if you still find a statement rude, just say so like damn. Don’t be a wimp over it we won’t go crying in our bed for the rest of the night..
get a beer…now that is the best part 🙂 carry on
As an unusually direct Englishman who left the UK several years ago I have some thoughts on this…
Let’s not mix directness with rudeness or thoughtlessness – they are not the same. To me, rudeness means being inconsiderate of others. As with any nationality, you will find Dutch people who are rude. Equally, you will find people who clumsily express whatever comes to mind without thinking. If a stranger says to me loudly and publically “wow, your girlfriend is taller than you”, then they are simply a crashing bore who does not realise that pointing out what everyone can already see is not interesting. But such people exist everywhere in the world. If that thoughtless person happens to be Dutch, we shouldn’t take it as an example of Dutch directness.
British people often do get mixed up about these differences, and their culture calls for reserve as a way of indicating respect when dealing with strangers. One result is that they are generally incapable of expressing dissatisfaction in an effective way to the person who can do something about it, like in liam’s post about a group in a restaurant complaining to each other about the long waiting time but then telling the waiter with a friendly smile that everything’s fine. British friends I was with in the UK nearly died of embarrasment when I explained to a waitress that the food was unacceptably bad, we were leaving, and we didn’t expect to see the bill; and when I told a taxi driver that his car smelled like a toilet to the point that we nearly vomited, and he should clean it out. So those British friends laugh at me for being too direct because they see it as rudeness – but at the same time they are forced to agree with my argument that if you don’t point out what’s bad, it will never change, and that’s why you can experience such fawning but incompetent service in the UK. When British people do complain, it’s usually because they are uncontrollably angry. All social code goes out of the window as they blurt out their frustrations in a completely unproductive way, and usually to the wrong person.
We shouldn’t put all English-speaking places in the same box. The Australians I have met are much more straightforward and direct, but still good-humoured like the British. Falseness from Americans has nothing to do with cultural reserve – they are not reserved – but stems from their inclination to value appearance more than substance, and so give every interaction a sugar coating of apparent politeness,
I find directness – true directness – refreshing and valuable, and ultimately relaxing because you never have to work hard to figure out what the other person is really thinking. I live now in Austria, where people are definitely not direct, but can be extremely inconsiderate at the same time – another proof that directness and rudeness are not the same thing. Many Austrians I meet are visibly surprised by my directness. The first question most of them ask me is “Are you from the Netherlands?”!
(Dutch) Interesting ! (not the English meaning of the word)
Exactly! We learn that when an Englishman says that something is interesting, he means that it’s boring. How indirect…
Funny what you write about the British! As a Dutch person, I have had the same experiences. An example: one morning the bus driver who was always a bit later was extremely late. But the British people getting on the bus were the most polite they have EVER been! They normally say a brief ‘hi’ to the bus driver when they get on the bus, but that morning they said ‘goodmorning’ when they stepped in and they said ‘thank you’ when they stepped out! I was – very undutch of me – not very direct, as I did not complain to the busdriver (yes, I learned my lesson about picking my battles) but I definitely did not go out of my way to be nice to someone who does not do his job well. It gives me the feeling I am in some hidden camera show… Like, is this for real?!
Direct, rude, insulting or making a joke ? Sometimes difficult to distinguish.
And what’s up with referring to others as farmers, in a demeaning way ? I’ve heard several people explain someone’s personality “jokingly” as a farmer. Poor white trash (american expression) is much nastier and offensive, both seem to be coming from a superior attitude.
I couldn’t read all the comments so apologies if it was already answered. I am an international student here and I observed that whenever I am direct to Dutch people they just get offended, defensive and childish. So, I guess, Dutch people can be direct but the rest of the world cannot be direct to Dutch people? 😀
Yes, you’re right. That was my experience with almost everyone except those who make an effort to expand their horizons. Dutch directness is only one way, and that is especially true if you’re not white.
They didn’t want to admit that their English wasn’t good enough to understant you
In fairness to my Dutch boyfriend, he initially assumes the position as someone who is not much of a good conversant in English. At the same time, he also had anecdotes about himself chosen by his colleagues to talk to foreign clients when English is the mode of language used. However much times there would be when he could not get the exact Dutch translation of my English word( I have been annoying him to suspend his loyalty to Euroglot and start using Merriam Webster instead 😀 ), I must say he speaks English quite well. And is it true that the Dutch love to display their command of the ENglish language?
Part of our reputation for the rude/direct/blunt statements of the dutch (btw : I am a Dutchie) can be explained by grammar.
Almost all international conversations go in English, and English is remarkably broad languish. Almost every sentence you want to make has several options… you can say the same thing with different words or sentence structures, and each one has a slightly different meaning.
And when you word-for-word translate almost any dutch statement, you get the most direct/rude English statement or sentence.
Plus, we have a cultural tradition to “cut the crap” and get straight to the point. You can see this in even the smallest things: just check what the proper office etiquette is for asking your colleague if he/she wants a cup of coffee…. In England you would have to ask ” would you like a cup of coffee, Hank ?” , where in Holland you just holler “Coffee????”
Other then that we basically have the same kind of social and cultural rules on what is or isn’t rude or allowed. Just with a little bit more room for personal opinions and a little bit less room for window dressing, empty words, or bullshit.
So yes, compared to anything but barbarians we are amazingly respect less, but it is not an “anything goes” at all.
The dutch have a way to “cut the crap”, really? Which culture wants such extended conversations about the weather. Words are generally derived from the culture it is formed in, Communication has also to do with (the way of ) eye-contact, intonation and intention and the Dutch have a way of appearing very mechanical, non-personal, in my opinion.
Everyone in the Netherlands talks about the weather at length. This includes tourists, visitors, immigrants and whatnot. Its because the Dutch weather never seizes to amaze, most often by means of rain or by seasons not behaving as they should in some other way.
I can imagine that as a foreigner you are not really used to this and can not accept it as ‘idle conversation’ quite so easily. (In italy they use food/cooking for the same purpose). Well, you are in luck. As can be read elsewhere on this awesome blog, if the conversation annoys you just say so. The Dutch will appreciate you being upfront.
I got to charge my battery now, so I’m off. Bleep
“everyone talks about the weather”, that’s basically the normalcy ‘fit in’ code. I’m not sure if that’s true for tourist/immigrants and i’m amazed that you think the weather is very impressive here, in comparison to the rest of the world. Whether I enjoy to talk about the weather or not isn’t important. Point is: the dutch enjoy casual, idle conversation about nothing just for the purpose of being in conversation, dutch are just a gossiping, non-committal, normalcy-focussed bunch who just ‘cut the crap’ through manners.
I live here quite long and i always have to keep in mind if i date other non-dutch women from the western world, i need to rub off that boorish, non-personal code of interacting again.
You really need hagelslag
I don’t need a Dutch discussion:-#
Dutch bluntness stems in part from their quite limited and undeveloped language which is often seen as baby talk by outsiders. Also the whole premiss that they are upfront and speak their mind is a load of old rot. Many Dutch will often stew for an age over problems and issues in private and when they do eventually pipe up it is often too late.
Oh come on, that’s not fair…. I think Dutch sounds really cute. I am trying to learn it. I must say, as an English woman who is planning on moving to the NL for a year, I am having some problem reconciling the comments on here, with the Dutch people I have met (hundreds and hundreds… I worked in tourism.) I accept that they say they like being rude, and everyone seems to agree this is a problem, but they were my favourite tourists – I never met one I didn’t like. (I used to think, the way to tell a Dutch from a German is… the Dutch person will be smiling.) So, are they just really two faced; lovely overseas, and bad- mannered pigs at home?
If you are the same Mandy as the one responding to nuanced critical notes of an Italian guy called Rugello, in February 2013, with the crudest racist stereotyping I have seen in a very long time, please do me favour and stay in the UK.
You probably vote BNP, I take it…?
Hahaha Nic, you are kidding right? So the fact that we are blunt is because we don’t have the right vocabulary in our language to beat around the bush? You speak the language I hope? Otherwise your very, excuse the bluntness, stupid comment might be deemed groundless instead of just stupid.
I live in California and I really miss a good debate about politics and religion. Nothing better than to discuss some left liberal issues and right wing conservative opinions. But hardly anyone even knows the art of a decent conversation or debate here. And OMG when you ask some direct questions like, hey did you just get a new license plate on your car? It is immediately translated into being too nosy, Especially with the African American population. You can’t say or ask anything or they are suspicious about your motives to ask or more accurate that you might use the answer against them. And this is even the case with close friends or lovers. Very tiring and I still am not used to it after 25 years.! I also repeatedly get under fire in the work place for being direct or taking practical initiative. As in something needs to get fixed and I just do it. Southern Californians are kinda like Chinese folks in American disguise. Wat een gezeik…….
I do love people being direct and honest with me (as I am with them) but I agree; Some people have gotten rid of the fine line between direct/honest and just plane blunt.
It is an art by itself: Being honest and direct, yet not step on anyones toes.
High regards of yet another dutch reader 🙂
Hi: I’m a Canadian with a Dutch friend. My friend lives near, and was born-and-raised near the Hague. Every year my friend comes to my neck of the woods for a few weeks. We’ve gotten along just fine for a couple of years now. They’ve been doing this for about three years. My friend has many other American friends, I’m the only Canadian. My friend speaks native-like North American English, and up until a few weeks ago rarely behaved or spoke like the examples posted here – if you didn’t know you’d think my friend was a local!
