10 things I love about the Dutch

30 September 2014, by

Direct Dutch Institute recommends speaking Dutch as often as possible - even if all your Dutch colleagues speak English, and even if you only know a few words of Dutch.

There are many articles out there about the Dutch and their strange habits. But, as you may agree, a bad habit can sometimes be one’s best asset. It all depends on how you look at it.

Here are, in random order, 10 of the least-valued Dutch habits, with a few handy Dutch words and phrases. Look at them from a positive point of view and use them to your advantage!

1. Not so discrete!

When you’ve got food stuck between your teeth a Dutch person will tell you, without blinking his eyes: "Er zit iets tussen je tanden!"

But honestly, aren’t you better off knowing there is something green in your mouth, or your zipper’s open? Especially if you’re told this before your presentation! Just thank the person ("Bedankt voor de mededeling") and go look for a toothpick (tandenstoker).

2. The Dutch are cheap

The Dutch are often called cheap (zuinig / gierig / krenterig). But maybe that is why they’ve got so many euros left to give to charity (goede doelen).

As it turns out, the Dutch are ranked number seven in both the World Giving Index 2012 and Wikipedia's listing of most charitable governments in the world. Not bad!

3. Dutch glitter and glamour

The Lowlands' lack of glitter and glamour can be linked to the national motto "Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg". Literally this means "Just behave normally, it’s crazy enough". This Calvinist attitude is all about modesty (bescheidenheid) and being down-to-earth (nuchterheid).

Arrogance (kapsones) is considered a high crime in Holland. In talent shows in the Netherlands, the much-too-arrogant candidate will never make it to the next round. Talent or no talent, he will always be sent home by the Dutch audience.

4. The Dutch say no, whenever, wherever

When you offer a piece of cake to your Dutch colleague, and he doesn’t feel like it, he won’t have it. It can be really embarrassing, especially if he’s not the first colleague to say no.

But remember this works both ways. If there are three birthdays in a row at your office, and you really want to stick to your diet this time, just say no ("Nee, bedankt. Ik ben op dieet" or "Nee, bedankt. Ik heb net gegeten"). Really, it’s OK!

5. The Dutch don’t offer twice

Suppose a Dutchman offers you another drink ("Wil je nog wat drinken?"), and you decline ("Nee, dank je"). This means you won’t get that drink. He just assumes you don’t want another drink while, truth be told, you were just being polite.

On the positive side, if you really shouldn’t have that extra glass of wine, he won’t nag you until you politely accept. You’ll be thankful the next morning!

6. Gefeliciteerd!

At a birthday party, Dutch people congratulate each other. This doesn’t make sense to foreigners. But actually it’s an effortless way to make your entrance at a party with strangers, especially if you don’t speak Dutch (yet).

things I love about the Dutch

Shake hands, introduce yourself and congratulate ("Hallo, ik ben Bob, gefeliciteerd met Anita"). Repeat this phrase with every person in the room!

7. Dutch assertiveness

Dutch assertiveness can come across as rude (onbeschoft / lomp) and sometimes even a bit aggressive. If you are not good at sticking up for yourself, you can easily become the victim in a conflict. Having at least one Dutch friend, male or female, can be handy!

8. Anyone can criticise anyone

Dutch organisations have a flat structure. This means you can, and will, be criticised by anyone in the company, from the boss to the trainee.

In general the Dutch are not ashamed when a mistake is pointed out to them ("Bedankt, dat je me op deze fout wijst"). They see this as a chance to correct the mistake and to learn.

It might be painful at first, but showing you can take criticism is considered a great virtue here.

9. Cold and wet!

Even though the last Elfstedentocht happened in 1997, Dutch speed skaters (schaatsers) live up to their reputation.

During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, 24 medals were won by the Dutch, of which 8 were gold. Didn’t you feel just a little proud when the winners’ podium turned completely orange four times?

10. The Dutch never let you speak Dutch

We try to make Dutch people aware that expats should get the opportunity to speak Dutch. It can be quite frustrating when everyone answers back in English!

But on the upside, no matter how lost you get in our big little country, everyone you meet will speak at least a little English!

Of course, we don’t try to offend anyone in any way by generalising character traits of different cultures :) We hope you enjoyed reading this article and learnt some new Dutch phrases!

