Student - 18 mei 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?

Re:acties 1

  • groupie

    I very much recognise the remark on groupwork when they start to talk in Dutch. But I think that has nothing to do with the Dutch, but more with having the majority in a group being from one language group. I have heard similar complains about Chinese, Greek and Spanish speakers, who speak their own language and others (also Dutch) are being left out.

    Of course in Wageningen the Dutch are a majority, so the complaints are mainly about the Dutch. But I am pretty sure that a Dutch student in Lithuania would have exactly the same complaint about Lithuanian students ! So more about human nature as about the Dutch in this example.

    • Kristina

      Yes, that's a very good point, thank you! Interesting to hear this about other language speakers here in Wageningen! Ha, I would like to see such group works in Lithuania, I'm sure you're right. As I said, there's so much to say on this topic, 400 words just don't cut it. Nevertheless, it still doesn't change the fact that this is not a very nice thing to do, whatever language you speak... I guess some people will argue that's how you learn the language, but is the complicated bioscience or whatever technospeak really the best way to do it? I don't know, just my other two cents. Definitely more to say on this :)

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  • eric willkinson

    easy,at birth the souls of all the dutch are removed.end of story.

  • Daniel

    Why would you go to the Netherlands to study and expect English to be spoken? Learn Dutch if you want to fit in. It's an easy language. Otherwise go to Australia, the UK etc to study.

  • Hello

    Yes. And the poster 123: so so Dutch to say that lmao.
    Im Dutch too btw, but grew up bi-cultural. Yes commenter 123, I know also more 'unfriendly' cultures and yes I also know waaay warmer cultures. And yes, every culture has its pos & negs. But it's not about generalizing: there are cultural values that differ per culture. That doesn't make everyone the same, but it does mean there's a general tendency. And I've met countless different people from different cultures, living for a few or more years in NL, telling me their experiences with the Dutch. And yes: they all encounter what they call "coldness", distance and reserved-ness. And yes also that Dutch are friendly, tolerant etc. but that it is hard to become friends: yes, I fully agree. You really need to know the rules for that.

  • 123

    I've got an interesting thought: how about we stop generalizing people and understand that there are many different personalities within a country/culture. Speaking your own languauge while there are people that don't speak that language is not a typical 'Dutch' thing, I experience it myself in other countries as well. I don't know about other Dutchies, but I am sick and tired of hearing this nonsense about us being unfriendly. I've experienced way ruder people in other countries and I find the Dutch a lot friendlier in comparison with other European countries (and I am not just saying this because I am Dutch). I think people should keep an open mind while staying in other countries instead of judging and generalizing in response to their experiences. I've got a lot of nasty things to say about other cultures based on my experiences, but instead I choose to stay open minded and not judge a whole country based on a few people that I've met. If other people would do the same, maybe they would have different experiences eventually.