Recently my friend started speaking and acting just like the examples of ‘Dutch Directness’ posted here. I figured this gradually emerging rudeness was just general moodiness related to some difficult circumstances my friend has been struggling with. As so, I’ve ignored most of it and tried not to take it personally.
Unfortunately we’ve had two major disagreements in the past few weeks – each precipitated by the moodiness/rudeness. When I responded like a stereotypical Canadian/American, a little upset at first, asking why the rude reaction, offering an apology if I did anything to contribute to the rude words and reaction, and seeking reassurance we’re still friends, my friend was increasingly rude in response, even accusing me of “playing the victim” to force an apology – not the case at all. Before this, whatever minor normal differences of opinion we’ve had, we’ve both handled like Canadians – no accusing or angry words, definitely no insults, sincerely showing concern for the other’s feelings and apologizing if necessary – nothing out of the ordinary. So the recent out-of-the blue angry, insulting, accusatory rudeness really threw me, and hurt – bad! I tried to to get my friend to talk about it, but was flatly ignored. That hurt even worse! I was absolutely baffled until I found this website yesterday.
My friend’s attitude and words are spot on with what folks have posted here about ‘Dutch Directness.’ My friend is the only Dutch person I’ve ever met. I’ve never been to the Netherlands, speak no Nederlands, and know even less about Dutch interpersonal communication. My friend, on the other hand, sure seemed to know at ton about mine and what’s considered rude, or not, to Canadians.
I guess if folks would be so kind, please offer any insights, observations or advice about how I can better communicate with my Dutch friend, and for the following questions:
1. How do Dutch people apologize to each other?
2. Do they see apologies as a sign of weakness?
3. Is my friend’s rudeness a sign they consider me a close enough friend to treat me like
4. Is my friend’s recent switch to Dutch Directness the Dutch way of splitting up?
Btw – this is a strictly platonic friendship
if i need to apologize i just say sorry and try to explain why it happend, but i think it’s different for each person. Among my friends i’m able to say everything i want, but i guess it’s just because we are good friends and we know each other for over 20 years. With people i don’t know very well i’m not saying anything i want….there is a change they understand it wrong….
if he don’t want to see you anymore i think it’s easier to just say so then pushing you away by being rude and let you make the decision to end the friendship
Sorry your relationship turned sour.
First of all, you mention that there were some insults? If you refer to your friend’s statement that you are “playing the victim” then I would not consider that as an insult. This probably sounds pretty stupid to you, but the goal could be to get you to ‘stand with both feet on the ground’. In other words: as a true friend you are not only considered to be happy, friendly, gezellig together. That would be easy and rather fake-ish. No, you’re also supposed to be able to tell what’s on your mind and ‘tell it like it is’ basically so you can go and do something with the advice. Or not. But then you can just say that it doesn’t apply to you (if that is what you really think).
Regarding your questions: 1. just say what you really think; say that you have thought about the friend’s words and think it is or is not true and why (without whining) and then your friend can do the same. You both think it over and the person who’s wrong can appologize or you agree to disagree. But do not appologize if you don’t think you did something wrong (because that’s dishonest) and don’t expect your friend to appologize for making you feel bad if your friend thinks he is right himself; 2. if you do all of 1 then an appology is not a weakness; 3. depends, maybe your friend really was upset; 4. I don’t think so.
I’m a Dutch girl who has been living in the UK for the past year for college. Here I have noticed that my Dutch directness is largely unapperciated? Personally I don’t see the point in suger coating this. Gewoon zeggen hoe het is vind ik!
So, would you like it or appreciate it, if everywhere you went, people told you “Wow, you are ugly!” or “You have an arse the size of Spain!” or “You are the most boring person I have ever met!” or “Did something die in your mouth or have you lost your toothbrush?” or “What a f**king stupid accent you’ve got!” The fact is, there is no need to hear most people’s opinions. Nobody cares what you think – unless you are taking part in very important events.
Neh. You’re looking at it the wrong way now. Dutch directness is not telling a fat assed person they’ve got a fat ass out of the blue without anything triggering such a remark.
The way you should consider dutch directness as opposed to britisch indirectness:
person a (with a huge bottom) asks “do you think my ass is fat?” :
dutchy will probably answer: “Sure is babe, you could afford to lose some weight”
britty will probably answer: “No its not! are you crazy? You are just a teeny weeny bit wide in the hips”.
But Tom – don’t you know that is the ultimate test of a man? If a woman asks him “does my bum look big in this?” the wise man says NO!
Ghehehe, Yeah Mandy. The things we man have to say to avoid being the victim of hormonal outbursts of rage and/or to get some action 😀 I wouldn’t call it wise by the way, i’d call it convienient (not sure if thats spelled okay).
Very interesting topic.
This can be either a good or bad things even for the Dutch.
I’ve heard complaints of Dutch people saying their rude. I guess people aren’t always in the mood to be criticized.
Although, this is awesome for discussions. I wish we, Brazilians, were a bit more open for discussions such as those you mentioned. I personally discuss them all the time, but they’re not always well received. Only if people I’m discussing with share the same or similar thoughts.
I think we’re more direct than our buddies North Americans.
Very helpful posts – thank you! To me, the problem is sarcasm. Most people I know reserve sarcastic jokes only for people they don’t like or disrespect, or people they are extremely close to they are sure won’t misinterpret it. To me, sarcastic “jokes” are really insults thinly disguised as harmless fun, meant to amuse the sarcasm-er at the expense of the sarcasm-ee, and can really hurt someone, whether the sarcasm-er intended it that way or not. How can the sarcasm-ee be sure which one it is? Is this person truly just joking, and means the opposite of the sarcastic remark, or does the receiver of the sarcasm annoy the crap out of them, and the sarcasm is really a disguised insult? I rarely encounter this much or this kind of sarcasm, so call me stupid but 99% of the time I can’t tell the diff.
I was dumped as a friend by my “friend” because I was deeply hurt/offended by the increasingly cutting and sarcastic “jokes.” I politely let this person know the sarcasm genuinely hurt and asked them why they were doing it, but that only increased it. They really seemed entertained that I was confused, offended and hurt. They were the polar opposite when we first became friends about two years ago. Still don’t understand why their attitude and words toward me changed so drastically recently. When I asked this, my “friend” told me I I should just :know” they were joking, and played the “now I’m the one who should feel offended” card! I finally became sarcastic back, thinking I should speak their language, only to have it thrown back in my face tripple, and condescendingly lectured about being “waaaaay too overly sensitive.” Enough is enough.
Still don’t know if this was a culture clash or major personality difference – doesn’t matter anymore. Very confusing, sad end to what I thought was a genuine friendship.
Canadian to the core in MN
…sorry for the little rant there (from Tibbysmom/Cannuck)…certainly don’t think badly off Dutch folks in general because of one bad experience. Dankjewel and Vaarwell
Haha I am Dutch and you pretty much got it right, obviously not every single dutch person is the same… But in general we speak our minds. Speaking for myself I love a good discussion and it annoys me sometimes in other countries that this is deemed rude. I personally always want to learn more and find it very interesting to have discussions about politics, religion and so on even more so if the other person has a different point of view, it makes for interesting conversation and you always learn more from seeing things from another persons (different) perspective.
I guess the downside with speaking your mind is that sometimes people might get offended if they are not used to it, but on the other hand you will know when a dutch person truly likes you whereas with Americans you never really know as they are ‘nice’ to everybody.
What nonsense. They pride themselves on being direct? Thats because they dont know the difference between being rude and being direct. They assume its the same thing. And you know what they say about assumption. As far as directness goes, its all fine as long as theyre the ones dishing out their values. most will not even admit when wrong. During conversations I often asking questions as I have a interest in learning about other cultures. However if you are from another country they have almost zero interest in knowing infact I find when ever I mention anything the normal response is always “i know” or they already knew it. As far as debate goes well I find every conversation is turned into an opportunity for debate. I thankfully no longer feel the need to add anything during conversations as most are set in their beliefs and opinions anyway. Im not saying I dislike them, my husband is dutch and im southafrican and its amazing that he thankfully is not like that. It might be due to the traveling we both did, so we have a broader concept about culture and differences. With that said I can say my experience with dutch people is that they are open to impose whatever they want on you but will not accept it in return. They say they are open to new things but I feel they still have a long way to go. As directness goes, why is it that most people know the difference between polite and rude. I know when im being polite and trust me I know when im crossing a line. We all guilty of it. But the dutch will never admit that, why would they, that would mean actually admitting to a fault on their part. And they to proud for that. I know not all dutch are like this but its just a cultural over view. I do believe in the old saying. When you have nothing nice to say. Shut the hell up. Direct ot not
So in summary: Dutch are rude, but also they are not rude.
Then there is a rant about the Dutch in general, which at least sounds rude, and not nice at all. So where is the ‘shut up’ in your old saying?
The point is that our reality is often not nice at all, and that it gives incentive to speaking your mind.
You are not very different from that, I can well understand you married a Dutch guy.
And in Holland everything is a fight, believe me, but it is swept under the carpet because we like to project ourselves as decent people of good standing.