Zsuzsa Jónás works for the Direct Dutch Institute, one of the oldest language institutes in The Hague! For more information, please comment below or visit their website.

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Comments arranged by date (Total 44 comments)  
October 03 2014, 03:02PM

#6 doesn't make any sense to me either and I am Dutch, born and bred. And I do speak Dutch with foreigners, because I want to help them learning my language. But I realise that I am a 'witte raaf' (a rarity) regarding this.

October 22 2014, 11:59AM

#6 doesn't make sense? It's very common at the birthday parties I visit. I always say 'congratulations with...' when shaking hands or doing the three kisses.

October 25 2014, 08:10AM

This seems to be different in different parts of the Netherlands.
I had never seen this costume either. Untill I started dating a guy from Zuid-Holland. He thought it weird that I thought it was weird ; p

October 03 2014, 07:50PM

You forgot number 11. as a foreigner at a dutch (birthday) party it's OK to take the last , no dutch person will take it :-)

December 13 2014, 08:28PM

Not when I am at that party ... always hungry :)

October 03 2014, 07:52PM

the last cookie/crisp/sausage etc.

October 07 2014, 12:07AM

Oh and eh... don't mind their racist holidays were they use black slaves threatening little kids to hit them with a broom, give them coal instead of presents and kidnap them.

On the positive side... hmmm sorry, there is none. Listen to this great explanation of David Sedaris: http://youtu.be/NYdpte1W0vk

October 07 2014, 07:12AM

Well, i'm sorry but for a very long time the Netherlands did not have enough black people around to re-enact the memory of this arch bishop (who was a real person) who one day came across a slave selling market, bought all of the slaves, then bought their freedom and offered them jobs.... Not such a bad nor racist memory if you ask me. In fact it's an early exhample of someone trreating black people as people as they should. But ofcourse let's get stuck on the face paint instead of looking at the true meaning..

October 07 2014, 05:36PM

thousends of people being killed at this moment because they believe in their god, in their country and seeing others as ennemies..... and you make a point over Sinterklaas..... ??? do you're homework, just one youtube makes no difference over a 400 years old tradition..... you know who started this discussion? a tweedekamerlid, who's sister was being told she looked like zwarte piet, from a 5 year old.... if you post something you should look further than just a post. on the positive side..... you could leave this country and go back.... they might be more considerate with you at home.

October 16 2014, 12:27PM

Totally agree with that. The story of buying free those black slaves is total bullshit, The bishop died around 300-something, that's way before our slavery history. People just don't have their facts straight and will do everything to justify this. That's Dutch too..

October 16 2014, 12:29PM

Deporting people for having an other opinion too btw.

November 05 2014, 03:39PM

The way I heard it Black Pete was liberated in Turkey (where Saint Nic. came from) - nothing to do with Dutch slavery. Slavery was alive and well throughout the 4th Century.

Further, slavery isn't racist unless the Americans have got to you; in the US there were only black slaves, however you will find throughout history that practically every race has had their fair share of enslavement. Yes, Black Pete was Ethiopian (and therefore had black skin), but in the 4th century there were plenty of white slaves (Christians and Jews included) too.

If anything the history of slavery isn't about race but about power - the powerful enslave the less powerful. Note: slavery not being about race doesn't make it any better - it's abhorrent enough without it.

This is why an ex-slave partnering with his liberator is such a wonderful message - he was bound by love and gratitude, not greed and power - a particularly fitting concept for Christmas don't you think?

December 09 2014, 02:56PM

Pretty much all of you are wrong, dordrecht was the first city to officially on record celibrate in the netherland, this was in 1360, making it almost 655 years and not 400, for more then that time the saint has been alone and beating rude children till 1850 when schenkman made the story how the Saint saved one MOORISH slave boy named Pete who in his gratitude decided to stay with the old fart and help him. Pete wasnt based on dutch slaves he was based on muslim slaves. But that's only one part. The other part he was based on where Odin's black crows Huninn and Muginn who accompied him in his travels before the church stole the holiday from us. In Germany and France they god replaced by murderers, demons and cannibals but our version was always alone. Now 70 years later the modern concept of the Black Pete appeared He took in more influences of the Krampus, mischieveous, playfull and helpfull they where many instead of just one boy, They did the punishing and the Saint sad on his lazy ass most of the times. To most of the Suriname people I know its a positive character, if we took them away in this country I think the people in Curaçao and suriname would keep them. To them they are like Loki, maybe a bit of a playfull character but a positive one at that.You see that's the problem here. Its not racism, Its a cultural problem, and that's not our cultural problem its yours, whenever you come to another culture and you see something you might consider racist you thibk of AMERICAN history and how African AMERICAN slaves got treated by AMERICANS. Just because you have a dubious racist relationship with your free people doesnt mean we have the same relationships and bigoted history with ours, I'm not saying we do not have any but its far less then you think. Heck I am pretty sure we treated the indonesian population far worse then we ever did the slaves. Any how the saint has been without any help for atleast 500 years and I doubt we would miss pete if they took them away. I'm all for mountain demons beating the shit out of adults

