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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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