In this country you need sharp verbal teeth, and even then you will get dirty coalitions against you that are formed behind your back. Because here people are very bad losers.
Issues, personal or not, can linger for decades this way and leave a trail of destruction and victims behind.
All swept under the carpet and simply denied by the one who holds the position of power. Things haven’t changed a bit since the old days of Rome…
I think a lot of Dutch people can’t distinguish being direct and being rude. That’s really a pity. But still, they can be really direct and/or rude in other countries as well. For example, I lived in Brazil and Brazilians tend to be nice in general, but they are always the first ones to point out the fact that you’re wearing old and ugly shoes or that you’re getting fat and/or bald etc. While I haven’t experienced that in the Netherlands for a long time. But yeah, I think Dutch people should improve on this aspect.
By the way, for all fellow Dutch people (I’m Dutch myself), you can be direct AND (at least a little bit) nice. Please, work on it!
Very interesting discussion and views, however, to equate cultural Dutch directness with rudeness “is een brug te ver” imho (by the way, i’m dutch, but i have the same opinion about any negative interpretation of cultural dictated treats)
First of all, did you ever hear of cultural dimensions? Google it, or start wikipedia:
When i lived and worked in Asia, i had several cross cultural trainings with my asian colleagues. It opened their eyes in the sense that they suddenly understood that the dutch were actually not rude or “crazy” (of course generally speaking). At the same time i understood and started to appreciate their view of the world and relationships.
I think that the main issue is, apart from not understanding how culture dictates behaviour, to seperate “nasty character treats” from general behavior. There are assholes in every country, but “honest, nobel” behavior can take many forms: easy going shallowness of americans (i loved this in the usa, i never felt alone while living and working there), directness of the dutch (after living in many countries, this is what really makes me feel at home, and of coarse kroketten, sinterklaas koninginendag en haring) indirectness of the asians (not always, mind you) etc. Once you understand it where it comes from, it is easy to adapt
I love this blog!
The Dutch consider things black and white, yes or no, if this then that. The Dutch find it hard to reason or compromise. I once stayed in a hotel on the Island of Texel; at dinner my wife asked the waitress for an ice cream instead of tiramisu. the answer was “Liever niet, ijs is voor het kinderen” – I’d rather not, ice cream is for the children!
The dutch have a great sense of self deprecating humour. I once met a family on a beach in Zeeland; the three boys were called Joop, Jeep and Jaap….
I’m Dutch and yes, we tend to be very open and direct, certainly compared to other nations. But there’s a BIG difference between being direct and being blunt to the point of hurting someone’s feelings, even for us Dutchies! I would NEVER just blurt out that I hated someone’s haircut, or dress, or whatever, for the sake of “openness”. However, if that person is a friend, and would ask my honest opinion, I would say that it wasn’t my style, or that I’d chosen a different colour, if I were her, etc. Obviously, that still is pretty direct. But we do recognize the difference between blunt and direct. At least among ourselves. To foreigners perhaps it’s ALL too blunt…
I do love this trait though, I’m very used to living in a society were down-to-earthness, self-mocking and honesty are the norm and I wouldn;t want to live in a place where people say one thing and mean another, or can’t have a laugh about themselves.
I don’t think the dutch look for honesty (they are not the ‘truth-seekers’ of the globe) as much as to promote transparency and predictability between them.
Here’s a typical example, from Louis van Gaal, a former Dutch trainer of soccer club Ajax,during a press conference in response to a question from a journalist:
“Ben ik nu degene die zo slim is, of ben jij nou zo dom?”
( Am I the one that is so smart, or are you just plain stupid? )
Your blog is everything I have come to realize in the last few years of my life and more. I am from an island in the Dutch Caribbean and since I came back 3 years ago from going to college in America I made a few Dutch friends and now I have come to realize all these things which I never knew before. Although I am of Dutch nationality I never had a clue what it was like to be Dutch because I’m not, I’m from an island in the Caribbean and so is my whole family. By any chance do you have any postings on the Dutch views of their standard of education vs. the rest of the world?That’s always a hot topic.
Ah yes. I have been to curacao many years ago. It was a complete culture shock to me to realize how much more polite and well mannered the people I met there were.
Example: Driving the wrong way into a one way street (on purpose, didn’t want to bother finding another route) a (10-12ish.) boy ran up to me, his face slightly paniccy, waving his arms to get my attention told me “sir, excuse me sir, but no one is allowed to drive into this street from this end”. The expression on his face, and his tone of voice both indicated he genuinly felt he’d saved me from doing something horrible.
Another example: Somewhere in Willemstad the driver of the car in front of me saw a friend walking on the kerb. So he stopped, turned his hazzard lights on and walked out of the car to greet him thus blocking the road for everyone else. Being dutch I don’t have time for this, pissed me off, so I manouvred my rentamotorcycle onto the other kerb, and revved right passed it.
However! At the end of the kerb was a crossing and a car drove up to pass it. The (female) driver saw me racing up towards her. I could brake in time, so I did -after all she had the right of way- But she looked at me (pissed off face), came to a stop and gestured me to please pass in front of her. The look was something like,… no no no, you must be in a real hurry.. please drive through (slightly worried face).
And then there was this open air concert. Families gathered around the stage. It became a bit crowdy and I watched in awe how instead of people just pushing eachother to the side a bit (“voorkruipen”) to get a better view, they would just enlarge the half circle in which they were all standing so everybody had a good view.
And, If that wasn’t enough.. A small child couldn’t see anything. Some larger guys sitting in front of her. Instead of whining about it to her parents or trying to push herself forward (like you’d expect anywhere else in the world) she just started sobbing without making a sound. When I pointed this out to those guys, they seemed embarresed they’d done “such a terrible thing as not checking if theyre not spoiling someone elses view” and asked the kids parents if it was okay for them to ask the kid to could sit with them.
I could go on a whole much longer here, and this was only a 2 week experience. I really admire how the people overthere live together.(or at least back in the late 80s, dont know if its all changed by now) That said, I don’t think the dutch are the only people who’d not fit in well over there.
In response to someone here who had posted (paraphrasing!) “I’m proud of my directness. As we would say in Holland, it’s your problem….”, I would have to say that it also becomes YOURS as well:-) Noone acts in isolation, be they Dutch, French, Japanese, whoever; sticks and stones may not break your bones, but names, i.e. sharp and unsolicited commentary, can indeed hurt, wound and damage already delicate human relations. Not everyone reacts with the same thick skin to a withering blast of acid sarcasm etc.
Having spent some time in the Netherlands, I myself wasn’t as much put off by “typical Dutch directness” as I was gently amused by it at times. Knowing about the Dutch past, it’s staunch Calvinism and the internalization of emotion up through the ‘verzuiling’ from the late 60’s on up, has come to shape the Netherlandish character a fair bit, I should think.
Be interested in any comments from all you Dutchies out there (…as direct or indirect as you choose to beLOL)
This is so informative and explains so much in my own life. My husband and I are both born and generational Americans. It seems so much has been passed down and even though we’ve never been to Europe, it seems obvious after reading this that his upbringing was much more English and mine much more Dutch. He thinks I’m angry when I’m just in an interesting conversation with someone and he tries to end it, like he’s breaking up a fight when we’re having such fun. I’ll ask if he want’s me to bring him a glass of water and he responds, “if you want to”. I think, “no, I don’t want to, but I will if it makes you happy”, so I’ll ask again, “Well, do you want a glass or not?” and he’ll reply, “if you want to bring me one”-LOL. Why can’t he just say, “Yes, thank you”? Sometimes, I feel shhshh’d while in conversation with his family and I have no idea why. Now, I realize there are some topics that are too deep for social gatherings in his circle but in mine would be considered fun and amusing to discuss. We both worked at the same place one time and he couldn’t believe how I talked to our boss and I didn’t understand what he meant because it was all pleasant and he said I talked to him just like he was one of us-LOL. Although, if I’m unhappy with my service at a restaurant, I’m much more likely to grin and bear it than he is (I’m descended from England, as well), but neither of us is shy about asking for what we need help with in a store. Watered down, but it seems we still have some ingrained cultural attributes. Now I understand why we are the way we are.
That is definitely not something Dutch but more the way your husband was raised, I was always told from a young age like many other dutch to thank people for basically anything they do for me and thats what I still do.
I have a little question, it might be a little out of the road but I’m not quite sure where to find an answer… is saying “I love you” a big deal for dutch people? I met a really nice guy and he told me he loves me but we where together only for 3 days. We’re still in touch, and, even though we live miles apart, he still says he does.
Well, now I feel stupid about asking…
“I love you.” actually means something in Dutch, unlike here in the States. In America, “I love you.” is often just another overused phrase, more akin to “free love and good bye”! In Dutch, “Ik heb je lief.” is a lifelong commitment. The Dutch translation closest to the English “I love you.” would probably be “Ik houd (echt) van je.”
I have a little question, it might be a little out of the road but I’m not quite sure were to find an answer… is saying “I love you” a big deal for dutch people, like the american way?
I’m dutch and for as far as i know saying “I love you (Ik houd van jou)” is something you only say to people you are really close with. Your partner for example or your mother but by now means do you say that to someone you just met or hardly know.