February 03 2015, 07:36PM

Luckily the USA doesnt have a holliday that celebrates genocide....oh wait , thats Collumbus day , celebrating the guy that started a wide spread slaughter of natives........

A lot of countries have hollidays that are seen as racist or flat out weird.

I could say the same about the USA version of christmass, a guy having child laborers making toys for children.

October 07 2014, 12:27AM

i didn't know this was a haul-out-the-dirty-cultural-laundry thread. thanks for adding.

October 07 2014, 09:03AM

#11 dutch women are sexually very explicit

dutch women can be very offensive with their sexuality
but isnt true that you always dreamed of girls
who start the game and let u know
what exactly they want?

February 21 2015, 09:41PM

George, you lucky man ! :-)

October 08 2014, 03:54PM

Reading through the list, I find most of it fairly accurate, except for

"8. Anyone can criticise anyone... It might be painful at first, but showing you can take criticism is considered a great virtue here."

That "virtue" is not in the lest bit admirable, and I wouldn't personally take pride in that.

We live in a global world, where it simply isn't realistic to expect that a trainee or intern, for example, should feel comfortable to "criticise" a qualified CEO, because there is a need for a certain level of hierarchy in order for organisations to effectively and efficiently function. To constantly feel at bay to voice an opinion on an issue you are not qualified to do so isn't noble, it is obnoxious.

I studied Law in Dutch Higher educational institution, and found it very annoying to try and learn from Professors of Law who had twice my life-span's worth of career experience in the field, when a nineteen year old from a Lyceum felt that he/she was adding value to a debate on the theories and practice of Law, holding an MBO as their highest qualification. Yes, we should be encouraged to ask questions and participate in lectures, but Dutch people lack boundaries in this regards. And criticism needs to be constructive, which could never be the case when a teenager is debating the former Ambassador to the United Nations about a Security Council Resolution. Why you would claim that it is considered an opportunity to "learn" is beyond me! The Dutch don't come across as being keen to learn, as much as they appear to be keen to prove that their negative opinion is not only the correct opinion, but must be the 'right' opinion. There is something very important to be said about the expression, "Speech is silver, but silence is golden."

Which leads me onto another point, if you read the response to the comment about "Zwarte Piet", it is not virtuous to claim that in Holland people are freely able to express their opinion and criticise at will. My experience has been that, "The Dutch can criticcise ANY and EVERYone, and this is apparently commendable" but if you DARE criticise a Dutch person about their History, Monarchy, Culture or tendency to speak out-of-turn, that is no longer considered virtuous! Instead, you are branded "ignorant" and assumed to be from a war-torn country, leeching off of the generous Dutch social welfare system or patently told to "go 'home' with immediate effect".

So, which way is it? Can everyone criticise, or just the Dutch?

October 15 2014, 04:20AM

Historically humility has always been considered a virtue. I find that a truly humble person can learn from anyone they meet and I try to be that person. One of the greatest moments of my life was when I answered an open question from an apostle of my church (just about as high as you can get), and his response was "that was better than the answer I had in mind". I was, and still am no-one of consequence yet he learned something from me. I of course learned a lot from him too, that is the nature of sharing.

I think the greatest attribute of the Dutch is to first assume the other person is trying to be helpful rather than to take offence at what they say. If you assume the best you can always revise that opinion afterwards if necessary; but if you first assume insult you are not likely to give that person the opportunity to prove you wrong.

