The "unfriendly" Netherlands

14 April 2011, by

Results from the Expat Explorer Survey rates the Netherlands as the world's most expat-unfriendly country.

The Expat Explorer Survey (4.127 expats, 100 countries) investigated the "ability to be friends with locals," "success in learning the local language," "capacity for integrating themselves into the community" and "ease in which they fit into the new culture."

Canada (ranking first for the second time in a row), Bermuda and South Africa were top rated as they offer high integration with locals. Note that more than 80 percent of the expats in these countries were native English speakers. Among the worst in welcoming expats were the Netherlands and India.

The Expat Explorer Survey is the largest independent global expat survey commissioned by the HSBC Bank International. The survey, now in its third year, took place from April to June (2010). Countries with less than 30 respondents were excluded and thus, results represent 25 countries in total.

Source: Forbes

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Photo by Flickr user cheesy42

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Comments arranged by date (Total 11 comments)  
April 15 2011, 05:22PM

I find this surprising!!

April 18 2011, 09:22AM

Me too, but I would like to hear more information and comments why did people find it unfriendly exactly. Is it just because of the language as 80% of other countries mentioned have native English speakers?

April 19 2011, 01:53PM

For certain it is easier for an expat to integrate in a new country where English is being spoken - that explains Canada, Bermuda and South Africa being in the top. Therefore I was surprised that a country as for instance France where one (as I have myself experienced) need to learn French to integrate successfully, was also considered as one of the most friendly countries.

May 04 2011, 12:04PM

Well, this is not exactly unfriendly, but I will say that this is one of the few countries I have ever been in where people do not 'pride themselves on their hospitality.' I'd heard that said by people in so many different countries (things like, "You're not from here? You must come and eat with my family! You must stay at our house! You must take this scarf! In this country, we pride ourselves on our hospitality!') that I started to think, what country *doesn't?* Well, now I know. :) I encounter plenty of fluent English-speakers here, and lots of very friendly, cheerful people - but it's nothing like the reception you get from total strangers in Ireland or Egypt (where people will often argue with you that you should leave wherever you're staying and stay at their grandparents' house!).

In some ways, this is definitely a relief - fending off that kind of aggressive generosity can be tiring - but I can see how it could also be read as unwelcoming. If you are from a place where people gasp in horror at the idea of staying in a hotel or eating alone at a restaurant, I could imagine that the normal, friendly, Dutch attitude might seem very rejecting, indeed.

May 04 2011, 12:25PM

Panthoot - not to mention Dutch habit to split the bill :) I guess, those people coming from extra-hospital countries will find it very weird and maybe even "rude"!

May 04 2011, 04:32PM

Ha - great example! I have seen visitors look SHOCKED when people started adding up bills at dinner here.

It is considered rude where I come from (which is very regionally divided, so in some parts of the country it would not be very odd), and people usually argue about who gets to pay the bill - even if it's only for show, like if an aunt and uncle take their student nephew out to dinner, so everyone knows who's going to end up paying the bill. In casual friend lunches, the norm is usually "I pay this time, you pay next time." Same with most dates.

Personally, I'm ambivalent: on the one hand, my tabs are generally cheaper, since I'm not a big drinker or meat eater. On the other hand, I'm lousy at math, so would rather just pay for everything or nothing than calculate everything up. :P

May 06 2011, 08:46AM

I agree with the starnge bill settling habits between husbands and iwfes and also friends.but the question is unfriendly according to who?whose standards are we judging them on?remeber what is normal to you might be very abnormal to others.Lets just live with this lifestyle and enjoy being here.

May 06 2011, 11:47AM

well may be it is too harsh to say "unfriendly" but for sure the communication with locals in English in Netherlands is very "distant".

May 24 2011, 03:12PM

Panthoot - I agree with everything you have said. My husband and I have traveled to 43 countries and the majority of them have all been overly hospitable. We could sit in a bar/cafe/restaurant and strike up a conversation with the locals and it would be great, not so much here in Amsterdam. I actually felt better about myself after reading the article that the Netherlands was "unfriendly"...thinking's not just me they are not very nice to. We moved to Amsterdam 6 months ago and thought it would be very easy to adjust and meet people, since there really is no language barrier but we were wrong. Not everyone we have met but most people...have almost come across as just plain rude.

May 25 2011, 12:12PM

Ssykede, I agree, let's enjoy living here.
AnitaKalmane en Pathoot, I agree they can make you feel akward some times, our beloved Dutch friends, like this time I just proposed to go for a nice cup of coffee after our last lecture, then they looked at each others and open their bags, looking for their agenda's to make an appointment... for a cup of coffee! (it's also different where I come from). Not to mention the endless discussions we have had (fun though) trying to differenciate whether the Dutch are rude, or their are just "direct" (as many of them like to identify themselves)... humm, interesting (ongoing discussion) grapje!

January 05 2012, 11:14AM

I am a bit surprise with Netherlands in the top. I have been living in Copenhagen for almost 6 months and I never felt so unwelcome in a place, I can count on my fingers in 6 months how many Danes replied my "good morning" or "hello" even people in my building, who saw me every day. It was the 1st difference I noticed when moving from Denmark to Netherlands. My neighbor came to introduce herself, people walking their dogs saying hello, or even talking to me at the line on the supermarket. However I have been experiencing some awkward situations lately, my Dutch friends and colleagues making comments about foreigns that are not "very nice", always suggesting: it's not with you, is with those kind of foreigns we don't like. When talking about expats that don't speak Dutch (I don't yet), or how they are getting jobs when there is so many Dutch people unemployed, how you cannot find restaurants with "Dutch cuisine" because foreigns are taking over all this market (I know it sounds ridiculous, but I heard this from a Dutch friend)...

Usually I heard that my nationality is not a problem here, but some are not welcome, thus I should not take this comments personal, but well I can avoid being angry sometimes.

About the Author
Moa Thorssell

Journalist with experience within news paper, magazine, tv, web and radio. Biggest interests: travel...

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