“I love you” is something i only say to my mum or my girlfriend. but its not something you say everyday cause its quite serious when you say it like that.
If i may ask, in what situation do you want to use the phrase “i love you” ? and to whom
Hi Tristan! I’m sorry I saw this too late!
It wasn’t me.
I met a guy in a little trip, we were together for a week, and we continued talking. Out of nowhere he started telling me he loved me, it was very soon so I thought it might be something of their culture, but now I guess not.
That was almost 3 months ago and he is still as sweet as the first day, and well… he’s comming next summer, so I think that’s nice.
So pleased my post was instructive, or at least shed some light, at any rate:-) The hardest thing about moving to a foreign country is ALWAYS the culture, as it clearly goes far deeper than (indeed informs!!) the very roots of daily language. Every time a Dutchman, German, American, Brit, Pole etc. opens their mouth to say something, they reveal everything of their cultural underpinning. Remember, it’s never the case that people in other countries merely say things differently; they say, because they THINK, different things. It’s not about “Oh, I’m going to Holland tomorrow! Gee, how d’you say ‘Thank G_d it’s Friday!’ in Dutch?” or similar nonsense. Such a question about any foreign language will yield little more than confusion and sow distrust between yourself and your foreign-bred interlocutor, take it from me on this one. it cuts both ways. A Dutchman coming to the US will be faced with similar issues. The latter may pride themselves on believing themselves “bilingual” (which they probably aren’tLOL), surely they aren’t bicultural, no matter how well they presume to speak English.
Phrases like “I love you” actually mean something in other countries! Americans particularly tend to bandy about casually expression such as “You’re the best!”, “Love ya, baby!”….. which they obviously don’t and can’t always mean. The Dutch take such talk far more literally, and hence are annoyed as well as confused when the partner fails to make good on their promise. “Ik heb je lief.” means a sense of commitment. American-style “I love you!” is probably best translated by simply “Ik houd van je.”, “Ik vind je een toffe meid!” (I think you’re a cool girl!) or something similar
Am only curious as to whether Della or conocemiciudad had a chance to read my reply post from yesterday before it was accidentally deleted:-)
Conocemiciudad, in Dutch (as per my previous response!) “I love you.” means something much deeper than it does in English. “Ik heb je lief.” equals loyal commitment, not merely free love and good bye:-)
American-style “I love you.” in Dutch might be rendered as “Ik houd echt van je.”
Feel free to give us any feedback ^^
In Dutch, the phrase “I love you.” means something, unlike here in the States, where it’s often just another phrase. “Ik heb je lief.” is a commitment, not simply free love and good bye. The closest Dutch phrase for the American-style “I love you.” would be “Ik houd (echt) van je.”
Sven’s “are you stupid” is no longer found through this YouTube link ….
Reading this article, and the comments below, just made my day. Hilarious stuff, so much of this is spot on! 🙂
In my experience the Dutch are indeed direct, and can be brutally honest, almost to a fault. A great example of this was on a birthday party for my girlfriend here. She had received a present from her mum, and of course, could not resist giving her all too candid opinion about her gift. It was nice, BUT it would be better if it was like this, this and that. (I just sighed, and thought to myself; here we go….) Of course this couldn’t end very well, and her mum got very upset that her daughter did not appreciate her gift. I have countless of examples like this, where the Dutch just HAVE to give that opinion, although it is oh-so unnecessary. There is a time and place for everything, and even more; it’s not so much what you say, it is HOW you say it. Neither of this the Dutch seem to comprehend very well.
Also, how the Dutch seem to be constantly commenting and critiquing on other people’s looks and behavior is rather tiring. It’s like this constant noise that adds nothing positive to the day. I never understood the need to always comment like this, especially if it’s negative. To me, THAT is weakness, or even sign of insecurity and jealousy. For a country that in large prides itself on being tolerant, your behavior are often a total contradiction to this.
And like others have commented here above, it’s not like the Dutch don’t gossip or talk behind people’s backs, because they do. At work during lunch, if a member of the team is away, they Dutch somehow always take the opportunity to give their opinions about that colleague. On more than one occasion, colleagues that are non-dutch have actually interfered and tried to explain that these types of talks are not acceptable, yet the chatter will continue, this time in Dutch so that the expat colleagues will not understand. If that isn’t rude, then i don’t know what is.
Still, it’s a lovely country to live in, and the Dutch overall are of course GREAT and a fun people to be around 🙂 It wouldn’t hurt though to treat each other with a bit more respect, and think twice about before blurting out every thought that comes through your head. 😉
Halcyon, the reason for “Dutch directness” is their utterly misguided notion (not a monopoly of the Dutch alone, by the way!) that equality among people/fellow citizens etc. automatically presumes ALL people have THE SAME degree of skin thickness! Some don’t and hence many Dutch, in this case, view the rest of their fellow creatures with an obtuse myopia which doesn’t allow for the degree of difference afforded one’s fellow Yanks, for instance:-)
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”, Alas, soooooo true, yet soooo difficult for some people to comprehend, imprisonsed, as perhaps are we all, by the belief system into which one is born:-)
I think you’ve never seen the television program “sweet sixteen” from the US or UK…
I also know not all English are football fans and go out in t-shirts by -4 degreeze and drunk girls are fighting and puking at the streets and left their manners at home when on holiday wich they actually always do in the weekends.
Yes this is the directness… but totally true. Sorry… 🙂
But I love the English breakfast…. wich is seen also as a bad culinary experience, maybe that’s what we have in common. After all we are neighbors 😉
we are direct yes.
But what don’t like is that some foreign people (expats) complain about this, if you don’t like it.. there is an option to leave the country.
I have lived together with an English bird;-) and had several discussion about this topic.
Lot of expats (especially the English) tend to think to have the monopoly on how behaviors should be. No not only is this very intensively dumb, but also arrogant, non-intelligent and somehow its insulting the Dutch intelligence to even try degrading others to “your” standards. Now keep it to the dutch.. its quit hard to insult the Dutch right, guess what we think if you “act” in such way? Yes indeed we have friendly smile don’t we?:)
Try the opposite; speak negative about England and guess what happens then.
Dutch tend to respect others in what they are and believe. We have an opinion yes, but changing people to “our” standards outside Holland… A good example is that Japan ONLY wanted to trade with Holland for 300 years in a row and didn’t want to trade with any other country.
In contrast to for instance Americans, Germans and Dutch, British people have a indirect communication style. They will not usually “tell you just the way it is to get things in the open.” Its fine for little girls at the age of 4 to be shy, but as an adult…now common you island poopers, you can do better then that;-)
Check, another “if you don’t like it, then leave” comment 🙂
Yes, that is something you would never ever hear from any other nationality. Not.
I’m laughing at this because my Gramma Bylsma was so like this! She made you feel two inches tall!
I love this forum! I experience the same issues here in Canada between English and French, customer service Quebec vs English Canada. I thought Southern Germany (Bavaria) was rough on the “rudeness-directness” scale. Perhaps we should design a politeness, directness/rudeness scale or model with British at the “polite” end and the Dutch on “rudeness/directness end”. ( I am of French Canadian background born in English Canada to Québécois parents.)
I’ve lived in Amsterdam 3 years, and haven’t had any problem with the “Dutch directness”. I’m a fairly direct person myself and can’t recall any incidents when I’ve felt offended or even surprised by a “direct comment” from a Dutchie. The trickiest part for me is the lack of consideration in shops/on the tram etc (only in Amsterdam). There is a more selfish mentality and people arent very courteous (eg. will push out of your way, no apologies etc.). Of course I’m generalising, there are many nice/helpful locals too, but in general this is my experience compared to other places I’ve lived.
There aren’t living many Dutch (Amsterdammers) in Amsterdam anymore 😉 I am from Rotterdam and wanted to ask people the route to a certain street, 8 out of 10 didn’t knew, and i had to speak English. All tourists… people from abroad… ( I work in Amsterdam for the past 7 years ) The most people who are born in Amsterdam live in cities around the capital. (Zaandam, Haarlem, Lelystad, Purmerend, etc) And I should point you to the fact that there are differences in culture in each city (province) in The Netherlands. Can you imagine how big the difference is if we talk about countries?
Once again, equality of directness doesn’t necessarily mean the (non-Dutch) receiver of same will willingly receive said message as the (Dutch) sender means for it to be taken! The Netherlands is a small country. Like many a small country, the smaller the land, regrettably too, the smaller the mind:-)
Your comment just showed us all how “small minded” you are and i truly think you need to they a look in the mirror because in this case its not the dutch being “rude” its you!
The Netherlands is, always has been and hopefully always will be, one of the most openminded countries in the world. We accept differences and we are willing to see things from several points of view. The fact that we are “rude” (Meaning we actually do talk about things out in the open, to someones face) actually helps us with that. The only way one can ever really open their mind is if one lets other points of view in. That is what the Dutch directness does. I’m not saying we always end up agreeing, but we do always hear eachother out. If you think that is small mindedness, well that’s your loss.
I think it is very stereotypical to say that we say things rude, we may say things direct but we aren’t stupid enough to hurt someone unnecessarily and if we did you only have to let them know and they try to make up for it. besides most times if someone is unnecessarily rude they are similar to rednecks and we call them boeren “farmers” or campertjes “people who don’t own a house cuz they are thugs/punk/stupid.
