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What Makes the Dutch so Great?

After coming to the Netherlands, you might have experienced a degree of culture shock. Maybe you looked around and asked yourself “Why are Dutch people like this?” or “Why do they like x and hate y?” As easy as it is to point out the weird habits of some cultures, we have to look past those and do the opposite — celebrate the things that make us different. So, what makes the Dutch different? Here are some observations I’ve made about our gracious hosts that I think we could all incorporate into our lifestyles.

They are Organized

If you set a time and place to meet, you can bet your life your Dutch friends will be there (maybe even five minutes early). It’s pretty common in other cultures for friends and family to organize some sort of meetup and set a time of general arrival. “General,” meaning that it’s more of a suggestion than a strict rule. I know from experience that in the Balkans, 19:00 means 19:30. Every friend group also has that one person who only starts to get ready around the agreed-upon time. Personally, this is my favorite trait that I’ve noticed in all my Dutch friends and classmates. But hold on, Dutch people can also be late, right? Of course, they are also human (or are they??). In most cases, even when they are late, they will send you a heads-up and they’ll keep you updated so you don’t have to worry about them.

The second part of this Dutch habit is their peculiar social calendar. With most of my Dutch friends, it sometimes feels like I’m making a dentist appointment if we’re trying to find a date to hang out. I don’t mind this because I’m the same (maybe I’m Dutch after all). I know that this can be offputting for some people, especially those who are used to friend groups that are really spontaneous. The lesson we can learn here is to stay organized!

They are Direct

Whenever you need an honest opinion, ask your Dutch friends first. The Dutch are famous for being direct with friends and strangers alike. Of course, there are some people who abuse this and say mean things. For the most part, however, Dutch people just appreciate honesty and being genuine. I mean seriously, which other cultures keep their curtains open for everyone to see? Obviously, they have nothing to hide (or that’s what they want us to think?). This is what makes them really good friends. You can expect a lot of loyalty from them during your toughest times. This directness goes both ways, so they will also expect you to be honest with them. This dynamic can make for a great and communicative friendship!

They are Resilient

Dutch people are made of steel. It must be their diet or the amount of exercise they get from cycling everywhere. You must be acquainted with the phrase je bent niet van suiker! (you’re not made of sugar). That’s definitely true for the Dutch. In my first few weeks in Groningen, I was shocked to see people just walking out in the pouring rain or even cycling through it. At first, I thought they just forgot their umbrellas, but I later realized they NEVER use them. Back home, people take out their umbrellas as soon as there is a hint of rain, but the Dutch are just built different. It’s true though, we aren’t made of sugar so we won’t melt in the rain. The Dutch have taught me to be resilient, especially on my bike! Have you seen the intersections in Groningen? One wrong move, and you’re on the floor (I’ve been in that situation three times already…).

~ Written by A. Heric