From the Dutch perspective it is virtuous to defend the absent (including the dead) as they are not able to defend themselves; this naturally translates to defending the Monarchy, history, and culture. If you want traction, criticise a personal trait rather than using the English etiquette of criticising through a generalisation (the English have an unspoken addendum of "present company excluded" which may or may not be the genuine intent, but that is how it is taken).

If you don't mind me saying, you probably are ignorant - not of everything, but just of the Dutch culture. It probably comes from the idea that the American Way(tm), or perhaps the English way, or the German way, or the French way... (you get the idea) is right and therefore any other way of seeing the world must be wrong. A superior approach is to judge no further than the Dutch way is different than the way I was raised.
Please don't be offended by this; it is a human trait that while we are great at spotting similarities and differences, when determining relative value we are horribly skewed towards the familiar.

October 22 2014, 10:16PM

@vanners, do you see what I meant? You are PROOF positive of precisely the "I am right, I am Dutch" attitude so prevalent amongst the Dutch people I have met all across the world.

1. I knew I would be accused of being "ignorant" for having a different opinion to a Dutch person the moment I pressed enter, and at my own free will expressed my own observation.

You don't know me from a hole in the ground, and were it of any worth, I have lived in Australia, the UK, (England, Scotland and Wales), South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, The Netherlands, The Middle East and South America; and have never been advised that I am culturally insensitive nor that I am ignorant of perceiving or suitably adjusting to different cultures, except in The Netherlands. (Go figure.) And never by social and/or cultural anthropologists or similar professionals, at that! Just by average Dutch people who love to dismiss my experience as ignorance, with no plausible grounds to do so.

2. You are precisely the type of "Dutch person" I said I personally find obnoxious. For two reasons. I prefaced my comment by stating that I - personally - do not measure outlandishness in the same realm as education. I did not at ANY point state that I do not believe people cannot learn from each other. I said my experience in Dutch social settings is an overbearing tendency to argue with someone's personal views until they are forced to back off from the Dutch person's perspective, or risk being labelled ignorant on the matter. You did PRECISELY that. It is bullying, not educational.

You have only cemented your own beliefs that I am culturally ignorant, and that I must not have an opinion, I must wait to "learn" from you.

You have not learnt a thing from me, by dismissing my personal view. You could have used my comment as a chance to self-examine, and say, "Is there any chance that being quicker to speak than to listen can come across as disrespectful towards others's rights and autonomy to think and express their ideas or feelings, even if I do not intend to come across in this manner?"

I have learnt from your reply that I was correct all along, and that I should avoid trying to share my observations about The Netherlands with Dutch people. In an overwhelmingly general sense, they lack the capacity to socially accommodate different expressions and values and virtues.

I have no further comment on the matter. It was just interesting to see my personal opinion proven so eloquently.

October 25 2014, 01:28PM

Thanks for this! - I spent so long feeling I was being unreasonable for feeling exactly this, and trying to explain how I felt about this to my own beloved Dutchies led to bad feelings all round - so much so it has become somewhat of a taboo subject -it is very nice to know I am not alone/nuts/intollerant/completely wrong!

October 26 2014, 03:07PM

"We live in a global world, where it simply isn't realistic to expect that a trainee or intern, for example, should feel comfortable to "criticise" a qualified CEO, because there is a need for a certain level of hierarchy in order for organisations to effectively and efficiently function."........you take this out of context.

October 27 2014, 01:26AM


Thanks for the compliment, but I am not Dutch; I am Australian. I spent my whole life in Australia with occasional trips overseas. I consider myself half Dutch because of my father. What I know about the Dutch I picked up because I was interested in knowing about that side of my heritage that I wouldn't get in Australia except by observing my Dad's relatives.

I am really surprised that you didn't experience any Dutch culture in South Africa. Did you spend much time with the Boers? I find they have very much the same culture mentioned in the article.

I wasn't trying to offend. I did not call you ignorant-full-stop, merely of Dutch culture - which you are unlikely to learn unless you choose to study it. I have seen firsthand how the Dutch are perceived as caustic by those with an English background unless they temper their words. Please understand that this is difficult for many of them because it feels like they are not being honest when they mince their words, and they get frustrated when being subtle often means their helpful suggestion is not received. In Australia I can quite understand why the adjustment is necessary, there is every culture under the sun here. To expect the Dutch to adjust their culture in their home country I believe is asking too much. As I said before, what makes the English culture more correct than the Dutch? In reality it is only more "politically correct" - a sensibility that I have found does more harm than good as people use it to elevate their status through voicing their outrage at the smallest slight, intentional or not; taking the "high moral ground". What is so moral about taking offence when none is intended, or making a man an offender for a word?