Well, I am dutch mysefl and I really don’t think its just bad manners or a lack of sophistication. Dutch people always talk englih when speaking with a foreigner, how about that, there are different countries (France). I dont have a really clear opinion on this because on the one hand I i can undersand American/british are right when talking of their perspective, but calling them rude is one way to far. I really think Dutch are blunt in cluding myself, we dont want to hurt anyone, but are just direct and honest in our own way. Also not all dutch are honest, I can assure you, thats also a misconception. Its also very efficient to say what you think not only emotionally but also because of clearity and to get things done. This mentality of getting things done is typically dutch. Also Dutch forem.chats is way different from english/american ones for example cursing is normal on a Dutch chatbox. Freedom of opion/saying what you thing vs respecting other persons feelings/commons sense it will stay a dilemma also after these posts.
Tom and Steve,
Speaking English with Dutch-speaking foreigners who’ve actually taken the time to learn your language (a heck of a lot more than you’ve ever spent really trying to learn ours!!) is a tactical error. For instance, in both your posts, I’ve noticed several striking infractions against English grammar, showing both supreme ignorance, indifference as well as the usual lack of respect in the treatment normally accorded a “world” or even “passport” language. If I used my passport every day, I’d at the very least attempt to keep it looking in mint condition, not all mutilated and dog-eared:-)
So much for my first point. My second point is that what you people see as “clarity” and “getting things done” is part of the problem! What pray tell needs to get done that a little restraint and judgement before letting loose on someone couldn’t solve just as easily?
It’s a cultural difference I suppose. Germans and Israelis are often the same: argumentative, arrogant and opiniated. I do however speak Dutch as well as German fluently, so at the outset anyway, I can fight back (with words, that is)
Finally, you just might mouth off to the wrong non-Dutchie one of these days and quite frankly, wish you hadn’t.
Zo dus jij kan Nederlands spreken? Ik kan zowel Engels, Nederlands, Duits, Frans en Spaans.
Allemaal (behalve Spaans) zijn verplichte vakken op Nederlandse scholen. En ze gaan Chinees erbij toevoegen. Het grappige is dat wij in het buitenland wel als aardig en vriendelijk worden gezien maar als buitenlanders hier in Nederland komen wonen niet. Zou dat kunnen komen omdat jullie de taal niet spreken? Overigens wil ik er even bij vermelden dat ik Duitsers als vriendelijkste mensen binnen Europa ervaar 😉 Terwijl Engelsen in hun taal zich vriendelijk voordoen maar in doen en laten ronduit asociaal zijn.
De Engelsen zoals die Amerikaansen kunnen zich toch wel veel vriendelijker voordoen dan de Duitsen of de Nederlandsen van wegen hun taalgebruik, in het bijzonder de duitse taal! Deze twee folken geloven iemand NIET, die zich steeds beleefd voordoet:-) Ze denken zich, “Wat wil hij/zij van mij? Waarom praten ze niet rechtdoorzee?”
Misschien laten de Engelsen ronduit asociaal zijn, maar niet in allen gevallen! Ik spreek hier alleen uit mijne ervaringen.
Die Deutschen bringen die Sache auch schon schnell auf den Punkt, koennen in ihrer verheerenden Kritik ebenfalls brutal wirken!
EDG, misschien vind je de Duitsers de vriendelijkste mensen binnen Europa, omdat hun vriendelijkheid echt is!
@Marek You do realize that you just showed us your dutch is as good as a 6 year old’s. So by no means do you speak dutch “fluently”
You either used a very bad translation program or you have a huge stick up your ass thinking you are far superior than others. Let me break it to you, you are not superior because you talk “posh” english
Many thanks, Tristan! Somehow, methinks your post would sound “better” in its original language:-0
I might add too that it’s not wise to underestimate the language abilities of the average 6-year old; some of them would surprise even youLOL
And while we’re on the subject, what translation program did/do YOU use, old chum? First off,
“Dutch” is normally initial caps. That’s for starters. Secondly, what’s “posh English”? Finally, from
where do you glean from my message(s) that I fancy myself “superior” to anyone??
Guess I must have missed something. Or maybe your English is better than mine and I need to re-learn how to read ^^ Shall I therefore presume I’m getting a taste of my own medicine, so to speak, and that the present post’s an arch example of Dutch Directness?? Serves me right then, I suppose.
Trouwens kan men even fouten maken, toch ook vloeiend spreken/schrijven. B.v. spellingfouten zijn niet zo erg als grammatische fouten! Het is ook niet makkelijk voor Nederlanders altijd het juiste word te kiezen:-)
@Marek: Well, it’s a good try anyway. Keep up the good work! I guess people in the Netherlands, such as Tristan, would say you fancy yourself superior if you say you are fluent and you then turn out not to be.
But there’s different standards there, too, governed by cultural backgrounds. For instance, I know that when my Irish friends say that they speak French, it means they speak French like I spoke it when I was 12. When my Dutch friends say they do not speak French very well, you know that they could probably work with the French language on a daily basis. But – according to Dutch standards – you cannot say you know a language if you are not nearly perfect in speaking, writing AND listening. So then you just make your abilities seem smaller. Modesty or fake-modesty, whatever you want to call it.
Communicating on a daily basis in a different language is enough to get respect fron the local people, secondly it makes live so much easier when you are on holiday for instance that you can communicate with maybe interesting people, which you wouldn’t have talked to when you didn’t spoke theire language.
At least I know I’m not the only one with this trait.
I am dutch and learned the hard way (moving from a town to Amsterdam) that the bluntness and directness is not to confused with honesty of openness. If they offend you, that does not always mean you now what they’re actually thinking or where you stand. It is just rudeness for the fun or sake of it. Sometimes the ‘offenders’ are ignorant, and sometimes it is a power-thing, dominance.
We have this wonderful word in German “burschikos” and it means rather bumptious, innocently tactless, guilessly direct, but certainly NOT intentionally hurtful, merely perhaps inappropriately “familiar” for Anglo-Saxon tastes:-)
Is there a Dutch equivalent?
@Marek, yes there are words for that:
ondoordacht = not well thought trough
plaat voor je kop = plate in front of your mug/head, means stupid ignorance.
een flapuit = a ‘fluff out’, a person who speaks freely without thinking
loslippig = ‘with lose lips’, speaking without deliberation, not discrete
zelfingenomen, geoccupeerd = self centred / occupied with oneself, on purpose or just not interested in the other. Sometimes also: insensitive.
The Dutch are very power hungry indeed, and will leave no stone unturned just to get their way. Dirty games to play out situations and persons, just to come out on top.
This is our heritage of neoliberalism and Christian reformation.
It makes people ‘true’ representatives of the public moral, but always at someone else’s cost; image building for yourself by breaking the public image of someone else.
And presented in a way where the cover is the book itself.
But this is something for insiders, for the rest of you we have the image of being very tolerant…
Being direct and honest does not necessarily mean being rude. Dutch are direct and honest, but they are unable to be so in a kind or graceful manner. The problem lays, I think, in the fact that the Dutch tend to be extremely self-absorbed and that they do not consider the feelings or the needs of others; they basically do not acknowledge the existence of the other (Dutch people never looks at you; they rarely say ‘Hello’ when they enter a room; the do not say ‘Gezondheid’ when you sneeze; they do not let you sit down in the train, even if you are 9 months pregnant and with two toddlers attached) . I appreciate honesty and even candor and I apply it persistently. But even after 10 years living in the NL, I do not appreciate rudeness or lack of empathy. And it is appalling to see how Dutch people excuse rudeness with ‘being direct’. This makes life hard and sad in Holland.
This is on the whole plain short-sightedness, as I’ve reiterated. It’s not a Dutch trait alone per se, but is an arrested personality development nonetheless.
I agree with Heleen, I think part of it is ego driven.
I am an American living in the Netherlands and while I appreciate some elements of Dutch directness, I can often see, from the frequency of off-the-mark direct comments, that it’s someone speculating on things of which they know very little, or worse, burrowing into someone else’s affairs. Often these comments that are interpreted as ‘direct’ are just poorly-thought-out comments that slip right out of the mouth. This form of Dutch directness really annoys me. Sometimes it seems in social interactions that the party doing the speculation (the one being direct) is reacting almost as if completely socially programmed to do so. Probably all cultures have this sort of social programming but it’s most readily observed by outsiders. In my impression directness should always be tempered by listening twice as much as you talk. After all, you have 2 ears and 1 mouth. This goes for anyone.
I also find it culturally at odd with ‘polderen’ where in the end everyone makes a concession to have a shared plan. Perhaps the directness is just an upfront way to begin accepting compromise, especially in those with overwrought egos?
My other, more insidious, theory, is that the Dutch are impatient by nature – like many other Northern Europeans – and often try to gain small advantages in every ‘transaction’ in life. For example, boarding passengers who are blocking the train doors even though departing passengers have priority, or the little game of finding the shortest queue in the market. (Funnily enough, most Dutch will go for the shortest queue and not the fastest queue so they are easy to beat….). Again, I think this is a sort of social programming which all societies have but which are best seen by outsiders. In my humble impression the Dutch could benefit from a good dose of patience.
Also, the extent in which individualism is the norm here is a massive influence!
Who cares about other people if you’re raised to believe you’re the centre of the universe?
