Moving to another country, or even just to another region within a country, means that you will be faced with other norms, values, customs and habits. Various scientists, like Fons Trompenaars and Geert Hofstede (coincidentally both Dutch) have done much research on cultural differences. Describing the Dutch culture would go way too far in this blog. But there are a few things that most people from abroad (regardless of their own cultural background) find typical for Dutch people. I will give some examples below.
If you have just moved to your new house, most people from abroad would expect that the neighbours would come to you to shake hands and become acquianted. In the Netherlands, this works differently. It is customary to go to your neighbours, or to invite them for a house warming party in order to get acquianted and to get ‘friends’ in the direct neighbourhood. If you don’t do anything, most of the times your new neighbours will neither. Your contact will remain limited by just saying hello.
To think along with
Dutch people like to have a saying, influence, in the company. They will share their feedback and tips on the company’s management with their colleagues and in a later stage with their managers. Moreover, in most companies they are expected to think along with the company’s management. This is very different than in many other countries, where people will most of the times just do what they’re told to do. If you are new to the Netherlands, this is something that you should definitely take into account.
Dutch people are famous for their directness, which is often explained as rudeness. We Dutchies just say that we are clear in our communication, and that we don’t want to raise issues/uncertainties if this is not necessary. So if we say “this is not possible”, for example somebody from the UK might say “we should have a meeting about your proposal”. I can imagine that this approach may feel unpleasant, but please know that most Dutch people think that they are helping you by being clear.
When you’re invited for a birthday party, especially in the Southern and Western part of the Netherlands, please shake hands with all people present and congratulate them with the birthday of the person whose birthday it is. So you’re expected to congratulate the best friend of the lady next door with the birthday of her husband! This sounds like a strange habit, doesn’t it?
There are undoubtedly more Dutch habits that you may think are strange. If you want to share your thoughts, please feel free to send me a reaction!