My Dad copped a lot of abuse when he came to Australia - it was less than 10 years after WW2 and Australians weren't really up with the news that the Dutch were on the Allies side during the war - the Dutch sounded a bit German so they were treated like Nazi sympathisers. My Dad was called a "Dirty Dutchy", and was often bullied - not just words, but physically. His advice to me about taking offence: "If you take offence when none is intended you are a fool. If you take it when it IS intended you are a greater fool."

I have learned not to be offended by words by studying my Dad. I really don't mind that you criticise me, however I do want to clarify what I said to you because I don't want you to feel offended by my bluntness - I thought this being a Dutch site it would be ok to be blunt.

Please do not feel I have dismissed your point of view, I perceived it as based in the English culture (which I am of course familiar with) and noted that the Dutch culture is significantly different. Expecting (requiring?) it to be the same is what lead me to suggest there may be some truth in the label you were given.

I must admit, this is the first time in my life I have been labelled a bully; perhaps you could consider that your preconception of me being Dutch lead you to assume I was attacking you. Perhaps you were expecting to be bullied for your comments. Whatever the reason, I hope you reassess your initial judgement on me, and the Dutch too. Once you accept that criticism isn't the same as bullying, and can in fact be very helpful for personal development (google “Johari Window”) you may acquire a new love for the Dutch.

One other item of note: while each of the countries you lived in have their own culture, the English culture has been strongly infused in each of them(with the possible exception of South Africa and the Middle East depending on the location e.g. I found that the English culture was alive and well in Qatar when I was there). This could explain why you grasped so much of those cultures so quickly. I imagine if you gave it more time you would also be able to "get" the Dutch culture, and perhaps even come to admire the advantages of being both blunt and open to criticism. If the cultural anthropologists were English (or a derivative thereof) then of course they wouldn’t call you “ignorant” even if they thought it (and I am not saying they did, just that you wouldn’t be told either way).

By the way, I don't need to be right: I am just stating what I observe from my perspective, I am also open to other perspectives that will broaden mine. The more open I am to understanding others points of view the more my perspective will grow and the more "right" I will become - it happens automatically because I am OK with being wrong, and I am willing to change when I am. Also, I expect that I am ignorant of a whole lot of things, but I don’t want to remain that way ;)

I hope this post helps you feel less victimised, and has been even a little bit helpful.

October 27 2014, 02:48AM

@vanners, I actually did state that I had no further comment on this issue, but I do appreciate that you took the time to clarify your position, so I won't elaborate further in response to new information you have presented, I too will simply reaffirm what I meant in my initial post.

I think we are truly beating a dead horse here.

This article is about what the author loves about the Dutch. Were I asked to compose my own list, all I am saying is that "bluntness" would not be on my list. I don't consider it virtuous. Many people - not just from former British colonies (see the response below mine for an example) - feel belittled by unsolicited opinions, offered in the manner that I explained above.

@HenryWithoot, I have no idea what you presume I took out of context? I provided the context by describing a real-life event. I was in a Lecture at Leiden University and we attended a compulsory seminar delivered by a senior diplomat at The United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Of the 21 nationalities represented in my Public International Law class, only 2 students continuously opposed a specific response to a question addressed to the diplomat. One was Belgian (Flemish), the other Dutch. I struggle to see how this defers from the author's original example.

Furthermore, when we have meetings at work, (thankfully I work for an international organisation with about 50% foreigners - and not all from Anglo-Saxon cultures might I emphasize - and 50% Dutch), it often appears that the CEO can give a directive and the response is no different from the scenario that I described in Law School. But only from the Dutch members of staff. How does the context differ?

I'm not discriminating, as each nationality has stereotypes. I am African by heritage, and I am rarely late despite the stereotype that Africans are inefficient (which is true). There are Italians, Mexicans, Spaniards, Americans, South East Asians, Middle Easterners, Eastern Europeans, Indonesians and many other races, cultures, groups and nationalities represented in our workplace (with each having their "general" quirks), but the article is a generalisation and SO is my response.