So, so true Tim!
Many Dutch are all too ego-driven and believe the best way around is ALWAYS through without allowing for the sometimes magical detour/solution of compromise:-) This willfulness fuels an unbridled tendency to run roughshod over anyone whom they deem isn’t quick enough. While many for example DO know English adequately enough, I suppose, their ego usually well exceeds their actual ability in the language. More frequently than not, they miss the music in the malarky and fail to grasp the English speaker’s irony until it’s too late:-)
Mind you, the Dutch don’t EVER tolerate it if you’re ‘direct’ about them!
I’m always fascinated by the amount of defensive comments on this blog. I’m South-African, and I’ve had so many ‘you know you’re South-African’ lists or ‘Only in Africa’ photos forwarded to me by South-African friends with South-Africans adding to them in the comments. We don’t need foreigners to make a blog called ‘Stuff South-Africans like’ because we’re already having a blast doing it ourselves. I’ve also had similar experiences with English and American friends, and even with Spanish people.
I’ve seriously clashed with Dutch when making a negative comment on something Dutch. Even without doing it all too ‘directly’, They’re seriously offended if I’d even hint that I don’t identify myself as Dutch. (In fact, I start avoiding them as soon as I cross the border, I’ve had too many bad experiences with Dutch society). Meanwhile, that same person feels entitled to completely bash my culture and country, CONVINCED that they know more about it than I do because they spent two weeks on ‘both sides’ of Cape Town…. They even pull the racist card on me. ‘But all white South-Africans are racist’. Trust me, they’re not interested in listening to anything I have to say, they don’t care that I’m not interested in their ignorance… And they are seriously offended if I get a bit angry about all this. (I’ve had several of these kind of ‘conversations’ with people who ask me to speak ‘Afrikaans’ and then are surprised if I actually speak Afrikaans and not Xhosa or something…).
I had read in the Undutchables book that you as a foreigner are not allowed to say anything negative about any aspect of anything Dutch. I wasn’t that keen on Dutch people writing off the UK as a ‘very backward country’ to my face while they didn’t even know basic facts about it, such as the rail tunnel which connects it to the rest of Europe. I was talking to two Dutch guys in central Amsterdam, didn’t know them at all, who said that the nick-name for the Dutch Prime Minister at the time Balkenende was ‘Harry Potter’. I repeated this silly remark to another Dutch man who I did know and whom I was a guest of. You should have seen the look of real anger and consternation that crossed his face as I though I really had an opinion about Dutch politics or as if he knew the PM. He could have laughed it off as a silly remark but for a moment I could see the arrogance, symptomatic of the mind-set that really exists in the NL. My long experience with the Dutch going back to the 90s now is that they are actually very hard to get to know, it’s actually pretty hard to be friends with any of them, there really is an absence of closeness which has made any kind of acquaintance not really worth all the effort in the end. There are a lot of nice aspects to living in the NL, some of them very healthy but I don’t want any of them as friends any more.
That’s roughly my experience as well!! Though I do have a few Dutch friends, but none of my friends fit the typical Dutch profile.
I actually had nightmares about marrying a Dutchman.
You ever stop and think that maybe not all Dutch people are like that? It’s a personality thing too. Some people, regardless of what nationality they have, are just a**holes.
It depends on the type of people you meet, what business you’re in and what social circles you are in. I’ll say that I personally prefer the directness of the Dutch to the sometimes slimy politeness of other Nationalities. Though I must admit it only really works well when people are inherently kind.
iv been here 23years in holland when i first got here i was stunned and frankly quite insulted i dont know if you ever really get used to it but more to tolerate it., but now when i go home to the UK i find i have to hold back a bit. Although there are some positives to this behaviour like at least you know directly where you stand. but there is a fine line from being direct and just plain rude its important to know just where that line is.
Thank you, Giles!
I wasn’t too struck either on the fact that not only did a number of Dutch even correct my (native, educated) ENGLISH, but point blank refused to as much as acknowledge some of my polite corrective re-cast of theirs:-) According to them, they had the right to criticize me, but not the other way round.
Looks like, as in the Emperor’s New Clothes, far too many Dutchmen have so accepted the myth of their wonderful foreign language skills, they can’t imagine themselves “naked”, i.e. “less than clothed” in perfectionLOL
Rather than being discouraged about either my Dutch or their usually faulty English, it only made me want to fight harder. So it seems, they didn’t succeed either way in what they set out to achieve ^^
The more of your comments I read the more I think your heart got broken by a Dutch person somehow. The Dutch really did a number on you, didn’t they? Poor guy.
I left a couple posts here earlier this year (May/June 2013) and didn’t plan on posting again. I had a bewildering, painful experience with a Dutchie very similar to many posted here. I think many folks, both Dutch and not, have identified the problem: very different interpersonal communication styles, and an appearance to non-Dutch folks (my Minnestan/Canadian self included) at least, of hypocritical hypocrisy – liking to dish out criticism but not take it.
I don’t feel so alone or bewildered after reading about other folks’ similar experiences…and that’s a bit of a comfort to me that the bad experience wasn’t somehow my fault…
But I still find it hard to believe that all Dutch folks are that indifferent or (to me) complety insensitive to other cultures’ communucation styles..but even if the gross generalizations are true, what is a workable solution?
Instead of Dutch bashing, complaining and rehashing the same problem, how can Dutchies and non-Dutchies alike learn to accept and even maybe appreciate each other?
Canadian to the core in Mn
I have an answer to the communication style problem that could possibly be considered. When people speak, they are trying to enact something. You could ask, “what are you trying to do by saying it that way?” and “what I hear you saying is, I’m _____. Is that what you meant to say?”
Well, you sound like a douche (first you bash dutch people then you say we should learn to accept each other), i doubt you have a lot of friends in other countries.
Most Dutch people don’t even stop to think about how direct we actually are, and when you feel insulted already it’s kind of hard to salvage the conversation from there.
Cannuck, I think that cross-cultural understanding of the sort you mention is indeed worthy of practice. The problem is that all too frequently the “other side” rarely sees benifit in learning from the more enlightened, space-giving Anglo-American approach.
The question remains therefore as to which “way” works the more effectively amongst EVERYBODY, not solely among Dutch people or those nationalities who share a similarly blunt and direct personality:-)
My favorite examples revolve around language. When first in the Netherlands, a Dutchman laughed at my Dutch and so (Amercan to the core!!!), I then proceeded to make fun of his English.
Things got rather unpleasant or ‘ongezellig’ from there.
People who are offended by Dutch directness (or rudeness as they would like to call it) (not in the last place a certian ‘Marek’ who got heavely traumatised according to his own saying by the laughing of someone on his dutch speech reading his silly comments) forget they are thinking out of their foreign perspective of ‘rudeness’. Well, take it as a shock or not, but ‘rudeness’ isnt a well defined thing. What for one person, nursed and raised in one culture, can be rude for another in another culture doenst have to be rude at all. Also they often speak out of a couple of ‘bad experiences’ they accidentely had (ofcourse mostly in the bigger urban areas as they are tourist of these) and generlize these to all the Netherlands altrough the Netherlands, as small as it is, has different provences and regions like the south, east and north tend to be way more ‘relaxed’ than the populated Randstad (west) with nearly 8 milion people living in a small area. But also remember al the good things of this ‘free liberal mind’ of saying what you think of the Dutch, rebelling against the spanish in the 16 th century resulting in the Dutch Golden Age and carrying across the ocean to New Amsterdam (which became later on New York) these same Dutch values of freedom like of religion which was later on included in the American constitution.
My wife and I have spent time in Colorado (I on vacation, she attended college in Boulder) and frankly your scenario is precisely the sort of ideal space-giving type of interaction which appears to fall on deaf Dutch ears:-) Certain cultures incorrectly interpret similar ministrations of “friendship” as signs of both hypocrisy, not to mention [HORRORS!!] weakness. Germans respond in an almost identical manner to attempts by outsiders, i.e. non-Germanic people, to diffuse their form of directness with your type of gentle second chance, followed by an ironic retort. Californians and Far Westerners are especially adept at this take-the-long-view approach.
I’m a translator/interpreter and frequently at meetings if one of the two European parties opts for English instead of, say, their native German, often I have to re-“translate” their Europlish into culturally contextualized American English for the US-born interlocutor to fully internalize, then to comprehend.
I would really love to be a fly on the wall for that kind of translation. You probably saved a lot of bacon.
So many people in the world are weak cowards who talk nice in your face and dirty behind your back (cough germans cough) so if there is one thing i can respect from the dutch it is there directness.
to me it’s not about directness…it’s just extremely rude….
I am fully Friesen, but grew up in America. Had a lot of Friesen relatives around me. While use to their directness, nothing prepared me for the “cruelness” that was called honesty, or directness, or whatever. Unkindness is never necessary. You can be direct and get your point apart without being cruel.
My Dutch relatives were also from there and they were cruel–not helpful. Anything you did got a short, negative comment.
Comment should have read ” ….whatever, during my visits to the Holland.
