June 14, 2016

Expats find it tough to befriend the Dutch

Filed under: Food & Drink,General by Orangemaster @ 7:48 am

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An online survey carried out by rtlz.nl and Dutchnews.nl with 1,123 respondents (including myself) revealed to anyone who hadn’t heard this before that expats find it really difficult and even ‘almost impossible’ to make friends with the Dutch, and tend to stick with other expats, which doesn’t help them integrate.

Many expats in the Netherlands come from Germany and England, two thirds of which are men and have an average age of 34, often considered an age at which people already have their groups of friends. An additional explanation is that since many expats don’t stay for long (three to five years), the Dutch won’t bother making new friends with people that won’t be there in a few years.

Work remains the number one place to make friends and sports clubs, the second. In fact, the Netherlands is often compared to a big sports club you need to be a member of in order to integrate. And of course learning Dutch will also help any expat loads, although when everyone around them constantly switches to English, it’s a major obstacle.

Rtlz.nl brought up a nice cultural example, which was if a Dutch person invites you over to their place at 8 pm, many expats expect it to include dinner because many of them eat at 8 pm or later, like the Spanish. The unwritten rule is that the Dutch eat at 6 pm and have had dinner, so don’t expect a meal. The funny thing is, the trains are full of Dutch people not eating dinner at 6 pm, so I dare say this unwritten rule needs to go. I was recently invited at 8 pm by Dutch folks, ate dinner before I came over and then was unexpectedly served dinner again because they wanted to accommodate the non Dutch folks, but hadn’t told anybody. I guess communication is key, but let’s call it an improvement for both sides.

(Links: www.rtlz.nl, www.dutchnews.nl, Photo by Quistnix, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0)

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July 8, 2014

Shoot first, ask questions later or wait and see?

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 2:17 pm

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Here’s a lovely, fuzzy article about cultural differences in The Guardian, prompted by an organisational theory thought up by Dutchman Fons Trompenaar, which divides the world into peaches and coconuts. Peaches are what I call the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ people who are friendly to strangers and will withdraw if they have to over time, while coconuts are the ‘wait-and-see’ types who will seem distant at first and may eventually warm up to you over time.

The important point is that both sides are valid and have the power to offend the other, deliberately or not. Recently a Dutch acquaintance said if someone was offended by something he said, it was always the other person’s fault for being offended and that people get offended too quickly. Much like the clumsy KLM tweet about Mexico, where KLM tried to say they were sorry but actually suggested that other people just don’t get Dutch humour, this would mean that the entire Twittersphere would have to bow to a culture they probably don’t even know and that the person at KLM is not responsible for their mistake.

If Trompenaar’s theory of both sides having equal value is true, then someone who causes offense cannot always blame it on other people. Conversely, someone who decides to be offended by everything they hear is of course equally at fault for blaming others. When I was learning Russian at university in Qu├ębec, I found out by reading Russian people’s reactions socially that calling myself ‘Natasha’ (my real name) was considered too friendly too fast because ‘Natasha’ is a friendly diminutive of ‘Natalia’ and you don’t let people call you that unless they know you. I then started introducing myself as ‘Natalia’. I could have said, ‘sod this, it’s my culture and my country and my name is Natasha’, but instead I told them they could call me ‘Natasha’ because that was my real name. Some stuck to Natalia, some switched to Natasha, but either way there was some cultural balance without outright blaming the other for not knowing any better.

A Dutch friend of mine visited my house once, which has carpeting that I can’t change for wooden floors, and I told him to please take off his shoes. He said, ‘what’s this, a mosque?’, and I told him that I didn’t want dirt from his shoes on my carpet. I explained that where I come from, a good part of the year it’s full of snow and mud outside, and walking into people’s homes with shoes on — unless you bring a pair of indoor shoes — is a no-no. Although it was my house, it was his cultural rules and I ended up vacuuming for 20 minutes after he visited me. He refused to accept that he had to change the way he did things for me because it wasn’t the Dutch way. All my friends take off their shoes at my place, but they do it because it’s my house and see compromise as a good thing rather than claim that their way is the only right way.

(Link: www.theguardian.com, Photo of Coconut by SingChan, some rights reserved)

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July 15, 2008

‘The Dutch are not polite’

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 9:37 am

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Radio Netherlands Worldwide asked a thousand Dutchmen living abroad as expats for their views on politeness in their home country. The same questions were put to 300 expats in the Netherlands in a poll carried out by Expatica.com, a website targeting foreign residents. They were also asked whether they found certain groups in the Netherlands polite or impolite.

The poll held in the Netherlands itself showed that people who work in the Dutch service industry, like waiters and shop employees, did not get high marks when it comes to politeness. Civil servants – with whom expats have a lot of contact especially when they first move to the country – also get low marks. One respondent observes that the Dutch are more polite in their homes than in public:

“I think that is due to their Calvinist background. They believe everyone is equal and thus are not comfortable serving others.”

Groups of people that are considered polite in the Netherlands are receptionists, doctors, nurses and policemen. Even though these groups are thought to be polite, the expats indicated that all the types of people mentioned in the poll are actually more polite in their homelands than in the Netherlands. The only group they find to be really rude back home are teenagers.

The usual argument, which I am not 100% sold on, is that the Dutch (not everyone!) are not impolite, but make people uncomfortable with their direct attitude. Making someone you do not know feel uncomfortable can be considered impolite very quickly and so this is a touchy subject.

I have also heard that this comes off extremely poorly in European countries in a foreign job, as the boss freaks out when he/she gets talked to that way by a Dutch person. I’m again not sure being straight is the best strategy. If trying to fit in means always being straight forward, it is not going to work in the Netherlands simply because foreigners are not expected to act that way.

I can say as a foreigner living in the Netherlands for almost 10 years that I had to get used to that ‘verbal jolt’ you can get in a lot of in the big cities, especially Amsterdam. I have also noticed that anyone older than 50 is very polite in any city.

There is a huge difference betweem telling things like they are and not saying please or thank you. I think Radio Netherlands has it mixed up.

(Link: radionetherlands.nl)

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July 24, 2007

Follow detour signs, not your GPS

Filed under: Automobiles,Dutch first by Orangemaster @ 2:56 pm
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The city of Roermond, Limburg has placed six warning signs telling lorry drivers to follow the detour signs and not their navigation system. Foreign lorry drivers regularly get their vehicles stuck trusting their navigation system, which does not tell them which streets are closed off due to road works on the A73, N280-Oost and N293. These symbols were chosen so that foreigners can understand them. The word ‘attentie’ looks like the English ‘attention’ and the Italian ‘attenzione’. The word ‘omleiding’ (‘detour’) is also used because that is what it says on the actual detour signs.

And so the city has to wait and see if it actually works.

(Link: De Limburger, Gemeente Roermond)

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