You both might want to consider that in this context, I did not say that no-one disagreed with the diplomat. Nor did I say that the diplomat was unrelenting in disclosing his experience, but honestly; this is my point to you both: If someone tells you what THEY do for a living and have been doing that for 15 years, and you have never done that role even for one day; in fact the closest you came to performing their job was being an intern for their assistant, why would you continue to argue and argue and argue FACTS with such arrogance on the basis that your nationality favours egalitarianism?

Even were you passionate and just got caught up in the moment, this has simply NOT been my experience of group settings at work, in social settings nor whilst studying in The Netherlands, thus my objection remains to terming my personal experiences as "virtuous" behaviour. Primarily because the element of "learning" has been absent. Exchanges which do not empower others, to me, should not be commended or lauded. [That is a key difference in this specific exchange, incidentally.]

Truly, describing the Dutch as unpretentious or direct or sober-minded or opinionated would be accurate taking into consideration their culture and history, but virtuous speech doesn't wound. Even constructive criticism is exactly that: constructive. Forcefully asserting a view about the UN High Commission for Refugees policy in Syria from a University campus in a tiny village in Europe is NOT virtuous. Especially if you are not stateless (never have been and are unlikely to become so within the time you intend to acquire your academic degree), not a refugee (never met a Syrian refugee either) and more-so not a decision-maker there, anyway.

I am not talking about "directness", which is a virtue I personally love about Dutch people. I am talking about outright disregard for new or different information in the context of any organisational discussion, and more-so about the manner that opinions are offered; not the content or motive behind those opinions. To me, the line is crossed at the method of delivery.

As I enter my 5th year of living here in The Netherlands (I lived 5 years in Melbourne, and 2 years in Sydney), I really don't need to prove how living in a culture is entirely different to visiting one, or having relatives and ancestry from the aforesaid. I didn't say that I dislike Dutch people. I just meant that sometimes enough is really enough, and this was based on many occasions where I realised that I would prefer not to be stuck in a staff meeting at 16:45 on a Friday afternoon hearing Jaap or Johan have a go at the Financial Controller of a Fortune 500 Company, when he is the IT Guy. I am delighted that the CEO flies from Silicon Valley and has a meeting with us all, I am delighted that he would not get far without asking all the staff to provide input thanks to Dutch work culture: but, I don't label it a virtue when those debates turn into mindless attempts to win the battle; most of all when everyone is already dead.

Finally, might I say that, you response was delivered in a quintessentially Australian manner, and not the way an average Dutch person whom I have encountered would have responded. Again, I refer you to the Zwarte Piet debate. If I have come across as being anti-Dutch, I am not. I have learnt from you, that I have likely developed subconscious defensive mechanisms to arguing with Dutch people. (I suppose the polite, Anglo-cultural thing to type now would be to offer an apology for labeling you a bully.) Haha, thanks for that.

Notwithstanding, I live here because I love it here, but I maintain, that point 6 on this article is NOT what I love about Dutch people.

October 27 2014, 03:31AM


Thanks for your reply, I'm really glad you did; the added context really helped me to understand your perspective. Yeah, I really hate it when winning the argument becomes more important than understanding or informing. I have a brother-in-law (incidentally not Dutch) who does that and I find it extremely annoying, unproductive, and rude. I have learned that continuing an argument when both sides are entrenched is a waste of time and unlikely to change anyone's opinion about the subject (but quite a bit about the individuals). So yeah, I completely understand your point now.

The whole "bluntness" and "low power gap" traits must be accompanied by the "accepts criticism" trait for it to work. Cherry picking from the Dutch culture, then using the excuse "I'm Dutch" to justify obstinacy isn't good for anyone - particularly for the Dutch reputation. Perhaps some of your other Dutch colleagues should have a private blunt word about this with the antagonists ;) (they would probably accept it better from a fellow countryman anyway)

BTW, I apologise for suggesting you were ignorant of the Dutch culture - obviously you are not, it's a real pity your experience has been soured by some of the more hard-headed Dutchmen.

February 13 2015, 01:29PM

In my opinion, where @vanners and @GloriaMkushi could easily agree, is the absence of the capability for Dutch to assess the impact of our critique on the person receiving it. In fact, I think that this is the foundation for Gloria's rightful critique on no.8

After having it pointed out once by a coach, I can appreciate that my critique can be received as an offence *irrespective* of my intentions. By ignoring that fact, the fine line between criticism and bullying, or being enlightening and being arrogant, disappears quickly. Being "direct", therefore, easily turns into plain insults.