The fact that I’m American, a Manhattanite of “Lower East Side” pedigree (he-he!), ,my Dutch knowledged notwithstanding prepared oh’ so well for a recent encounter with some Dutchies here in good ‘ol Nieuwe Amsterdam. My also American, but non-Dutch speaking, wife and I were seated in a lovely cafe a few blocks from our apartment. I heard some youngish folks, twenties or so, speaking Dutch, and so my wife and I seated ourselves at the next available table which just happened to be behind theirs. They didn’t see me overhearing their animated conversation, but at one point during dinner, the woman in front of us asked us if she could get through. Seizing the opportunity, I chimed in with an “Maar graag, alst u blieft!” The woman gave us both a rather puzzled stare, saying nothing and then proceeding through. When she returned, my wife, forever the chatty, friendly Yank, continued in English with a “Sorry to interrupt. I presume you all speak English. I’ve always wanted to know about Amsterdam..My husband here has been there…” at which point the woman’s husband interrupts with, “Yeh, we all speak English, but we’re not from Amsterdam. Do all Americans come from New York?” Seeming a trifle annoyed, I decided to smooth things over in Dutch, but to little avail. To make matters worse, my wife (who has a sugar problem) occasionally overreacts slightly to perceived rudeness masquerading as directness (hardly a sin, I assure you!), and so so said, “You should have been a little more polite.” in hushed tones. Now, the woman from before blurts out in idiomatic American “Get a grip, honey! What’s your f*****k problem? Relax!!” Here, I lost my red-blooded male temper and said in very plain English “Some of us take prozac, lady, what’s your drug du jour!”
We didn’t come to blows as the husband’s acquaintance sort of motioned to him in Dutch to simply let it go.
I for one will defend the feelings of anyone about whom I feel strongly under ANY cross-cultural circumstances whatsoever. This woman was being unconscionablly RUDE and I put her in her place. And I’d do it again:-)
Dutch people are honest when it suits them. Its a fabricated illusion they are honest and direct. They are indeed mouthy with little regard to respect peoples privacy, cultural differences think they are supreme in their thinking as they “tolerate” other people??
For such a small country , who have high standard of living, you would expect them to be more grateful and humble, yet they complain the MOST and justify rudeness.
Rudeness is an excuse for disrespecting and lets face it, the culture that create apartheid, for which Mandela (and many others) spent their entire lives trying to fight, should be held more accountable, when justifying and passing of such socially unacceptable behaviours.
You could be talking about any nationality here. Apartheid has its origins in British rule as early as 1806. It is a little unfair to blame people in NL for what some colonists who left the country over 150 years ago have made of other parts of the world. I have complained about the lack of closeness with Dutch people, even when you know them very well. In fact they are more than usually a lot more polite than people in the UK, but you really do never get to know them and it starts to dawn on you that they are deficient in the kind of manners that really make a friendship. I had some friends in the NL to whom I sent an Xmas pudding one year, but had to enquire by e mail as to whether they got it, liked etc etc. The next year when I stupidly sent another I never heard a word about it. Rather than the directness and rudeness which is often commented on her by strangers from one country encountering strangers from another with cultural differences, it is the little disappointments of things that could be so easily picked up on to enhance a friendship. I came to the conclusion that the Dutch are a little short on manners. However I have been told by people I knew well not to behave ‘so English’, kind of as a joke. You would have thought that I was behaving like Hugh Grant rather than just ordinary civil conduct in another person’s house.
Hmm, maybe the people you sent the Xmas Pudding to were super-polite! Most of my Dutch friends do not like Xmas Pudding. (I mean: if it doesn’t have whipped cream and it tastes like a ‘ontbijtkoek’ then why eat it for fun?) So if you would get a gift that you do not like, what would you tell the gift-giver? ‘Oh that’s sooo great’? Well, that’s just not the kind of words you can expect from a Dutch person, because that would be like telling a lie. And now, that would really rude! So better not to say anything… and hope they stop sending you stuff. Or … they are just too busy or depressed to be able to send you a thank you.
My question is: why do you need a thank you? When I do something for someone else, it makes me feel good about myself. I don’t need to get a thank you to feel good about what I did. I also understand that whenever I do something for someone else, it has more to do with the good feeling it gives me, than with the good feeling it will give the other person.
Just in general, that’s something about gift-giving and volunteering that I find a bit annoying with foreigners (well, especially Americans). So far I have noticed that when they give you something or when they do something for you, they expect thank-yous and favors in return. Some people send me things and do things for me that I do not like, I do not want and I do not need. If I need help moving, cleaning my house, paying for a bill, whatever, I would ask. If I feel I need to buy ‘green’ products, vitamin supplements, a bible etc. I would ask for that, too. But if I don’t ask for those things, I generally do not need them. I feel it’s like people are telling me: “You are living your life the wrong way, so I will buy you this or I will do this for you. And then you are supposed to like me for voluntarily helping (or saving) you. Oh, am I not a great and helpful person?” I feel it’s kind of intrusive. I have had friends send me things – let’s say a Xmas Pudding – just to show me that they have such lovely cakes in the place that they are from … while they know I like whipped cream cakes. So, that is annoying, really, and not nice.
I also notice that this is not the way my Dutch friends act, and I am more at ease with this way of being (and no … I don’t think everything about the Dutch is great, but this particular thing is). If I buy things for my friend, because she shares her dreams with me and I am convinced she really wants something, then I get it, give it to her and I do not expect a thank you: I know it is appreciated because I listened to her and I am not sending her stuff she doesn’t need.
Your post gives one pause for (serious) thought, Anneliese! Ever wondered “Why”? you’re such a violent people? It might be useful to know, not only for you all, but for the rest of us as well:-)
Who said Holland is only Rembrandt and ice skaters?
Couldn’t agree more with your comments!
After living in Amsterdam for 4 years I’m really sick of this “directness” code word for the Dutch lack of civilized behavior… it’s not just their “direct” remarks… it’s in walking down the street, actions, etc… they lack any sense of civilized behavior (okay when I say “them” I’m talking about over half… plenty of Dutch are quite nice an polite, but they’re a minority and generally have lived elsewhere).
Their open racist behavior (though American I have brown skin and I experience more racism in a month, like not being allowed in clubs with a direct “we don’t allow your type here”, than I have in my 40 years of living in two dozen cities around the globe).
Bottom line is the Dutch “culture” (I put culture in quotes as it’s an insult to the word to call what the Dutch have culture) is brutish, white-trashy and ill-mannered.
I came to this country with a pre-disposition that the Dutch were really wonderful people (and as I said a few are). But after 4 years this is the first place on Earth I’ve lived in where I can say the people and they’re way (“culture”) are truly awful (unlike China where I thought they were and after a few years learned to understand why they seemed so uncivilized and learned in reality how charming they are… as opposed to the Dutch who are truly a garbage “culture”).
And they don’t have the sense to even be ashamed of their behavior.
So you disliked China before you got there, tried to see the world from their viewpoint and started to understand why they seemed uncivilized and learned how charming they are? May I suggest you try and do the same with the Dutch? I think the biggest problem for Americans coming to the Netherlands is that they think they will come to a place that is like the USA. But it isn’t like that at all. Our cultures are very different, just like the Chinese culture is very different.
I find that my American friends who keep seeing things from their perspective will never feel at home. They will be offended by almost anything that is different than at home. The Americans (only a few) who do try to see life through the eyes of a Dutch person, they get it, they understand the culture, not as an outsider, but as an insider. But if you keep seeing the world in an American perspective, I don’t think you will ever understand (or even like) the Dutch. So your view is not so surprising.
Sadly, some of the things I have heard from intelligent Dutch people about Moroccans have been evidential of a limited mind-set that exists in the NL. Expressed wishes that these people would go home and a repeated anecdote about how two Moroccan men told a white Dutch woman to wear a veil in the NL do demonstrate a blind spot. The Dutch like the British and French have a horrible history of colonial rule, yet Dutch people don’t accept that they exclude the Moroccans and this turns some of them into potential criminals. They also don’t accept that immigrants do the dirty low paid jobs Dutch people don’t want to do. Sadly as I have already mentioned the Dutch quite often lack the sensitivity, the understanding of little tiny nuances that make for warmth as well as good manners. My hosts and former friends could have laughed off the off-remark about their Prime Minister made by a stranger in NL and which I repeated, it would have been nice to see them laugh something off and would have consolidated the friendship by allowing their fixed opinions to be touched by mere satire. The ordinary good manners British people display in another person’s house as their guest are I think pretty invisible to a lot of Dutch people, some do recognise and appreciate it but the blunt categorising of a cultural difference as ‘doing English’ which involves being nice to other people shows the coarseness and yet again the closed attitude of many people in NL. As to people being rude to me in NL, beyond a little plain speaking I simply won’t tolerate it. Again white Dutch people don’t seem to enjoy being on the receiving end of rudeness.
I am not sure if would enjoy being anything but white and blond in the NL. It is a very very white society and I am not sure what day to day life would be like with a brown or black skin. It would be a lot better than France but possibly worse than the UK.
Hi there! This post could not be written much better!
Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him.
Pretty sure he will have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!
This is all so interesting, the different views of the same people. As an Australian I spent a year in the Netherlands and I didn’t think they were more direct or blunt than anyone else. I thought they were very reserved, cold and aloof. I stayed with some Dutch relatives once who had a group of friends over for dinner one night. After the initial introduction their friends turned their back on me and just talked amongst themselves. I didn’t think anything of it at the time as I guessed the group hadn’t seen each other for a while and wanted to catch up, but after their guests had all gone home, my relatives apologised to me for their coldness and said that this was “typical Dutch”. I didn’t mind the unfriendliness or take it personally – I think this is probably normal of northern European people. But it was interesting that my relatives were willing to admit this negative trait in their own culture.
