News - May 18, 2016

Blog: My cold, unfriendly Dutch

Kristina Simonaityte

Why do I get along with Dutch people where other expats find them cold and unfriendly, muses Kristina Simonaityte. Maybe it is because she moves in a warm subculture: foresters and ecologists.

Considering that I talk constantly about cultural differences in these blogs, and how I keep mentioning Dutch this and Dutch that, it’s rather surprising that I haven’t really examined the Dutch, the people, themselves. There’s so much to discuss there, so let’s start with something everyone starts with – perceptions.

First, a situation. I went to a party last Friday. I knew a few people, and I really went to catch up with them, but looking at the “Going” list on Facebook beforehand made me seriously consider if I should go. Every single name on the list was Dutch... And you already know how I feel when I’m the only English speaker in the room. Incredibly self-conscious.

Immediately though I realised that it’s the stupidest reason to turn down a perfectly nice get-together. My friends never previously indicated that having me, non-Dutch speaker, around is a nuisance. And I do have a lot of Dutch friends.

This, however, apparently is not such a common thing.

I spent King’s Day with an old Italian friend of mine. She was visiting Belgium, and so we met up halfway (Dordrecht, ha!) She asked how I was getting along with the Dutch. The question was prompted by her own experience, whether direct or indirect, of cold and unfriendly people.

She remarked how it’s really hard making friends with the Dutch (especially girls, for some reason)

Also, recently I befriended another Lithuanian girl, here on exchange studying biotechnology. She told me stories of these awkward group works with other Bachelor students where they communicate only in Dutch, leaving her completely on her own. She remarked how it’s really hard making friends with the Dutch (especially girls, for some reason).

On both occasions I argued hotly that these were absolutely not my experiences. But thinking about it now I do recognise this and would also have examples. It’s hard though to put in a short blog the complexity of human interactions. How much is it an individual thing or, in contrast, something indeed to do with different cultures?

There’s another factor, however, which I believe explains to some extent why my experiences in general have been more positive. And that’s to do with me interacting mostly with other Forest and Nature Conservation students. I’m not saying that foresters, ecologists are somehow better people – but as a group though they are quite distinct, no doubt. I had a similar experience at Edinburgh during my Bachelor’s, having difficulties to understand – or even like – the Brits who were not doing ecology or related disciplines.

But that’s a whole other discussion. Or is it? What do you think?