Dutch friends are difficult to find. Why?

Dutch friends are difficult to find. Why?

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Many expats find it difficult to find Dutch friends. Why is that? Ligia Koijen Ramos from in2motivation, an Amsterdam-based personal and professional development company, shares her theory.

“I don’t have Dutch friends”, says one of our participants during lunch. The subject goes around the table and very quickly we realise that this is the reality of everyone here: 12 people and no Dutch friends for any of them. And this includes myself; I know Dutch people, of course, but don't have any I can call real friends.

Of course, this sparked curiosity. We dug deeper to see if this really was the truth, and if so, what the reason behind this is, in a country with a history of exploration and one that is very open to internationals.

The things that make a difference

After going around the table with the same question, "Do you have Dutch friends?", we could find some differences, mostly connected with what people are doing on a daily basis, and the way they are doing it.

Things that make a difference:

  • Speak Dutch – even if it is only a few words, it shows that you want to integrate and stay for a longer time
  • Go out –  go to places that are more Dutch-y and be part of them
  • Do what the Dutch do – having habits that are more Dutch-y will also create more possibilities for integration.

Don’t get me wrong, doing all of this will not always mean that you will have the Dutch friends that you are looking for. We all know that Dutch people, in general, know how to have fun. They are very friendly, easy-going, and are always ready for a “gezellige” time.

And that takes us to the question: why are Dutch people “closed off”? Even if that seems to contradict the openness of their windows and minds?

Dutch national culture

Well, the Dutch national culture is something that we need to be aware of; it is highly individualistic. This promotes people being self-centred and not waiting for others, or for group consensus, before doing things that they want to do. This is very different from a collectivist nation.

In the Netherlands, just because you tag along with someone, doesn't mean they are your friend, unlike in many southern European countries. In the Netherlands, you need to earn your place as a friend. You need to do something.

This is probably the biggest difference. A lot of us in our home countries never needed to "do" things to have friends, as they came more naturally via other friends or through school or work. In the Netherlands, it is not exactly like that. You need to show that you want to become someone's friend and act the part. Simple, right? So, enjoy your time and friends in the Netherlands!

Ligia Koijen Ramos is a life coach and motivational speaker at In2motivation, offering personal and professional training courses to optimise individual and group motivation and performance. Follow In2motivation on Facebook to find out about future events!

Ligia  Koijen Ramos


Ligia Koijen Ramos

Master coach and founder of family dynamics at in2motivation. With more than twenty years of experience in different countries and contexts, Ligia has the profound belief that simplicity and dynamics...

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Achterhoeksejongen 19:58 | 8 November 2019

What rubbish ,not having Dutch friends. I live in the Achterhoeksejongen ,fine welcoming people,I am invited to birthdays ,weddings. Enjoy good contact with my neighbours.

Anne Kathleen 10:09 | 23 February 2020

It's true. I also know lots of Dutch people but none of them are friends. Speaking Dutch makes no difference. They are very nice but keep you at arms length