Dutch just are very out spoken this has advantages but also a lot of disadvantages when confronted. Dutch arent known for there well mannered behaviour saying thanks and please like the British and Americans do. Already in the 18th century English aristocrates were disgusted by ‘the rude Dutch’ when they visited the Netherlands but in fact they mean the way they were treated in Holland wasnt like the asslicking in the UK (who is rude anyway?). Holland isnt such a class society but Always had a very big middle class who were not afraid to get their opinion on things nothing wrong with that. Holland is an ‘honest and free country’ in such a way people are allowed to give their opinion, show emotions, do what they like to do more than in other countries (even when it can be disturbing or rude to others) . This form of personal freedom is characterizing Dutch society.
@Kate. I think the reason I sent an Xmas pudding to two friends in the NL was as a kind of exchange. I had been there at New Years and eaten ollie bollen which were interesting but kind of gross winter food you wouldn’t even consider eating the rest of the year. There are similar foods in the UK such as mince pies and Xmas pudding which like the ollie bol were the seasonal food eaten by the poor in the UK. Steamed puddings are unknown in Dutch/German eating culture as is the mince pie. Actually one of my friends did say he enjoyed it very much, the other said it got stuck in his teeth. For people in the UK who did most of their growing up beore the 1990s say it is part of the culture to say thank-you if somebody makes an effort and thinks of you by giving you something. The fact that you may not like the gift does not absolve you of showing good manners in an age of easy communication by at least sending an e mail of thanks. The purpose of the thank-you places friends above the level of all the strangers and co-workers which barely exist and have no importance to you. In the case of friends you might see every 12-18 months at most it is not only polite to bother to communicate it keeps the friendship going and shows that you have time for the other person. I didn’t hear a single word when I sent them the next year and thought the lack of an e mail rather cold really.
It is actually unfortunate that many Dutch people see ordinary good manners displayed by people from the UK and I’m pleased to say the USA and Australia as something fake and not quite real or honest. One of them said me they distrust the often very open and friendly attitude of people in Italy when they have visitors as something they ‘don’t trust’. When I heard this I thought it very cold and in a way an assertion of something rather closed and nasty. I think that the ‘doing English’ expression is rather rude and as my experience of being in another Dutch household told me that I couldn’t speak freely as their equal anyway (remember the joke about the Dutch prime minister) so it’s easier just to give up on having Dutch friends.
I haven’t heard from or seen the people sent the Xmas pudding to for over ten years now, except for when I was passing through their town in 2008 about five years after. One of them has a ferocious red-neck wife who didn’t even stop doing the housework when I called on them and didn’t even bother to say goodbye when she left the house prior to my departure during a very brief visit. She’d been rude, closed and cold before but I decided not to ever go there again. The other couple did at least invite me to dinner but the husband then raced off to an evening meeting with his friends to plan their next road trip. I don’t expect people to break their plans for me but as I haven’t heard from them in over five years now I’ve decided to give up.
Given that Dutch people can be very superficial and their directness is actually part of this shallowness rather than a deep-seated honesty which they like to think they are good at, I’ve decided not to make any more effort. If people can’t be bothered to even e mail you to find out if you are still alive, then why go on with it. This happens in all cultures but the cold cold Dutch culture hasn’t exactly helped.
You are seeing Dutch culture through your own eyes. If you want to understand the Dutch (and start to like them…) you should stop seeing everything in this world through your OWN vision and open up to other ways of being.
I will try to explain the Dutch way. Imagine it like this: not sending a thank you note is not considered rude at all (at least not by my friends, I cannot speak for others). I have tons of friends that I do exceptionally nice things for (I mean, seriously, Dutch people have presented me with more kindness and they have gone out of their way much more than people from other countries, like not superficial friendliness but actual real help), but they do not say thank you. Maybe it is a bit cold. I even feel it’s a bit awkward and cold. It’s kind of like: “wow, I want to hug you, but that’s so not done, so let’s just be silent and not say anything about this ever again.” But I just know it’s okay and that we’re cool and that they appreciate it. I just know it. And that’s enough. Now if my Eastern European friends would not say ‘thank you’, I would start to worry. When my Dutch friends don’t say ‘thank you’, I don’t worry. I only worry when they DO say ‘thank you’! It’s not intended to be rude, it’s just the Dutch way.
What is considered to be rude, however, is that you are expecting a thank you! That I would find very arrogant (well, not anymore because I understand YOUR perspective, because to understand you, I have to let go of my own vision, background, feeling about what is right; but my initial reaction is: “no way! Who does she think she is?”).
Sorry Kate. I did reply to you and tried to explain but it didn’t get posted here. You are of course perfectly free to think anything you like. I think the gist of what I was saying is that good manners are not something fake, they are intended to make people feel at their ease. It is true that you might not hear a brutally frank synopsis of what other people think of you a lot of the time in such a culture but that you also will be treated in a way that makes you feel comfortable in a social situation. No, it might not be absolutely real or even totally honest but the idea is to spare the other persons feelings at the expense of telling them the real truth about themselves when you feel like doing so. This puts them above your mere opinion and is a way of showing respect by keeping your mouth shut, controlling yourself, however great the impulse to be direct might be. The business of gift-giving is supposed to be a reciprocal event that defies analysis. If you have to think about why it takes place or how you should respond then you may not understand.
The spontaneous nature of the thank-you is something that implies that the other person took the time to make you exist in their own mind for a short time. I think that it is something that consolidates a genuine friendship. If all you hear is silence then you have to assume that the other person doesn’t care enough to do this. We live in an age of easy communication so it is not expecting a great deal. It certainly doesn’t really justify the feeling of outrage you expressed because it might please your friend and it might be a way of showing you are a friend by simply saying thanks. If you consider it rude that your friend might be conditioned to expect reciprocal communication then they are probably not really friends. When I was very young, in the 1970s, if we were given anything or granted some kind of favour or treat by an adult were were actually told to write an thank-you letter by our parents. I doubt it happens much these days and the reason for training children to do something so formal at that point is that it will have a real social function for them as I have explained, when they grow up.
All I try to do is explain to you that there’s different ways of seeing things. I love how I have let go of narrow minded thinking since I started living as an expat. The things I assumed were normal and necessary – according to Dutch customs – all of a sudden are not set in stone. But apparently you don’t like having this kinds of discussions, as I read in a reply of you to another writer here. You’d probably like to stick to your view and be ‘right.’ Well that’s fine, enjoy being right 🙂
Again, it’s all about what you believe to be important. You say “I think that it is something that consolidates a genuine friendship”. Exactly, that is what YOU think. But not everyone’s the same. I’d rather have a sincere silence than a fake thank you. But that’s ME. I love cultural differences! I would not be offended that my British friends are not thinking or acting like me, the ‘Dutch’ way I believe to be right and correct that is, as that’s what keeps it interesting!
You have a point but in general you paint a caricature.
What I described actually happened Rock.
Typical Dutch does not exist, althought it might appear so on the surface or in eyes of people that have been fed with old English sayings about us. Those sayings go back to our war with England.
Remarkably enough I have not(actullay I cant make uo one!!!) encountered so much negativism about English people in Dutch language than vica versa,
I’ve been a regular visitor to NL since the mid 1990s, had a number of friends there and done things that expats and tourists don’t get to do usually. The Dutch can be very stereotypical in what they do and think, there is a national mind-set.
Dutch people being negative about their own country and people…
Well, yes , thats has become an overindulgence in political correctnes due to guilty feelings about our dark parts in history.
It is not be generalised.
In fact I think we do often seem cold at first but hey the climate tends to hold ya back, you know?!
Many Dutch equate “directness” with “equality”, period! They consider anybody who’s their equal equally capable therefore of both giving as well as taking direct observation, i.e. criticism. As a result, most have neither the time nor the interest in people (including other Dutch people, by the way) who don’t seem to be able to handle their sometimes sharp commentary. This points both to their inherent short-sightedness as well as their inability to comprehend that some people are more thin-skinned than others and hence must be addressed differently from the majority.
For a supposedly “democratic” people, the Dutch are often quite UNdemocratic when it comes to taking whatever they dish out:-) One of the numerous historical reasons for this might well have to do with the idea of “verzuiling” or “pillarization” which began in the Netherlands during the end of the 60’s, beginning of the ’70’s.
Just a comment to what Tim and others have already posted, I for one NEVER expect that when I visit a foreign country that the gent or lady across the counter from me will automatically speak English, let alone excellent (even perfect)! I heard a lot of respectable English while touring Holland as well as plenty of vulgar rot which passed for English! English might well be an “international language”, it is nevertheless far from internationally understood by those myriad non-natives who speak it, or claim to speak it fluently. In addition, I’d scarcely describe either Dutch or the Dutch themselves as a “backwater” by any stretch. Little Holland has accomplished engineering, not to mention artistic feats which leave most of the rest of us gasping for breath:-)
As I’ve always said. I’m more than pleased to switch to English if a European wishes to honestl