I find it strange and at the same time interesting when a Dutch friend turns down the chance to participate in an event or activity simply because he or she had scheduled another activity at that particular time - one which is usually of less importance.
'Hey good morning, can we do our assignment later today, maybe 4pm?' You are likely to get this reply: 'Ha no!' Looking at the diary... '4 to 5pm: Skype call to my brother in Spain. I have missed him so much.' And if you reply, 'Okay, that's nice, we can do it at 5pm', the diary will be consulted again and the next reply is likely to be, 'No, because 5.10: go shopping, 5.30: start cooking, 6 o'clock: dinner.' If you respond with, '7pm is not too late for me, we can do it then', a typical Dutch person will still look at the diary and say, 'Sorry, 7pm I walk my dog, 7.30pm I groom my rabbit.' If you would still like to be flexible, and say 'what about 8pm?', you're in for another blow: 'Even kijken... No, 8 to 9.30pm: squash, and at 10pm I go to bed.'
Maybe by now you are a little frustrated and say, 'but can't you play squash another day?' The reply is, 'No because Monday is my squash day. We can always do the assignment another day. Let me look at my diary... Tuesday: no, Salsa. Wednesday: no, concert in Utrecht. Thursday: Ja! Let's make it Thursday, ja?...Ja, prima!'
Niyi A. Olabiran. Student International Agribusiness and Trade, VHL