Since then, being aware of it, I see it happen with a lot of my colleague Dutch. To grow them aware of it, though, requires quite some of effort on my side to not become an arrogant bully that insults their social skills :-)

February 13 2015, 11:37PM

@PaulBrandt, very well said. Thank you for your perspective and view.

I take it on board as much as I value and appreciate @vanners exchange on this aspect of the article, and specifically in relation to overall Dutch culture.

June 05 2016, 06:48PM

I just logged in after years to do this *clap* *clap* *clap* clapping my hands for you, Gloria. VERY WELL SAID!

June 05 2016, 06:48PM

I just logged in after years to do this *clap* *clap* *clap* clapping my hands for you, Gloria. VERY WELL SAID!

October 08 2014, 04:12PM

i`m dutch and #6 annoys me a lot. I never do that at a party. why should i congratulate a total stranger with my friends birthday? It just doesn`t make sense.

About #8, i work in a large commercial organisation and here it`s quite normal to criticise your managers (in a polite, constructive way). I think it`s a great thing we can learn from eachother. Manager from employee and vice versa.

October 13 2014, 07:29AM

Allof this is a generalisation of the Dutch,there's a distinct difference between for example ppl from the north or from the south( where I'm from). Not everyone can be seen the same,just like in the US for example not everyond is a gum chewing,Stetson wearing,caddilac driver,not all Russians drink Vodka and not all The Dutchies are like described above.
I happen to live in a town that has a Nato Millitairy Base with a variety of nationalities and let me tell you they all have their quirks and cons and pro's.
I think it's unfair to assume that a whole nation is of the same cloth,southerners here are very different from the northerners... Sound familliar to some of you? Indeed.. Because one's bad ( or good) experience with a person of a certain nationality one can not assume everyone is the same!
I've never gone around at a b-day party and congratated every John Doe and his mother that was present. If there's someone I don't know,I will however go over to them and introduce myself,like anyone with any good manners would.
I am nog saying we are without fault,not at all,but come on.. Anyone of you can honestly say that hour country and the ppl in it are perfect? I will however say that not all Dutchies are as described here. I suggest to get to know some ppl from all over the country and see that some of us are actually ...nice!

October 30 2014, 06:28PM

8. Anyone can criticise anyone.
In general the Dutch are not ashamed when a mistake is pointed out to them ??? ARE YOU SERIOUS??? I NEVER ENCOUNTER ONE THAT SAY TO ME:("Bedankt, dat je me op deze fout wijst"). They see this as a chance to correct the mistake and to learn. NO WAY. APOLOGISE IS NOT COMMON AT ALL

January 04 2015, 03:55PM

Hahah, yeah...you are very right about the fact that Dutch people don't respond that way, but I think the response of many Dutch people is misunderstood by foreigners. I have a tendency (which has been very often criticize and which I do try to keep a lid on, especially with people from a different culture) to speak louder and quite passionately when someone tells me an opinion which radically clashes with mine, BUT, that doesn't mean I'm offended at what the other person says, or that I am unwilling to listen to what this person has to say. Generally, when the conversation is over and I am in a quieter place, I will reflect and -that- is the moment that I might revise my opinion. I'm not saying it means that I have a good reaction to other people's opinions (though there are many ways to discuss things which are more agreeable but might be just as or less effective in revising opinions and learning), but that the averse reaction doesn't necessarily mean someone isn't listening (but granted, it can mean that).

November 03 2014, 08:13AM

Although, I think most points are true for Dutch around the big cities (Randstad), I highly doubt that this also goes for people from the south. I cannot identify myself or anyone I know from the south with points 4,5,6 and 7. I think it is a common misconception that the borders of the Netherlands don't stretch further than the provinces of Holland and Utrecht.

November 05 2014, 02:59PM

Stroopwafels didn't make the list? Huh.

November 17 2014, 05:54PM

"Arrogance (kapsones) is considered a high crime in Holland."... well then Amsterdam must not be in Holland... most folks here have a "I think therefore I'm right" view...

