Ever wonder why the Dutch are so direct? It’s because of the high value placed on equality in society here.
This is the explanation given by historian and leading etiquette expert Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen in the new English podcast Here in Holland. So, don’t take it personally when you get advice you didn’t ask for. The weight of history is against you.
It’s all about being treated the same way according to van Ditzhuyzen. She says even the Dutch royal family is, and always was, subject to the rules of parliament.“The Dutch don’t do hierarchy,” says van Ditzhuyzen, who is also known as the Queen of Dutch Manners. “Add to this our international history as merchants and you get a lot of people just being very clear and saying exactly what they mean,” she adds.
This directness certainly takes getting used to for expats. Natascha is from South Africa – she got freaked by people telling her how she should look after her kids. “My son doesn’t like wearing shoes – he just doesn’t. I would get Dutch women coming up to me and looking into the stroller and telling me he had no shoes on, as if I hadn’t noticed.”
Olga Mecking from Poland had the cops called on her in a very strange, and at the time traumatic, experience. “This women thought I was abusing my daughter – she called the police and we had to wait for 30 minutes for them to arrive. I didn’t want to leave as it would have looked as though I’d done something wrong when I hadn’t. It was a big mess.” In the end the team from Olga’s daughter’s crèche arrived and told the police she wouldn’t hurt a fly and everyone went home.
Molly from the US was told straight out that she was big and, when cooking for her new Dutch boyfriend, Anne from Peru was told that her food sucked. Most expats have tales to tell on the legendary Dutch directness and they are usually accompanied by rolling eyes and big groans.
But there are others who say, no – wait a minute, we love this. Their take is that the Dutch say what they mean and you know where you stand.
Ilaria from Italy says for her it’s just fine: “It stops any vague ideas just kind of floating around in the air.” And Luke from the UK says he doesn’t mind it either: “I don’t have a problem with it – if you ask me the Dutch do moan a bit sometimes, but that just makes me feel at home as we Brits like a good moan too.”
These stories of Dutch Directness – and more – can all be heard in the new English language podcast about life in the Netherlands – Here in Holland.
You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or your Android app of choice. Full details at HereinHolland.com – story to share then mail producer Andy Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org