I noticed that many expats who live in the Netherlands for several years don’t really have Dutch friends and barely accept or appreciate the Dutch way of life. It made me think about why I don’t feel the same way and about what I like about this country.
I realized that most of the the things I like here I probably like because I appreciate them in the other cultures I lived in (like the punctuality). I experienced working with Germans, Swiss, Italians, French, British etc. and I noticed that after almost 20 years of working experience in international contexts, there are several things I consider positive (and some not). – In this first part (yes, there is going to be a part 2!) I just would like to mention some aspects I appreciate while living and working in the Netherlands.
1) The Dutch tolerance (I wouldn’t define them liberal, at least not the majority)
The Dutch are tolerant and pragmatic. This is probably due to the history of the Netherlands and the population density. Some say that you better get along with your neighbours because you have no interest in getting in trouble with them – I think this is a general neighbour-problem as in every culture neighbours can be problematic (this is a topic of another post). But I noticed this tolerance also on the workplace
2) Getting straight to the point
When the Dutch discuss a difficult topic, they usually get straight to the point. It’s very different from the Italian, Swiss, German and British way to discuss. The Dutch directness in the communication with foreigners regularly causes misunderstandings. Sometimes they hardly take the time to sit and relax. You may have to get used to it, some may even consider it rude or tactless, but in my experience, meetings are much more effective this way: you don’t loose too much time on talking about weather, personal problems etc..
Related to this directness, I observed that Dutchs don’t like to make things understood through context and dislike to have to read the message through context. On one informational site about the Netherlands, someone described it like this: “They speak in a friendly tone in rather short, clear, sober sentences lacking any form of politeness or courtesy.” I don’t agree: Dutch distrust very polite conversations because they think that they hide unpleasant messages. Therefore, being very nice, too polite and prolix, awakes the suspicion that one is in need of a special favour and it is considered as a waste of time.
This is something that Dutch, German and Swiss people have in common: the punctuality. They often keep track of the exact time and in general, they are punctual. Being late, irritates them very much. In fact, as Germans and Swissgermans, Dutch consider not being on time with being rude or not trustworthy and that they can’t count on you. A person who is late for a job interview will not be hired.
4) Time schedule
This too is something they have in common with Germans and Swiss: the Dutch usually lead very planned lives. Sometime between 9 and 10.30 a.m. they drink coffee. Lunch is around 1 p.m. At approximately 3 p.m. they drink coffee or tea and at 6 p.m. most people eat their hot evening meal. At 8 p.m. they watch the news and have another coffee and at approximately 11 p.m. most Dutch people go to bed. – I know, this seems boring, but it’s good to know that if you’re invited by someone at 8 p.m. you don’t have to expect to be served dinner! Unless this is said explicitely.
When working in another culture we should always take in account the mentality of this culture and never be judgemental. – What are your working experiences in another culture? Do you appreciate the things you already “know”, dislike those which are not familiar?