And as to #7 (Dutch assertiveness) does that include the cutting in front of you in line, pushing/shoving you, etc? So that's not rude, just being assertive? And clearly along with Arrogance, saying "excuse me" is a high crime as well.

I'm sorry but after 5 years I've come to see that there's a lot of rude behavior that gets chalked up or whitewashed with "directness" or "assertiveness".

November 17 2014, 08:15PM


I think that "Arrogance" is arguably still a high crime depending upon who is being more arrogant. Selfishness is perfectly legal, and it called "egalitarian" or "tolerance" in these, here, Lowlands. The reasoning is, "I stay out of your business so you must stay out of mine." This is the reason that homosexuals can (and I wholeheartedly agree with this) marry each other, people can and will worship whomever they want however and wherever and whenever they want even using taxpayers money to do so, people may ingest whatever they want into their bodies, determine when their life should end, etc.

It would be arrogant to deny people these rights! Only that, somewhere between 1991 and today,that virtue has evolved to mean, "My business is to catch my train at 17:04 and because it is currently 17:02 at this Albert Heijn To Go, despite the fact that you arrived here first, in order to complete my business, (which you need to mind) you will need to get out of the way."

January 02 2015, 09:23AM

Thanks for a great article!

In my experience, #6 is a regional thing. In Holland, people often just shake hands (possibly kiss) and say Gefeliciteerd, in the South and East people may still shake hands with everyone (sitting in the infamous circle) and introduce themselves: Hi, I'm Jan. I seldom see the combination of both, Gefeliciteerd with an introduction. In my experience, mixing both is accepted too (she must be from the West/South ;-)

What I wonder about and find most interesting are #5 and especially #1 (they are related, if not the same right?).

I have several questions. From whose perspective is it weird to say what you mean? Why would you say No thanks to a drink offer if you mean: YES - -and think that lying is polite? In what cultures do people do that, and why -- how is that "game" being played? Same for #1, do other cultures (and which cultures) ignore the thing between your teeth and let you embarrass yourself with more people, or do they point it out in another "polite way", and how? Thanks!

June 05 2016, 07:08PM

There is a huge difference between the `you have something between your teeth` say what you mean and `your hair looks like shit today` say what you mean. regarding saying what you mean, common sense it is wise to be used, but unfortunatelly common sense is not a strong asset of the Dutch....

January 04 2017, 10:20PM

Hello! I just recently moved to The Netherlands and come from a culture where saying "No" to an offer of something at least once, is considered polite. Why? Hard to explain. At this stage it's just become a cultural norm but I think it might stem from not wanting to seem to be imposing on the offerer or make someone go out of their way for you. We're pretty bad in Ireland for apologising for our own existence and not wanting to be perceived as being hassle or trouble for someone. Tbh, at this stage it's an unconscious habit that probably doesn't have any real significance behind it. Is it lying? I guess it is but with no malice intended. The point is you'll say yes on the 3rd offer and it's just a game we play for social cohesiveness in our country as each country has its standards. It's not impolite to accept the offer on the first go with a please and thank you, though. I wouldn't read too much into it and it's something we laugh at ourselves about.

I'm reading through the comments here and, tbh, I'm mildly terrified at the prospect of the extreme directness of the Dutch. I've found people to be pleasant so far (I'm literally only here less than 2 days) and this "constructive criticism" people are talking about - we Irish couldn't BE any more different. It's definitely going to take some getting used to and I feel I'm going to have a hard time adapting but adapt I will! :-)

February 21 2015, 09:35PM

I am a former Dutch citizen and left The Netherlands in 1956. The article is right on target but I disagree with arrogance. We have a lot of arrogance in our Dutch blood.
Years ago Prince Bernhardt was interviewed and one question was; if you would not have been married to Queen Juliana what would you think your professional would be ? He answered:" I would be a CEO of a company, a large organization of course." Of course since he was of German blood the arrogance here could be applied as well. :-)

October 30 2015, 03:27PM

When you go to a Dutch party they start with coffee and cake and end with borreljes or drinks Should be the other way around

October 30 2015, 03:51PM


October 30 2015, 04:45PM

"Should be" exactly what a dutch person would say:
"Ja dat moet zo" of "Ja, dat moet niet " :-)

About the Author
Zsuzsa Jonas

Zsuzsa Jonas works for Direct Dutch Institute. At Direct Dutch, we want our students to home in on H...



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