October 16, 2019

Let’s go Dutch!

By Jeroen Spangenberg.

The Dutch are one of a kind. They are highly educated and most of them speak English. Expats love this fact. What expats don’t realize is that this prevents expats from really integrating in Dutch society. Moreover, ever noticed a group of Dutch people, first talking in English and when they talk about trivial things or when the words become more complicated to translate, they switch to Dutch, leaving the foreigner in the dark. 

Not only is it convenient to know some basic level of Dutch, there are some cultural differences that expats need to be aware of. In some cultures it takes a long time to build a relationship of trust before doing business. The Dutch however are more goal oriented and want to close a deal as soon as possible. 

Furthermore, the Dutch society is very egalitarian. It is normal that the CEO pours in his own coffee and talks with the cleaning lady. Moreover, in the army although you have several ranks, equal treatment finds it way in the culture too. 

The Dutch are very direct, in comparison with the English people where you have to read in between the lines to get the message. The English like to make understatements to make a point, while the Dutch just say what they think.

In some countries coming late is part of the culture, while in the Netherlands agenda’s are holy. Being on time is very important. 

It is normal to go on a bike to your work, while in comparison in some countries bikes are only for children or for the economically less well off. Many countries lack the right infrastructure for bikes, however the Netherlands thought everything through, even the public transport operates pretty efficiently. During rush hour long lines of traffic congests on the highway, somehow the smart Dutch didn’t find a solution to that problem.

The Dutch also tend to separate their work life from their private lives. Making it harder for expats to integrate into Dutch society. 

Our Dutch cuisine is famous for its simplicity and frugality, it is more functional than luxurious. Nonetheless, the Dutch cheese and stroopwafels are very well loved among expats.

For an expat learning some basic Dutch and understanding some cultural differences can be paramount to having a great time in the Netherlands. Through duoling.com it is possible to practice your Dutch for free. Moreover, every expat should read ‘The UnDutchables’, a witty book about the Dutch customs and mentality. There are many language schools you can choose from, like for example Berlitz. 

Moreover, Flowently offers a platform where expats can pick a private tutor online through flowently.com where they can book a Feel at Home session or other types of sessions at times and locations suiting the expat. The concept is that the tutor can help you with improving your Dutch and assist you with getting used to the Dutch culture, while having a coffee in a cafe or walking around town. 

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