Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad

Getting to know the Dutch: Part I

Do the Dutch really go Dutch? Are they that brutally honest, it makes your eyes water? And is everyone always high?


As stereotypes go, the Dutch are famed for many things. Firstly, their apparent inability to be polite and instead they are known to favour the more direct approach. Secondly, their apparent need to split the bill. At all costs. (don’t mind the pun).  And thirdly, well of course if cannabis here is legal then….?

As someone who has lived here for a grand total of 8 months, I would like to tell you what it’s really like to be living amongst Dutch people, what are they actually like and give you the chance to find out the stuff that the guidebooks won’t tell you.

  1. Money, money, money


Ok, so we might as well start with the one we all probably know about it. The Dutch are split into two camps here. The typical Dutch ones and the not so typical. The typical Dutch really do go eaquals on all things money related. Here are just a few examples of some of our  ‘ typical’   Dutch friends that I have experienced here:

“When I was at a restaurant with some Dutch and international students, each paid their own exact share of their bill after the meal. However, one German girl was paying by card and she rounded up her bill (by 70 cents). One Dutch girl immediately noticed this, and told her (and the rest of us at the table) that this isn’t fair because she shouldn’t have to pay more than us. She then asks the German girl whether the table should split the 70 cents, thereby each giving 10 cents to the German girl. The German girl looks blankly, then gives her a confused look, laughs and we all leave the restaurant.” Yes, some people think 70 cents is indeed worth splitting across the table it seems.

“A friend of mine was given a birthday card by her Dutch boyfriend, in which he wrote he would take her on a trip to Amsterdam. She showed me the card in front of the boyfriend, who cleared his throat a little and then said ‘ Of course we have to go after 16.00 because that’s when I get my discount.’ This wasn’t a joke by the way. They really did go to Amsterdam after 16.00. Who said romance was dead?”

“Another Dutch friend of mine has said that bars here are a rip-off! Beers for 2 eur 50! (A shame some of these guys never had to pay 12 euros for one in Paris but I digress.) She said that when she goes out, she only goes to bars near her house so that if she wants an alcoholic drink, she will go home and have it. A fun night out indeed!

Then there are the other Dutch who like to spend money like it’s no man’s business!

Conclusion: Can be true, very true in fact! But it isn’t a given. Let’s just say the Dutch are usually careful with money but there are definite exceptions to the rule. They’re just quite rare.

  1. The Dutch do direct

Now, it’s quite strange to me why it is the Dutch who have this reputation of being direct. I for one, have had a lot more experience of this ‘directness’ with the Frenchies and the Germans..and even the Scots! So why are the Dutch so well known for it?

Well, in part it’s to do with language. They use short, and usually simple sentences when asking for anything. It’s really the fault of the English language in a way that everything else is perceived as ‘ too direct’ with all our ‘ would you’s’ and ‘could have’ and ‘may I’ and ‘oh must you.’e tc. However, the Dutch – to me at least are relatively normal on the scale of European directness. They won’t mince their words sure, but I also think they can be rather timid and so won’t go full force like the Frenchies might.

Conclusion: They’re safe to talk to – low risk of leaving a conversation with them in tears. Maybe you could also try being direct and say, ‘ So, you’re getting the bill, right?’

  1. Why is everyone high in the Low countries?

So, is everyone here on drugs? Well, not exactly. In fact, cannabis is only legal (outside Amsterdam) in coffee shops in the cities AND you have to show a residency permit to be able to enter it. Thanks to their relaxed attitude on this, the Dutch are also pretty relaxed. In fact, again compared to other places in Europe, you do not see many (if at all) stoners walking about the street. No-one’s that bothered, apart from the tourists of course! As for harder substances, it is all illegal here however, they do have centres in place where they will test your drugs to make sure they are safe. It’s not solving any problem but it is minimising risky and accidental deaths which are caused by these strong (and often unsafe) narcotics. But otherwise, the Dutch are definitely not always high!

Conclusion: They’re not all high and they stay safe

  1. How much do they drink?

On to more fun things! What are the Dutch like at socialising? When I first came, I didn’t know what it would be like here. Would they be like the Germans and sit around at a party sipping beer, listening to mindless techno? Or would they be like the English and getting so wasted, they wake up in hospital beds with miniskirts around their ankles? (google Daily Mail for pictures of drunk British students and you’ll see..)

Well, I would say it’s a mix. They do like their drink and their parties of course and have been said to sound like ‘grunting animals’ on the streets by one of my friends. However, the beers are so small, you need to constantly stand at a bar if you want to get drunk and places shut early (again, unless you’re in Amsterdam) so you don’t see a ton of naked, drunk bodies on the streets on Saturday night nor do you see any brawls either. They do have a drink too many on Carnaval but we’ll let them off here cos it’s the tradition after all!



  1. What are the Dutch like at work?

Oh my, are the Dutch good at what they do! In the last 15 years, the trend for entrepreneurship has grown and grown and they seem to be very damn successful at getting a good idea, setting up a business and getting the money rolling in. Thanks to their pragmatic and hard-working nature, the Dutch make for very good professionals and are actually very hard working and aim to achieve results. That, and they drink beer on Fridays with the team. Monday morning meetings are so 2015!

Conclusion: Inspiring! They have good ideas and they have a good range of skills. They are also very independent at work so you need to look like you know what you’re doing. At all times.

  1. The Dutch and their language skills:


By Xuejuan Zhang

Ahhh….One can only rave about the Dutch for so long until something kind of negative comes up. This may even be a surprising one to some of you. Basically, the Dutch can and do speak English. But they really really don’t want to. Now I’m talking about the Dutch I and my friends have met here: obviously not every single person and I do live in the most ‘ Dutch province in the Netherlands as well (Noord Brabant). However, that said in 8 months, I have seen minimal effort on their part to speak English to people around them who don’t understand Dutch. Whether you speak a little or not at all, they will not care too much and will continue to make gurgling sounds in that beautiful language of theirs. Also, considering their language is so close to German, very few of them actually can say anything in German. Many said it was ‘ too confusing’ and gave up with it at school. English seems to be the only dominant foreign language the Dutchies have and more often than not in my experience, it seems a bit of a pain for them to use it. However, at the same because they are a small country, they really do need to keep their identity going especially through language before they become a mini UK so, my dear Dutchies – I guess I’ll let you off here!

So here are some 1st impressions of the Dutchies from the low countries! Look out for a Part 2 coming soon!



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This entry was posted on April 18, 2016 by in Life in Holland and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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