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12 Things My American Friends Never Believe About The Dutch

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12 Things My American Friends Never Believe About The Dutch

Whenever I visit the US, there are things that baffle me. I mean seriously, why do your public bathroom doors have space on the sides? It’s creepy. Some things about the Dutch though, my friends in the US never believe…

Just to be clear:

  • These are things us Dutchies consider normal
  • I am not exaggerating
  • This is not satire

1. We are genuinely proud of buying things at a discount

In any other country, people boast about how much their purchases cost. Not so much in the Netherlands. It doesn’t matter if you life on a minimum wage of make $1.000.000 a year. You love showing off discounts.

In any other country:

This shirt is awesome, it cost be like $50

In the Netherlands

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This shirt is awesome, I bought it with a $20 discount!

2. All our universities cost under $2000 a year

And we our students consider it high already. Not only that, but any Dutch student can get a low interest loan that covers tuition and living cost. Generally a Dutch student making maximum use of student provisions gets $1000 equivalent in Euros a month.

3. University rankings are not that important

In the Netherlands an institution needs to have a certain level before it can call itself a university. If it is not up to par, it loses its title.

Whereas in the states university rankings are life or death to your career, the Netherlands doesn’t have this. Sure, some universities specialize in certain subjects, but the level is about the same.

Oh, and our education levels greatly top those of the US.

4. People can party hard without drinking alcohol

That includes students and other party with young people. My American friends in university looked at me really funny when I said this, and assumed I was joking.

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Don’t get me wrong, the Dutch are great drinking buddies. But being sober for a night only makes it easier to party in a more coordinated fashion.

5. Alcohol doesn’t affect us in the same way

The way people act when they use alcohol differs per country. The Americans are similar to the British. I’ll leave you to decide what that means.

When the Dutch drink, behavior amplifies but doesn’t go entirely mad (not more that usual anyway). Sure sometimes people get overly wasted, but as a rule alcohol is only a catalyst.

Rule 4 + 5 can cause some confusion though. One of my friends once almost got thrown out of a party at the the NY stock exchange because the guards thought he was drunk. He was sober as a rock and spend half an hour explaining and standing on one leg.

6. At birthdays, we congratulate everyone in the room

I never realized how odd this is until international friends pointed it out. It is customary to shake hands and/or give 3 kisses to everyone congratulating them with the person who’s birthday it is. E.g. You congratulate the mom with “congratulations with your son”.

If you are a bit lazy you stick to the family, but often you do it to friends as well.

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7. We have a word for “being entertained by other people’s suffering”

Leedvermaak. Literally suffering (leed) entertainment (vermaak). Strictly speaking the English language uses the German schadenfreude, which is “happiness about misfortune”. Leedvermaak is what you feel when you watch Epic Fail compilations.

8. Our version of Santa has a black helper

And every year like clockwork people start discussing racism around December. Especially other countries who don’t understand the tradition. I won’t start a rant here, but for some perspective for internationals: View traditions within their context. You see a slave, we see a funny helper who happens to be black.

The little black fellow is most likely actually a slave trader according to history. But more on that this December…

9. We have one word for a black person, and it makes Americans go pale

And it’s “neger”. Often a Dutchie has gotten into trouble mis-translating this word to the English language.

Context: racism is not that big in the Netherlands when compared to the US. Sure we can improve (and we shall), but it is nothing like the horrendous proportions of it in America.

I thought there was an ethnic event being organised by an African American group in NYC the first time I got there, because all the traffic men were black. Being Dutch, a racist explanation didn’t even enter my mind.

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10. We don’t understand what other countries call polite behavior

The Dutch see communication for what it is: communication. What this means:

  • If we offer you something and you say no, we won’t ask again or politely ‘insist’
  • We don’t sugar coat what we say, though sometimes we think we do
  • If you ask us how we are doing we might actually tell you (this one freaks Americans out so much…)

We are also used to being allowed to criticize anyone. And we expect that person to thank us. We see it as a favor that we help you develop.

11. Weed is not a big deal, and we are not potheads

If you see someone in public who is high as a kite, it’s probably a tourist. The Dutch regard weed much the same as alcohol. You don’t drink from a vodka bottle while walking the street unless it’s kingsday. And nobody cares if you decide to get high.

12. We don’t tip but not because we are cheap

In the Netherlands you only tip if the waiter was particularly nice. A tip is also called a gratuity, a reward out of gratefulness. So that is how we see it.

We expect that the price on the menu includes a fair wage and profit for everyone involved. Otherwise it is just bad business management.

The Dutch grow angry and frustrated by the American habits of assumed tipping and prices excluding tax. I mean really:

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  • If your tip has a fixed percentage, include it in the price
  • People can’t deduct tax, businesses can. Only do ex tax prices if you are a business to business company

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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