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 Dutch”. I will give some examples below.
Welcome to the neighbourhood
If you have just moved into your accommodation, most people from abroad would expect that the neighbours will take the initiative to introduce themselves. In the Netherlands this works differently. It is customary that the “newcomer” approaches the neighbours, or even invites them over to get to know each other. Some Dutch people consider it as “rude” if you do not take the first step. If you don’t do anything, most of the times your new neighbours will neither. With the result that your contact will remain limited by just saying hello.
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?
Dutch people like to have a saying (influence) in the company they work for. They will share their feedback and tips on the company’s management with their colleagues, and often in a later stage with their managers. Moreover, in most companies they are expected to think along with the management team. This can be quite different from other countries, where people might 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 can sometimes even be experienced as rude. 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. For example, if we say “this is not possible”, a person 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.
There are undoubtedly more Dutch habits that you may think are strange. Please share your thoughts on what is considered typical Dutch!!