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12 Things My American Friends Never Believe About The Dutch

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:

  • 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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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