The Dutch way

“Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg”

Act normally, that is crazy enough – is a favorite Dutch expression.

The Dutch landscape extends beyond the tulips, cheese, dykes, canals and windmills as anyone living in The Netherlands for some time would vouch for.

Having spent the last 1.4 years here in expatriation, I have come across many of the traits from the Dutch character set – some apparent, some needing an observing eye.

The Dutch Way

• The Dutch are firm believers in equality in all spheres of life. Nobody has an undue advantage over the other.

• They are friendly people – kind, polite and helpful to tourists. They become your guiding force during the initial days of expatriation.

• Moderation is the key to a successful living for the Dutch. Show-offs are not encouraged in any field.

• There are probably more bikes than people in Holland. It is the most prized possession of the Dutch. This reflects well in their fitness and healthy lifestyle.

• The Dutch are very good planners – week days as well as the week ends are planned, well in advance.

• The Dutch lifestyle is regulated by diaries. It is probably the single most popular gift on the new year!! Everything is jotted down religiously in the diaries from meetings to leisure time.

• The Dutch seek consensus whether it be a meeting or discussion. They live by the principle of agreement and harmony.

• The Dutch enjoy a great family life and firmly believe that money cannot buy happiness. The personal and professional lives are kept separate.

• They are a private bunch and emotions are kept under check during dealings with strangers.

• Weather is the most discussed topic in short conversations. The Netherlands weather definitely merits this, what with it showing all colours from snow, to rain, to wind, to sun.

• The Dutch like to practice their English. As soon as you start off in your broken Dutch, they start speaking to you in English.

• Thanks to their spirit of openness and frankness, humour resonates well with most of them.

• ‘Koninginnedag‘ (Queen’s Day), and ‘Zomer Carnaval‘ (Summer Carnival) are the most awaited holidays, perhaps for their colourful splendour and unique attributes.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

This is Arwa’s first post for PocketCultures and we’re very pleased to welcome her to the team. Arwa is originally from India and is now based in the Netherlands.

We’re looking forward to reading more about Arwa’s comparisons between Indian and Dutch culture. In the meantime you can find her on her blog Orangesplaash.

Read more:
The famous Italian cappuccino rule: fact or fiction?
There’s life outside Istanbul: what do you think about Turkey?
Navigating Chicago’s cultural stew: diverse cultures of Chicago

About the author

Arwa Lokhandwala
An Indian expat in the Netherlands, Arwa Lokhandwala is a freelance writer, writing on travel, culture and expat related issues. A voracious reader, a curious traveler, and an amateur photographer, she has featured in a number of online publications including the Lonely Planet. She loves people, colors, festivals, and cultures. Read about her expat tales and travel adventures on her blog - Orangesplaash.
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  • Yusuf

    It describes most accurately the feelings of a expat living in Netherlands. Cultural differences are bound to exist which might make it difficult to adjust to the new country, but the whole process is a lot of fun.

  • Nice post Arwa! A friend recommended me a book on this topic called The Undutchables, do you know it? Apparently it is very funny.

  • If you have stories of funny Dutch language mishaps, share them on my blog!

  • Thanks Arwa, I learned a lot about the Dutch!

  • @ Yusuf : Thanks for your comment. Multi Culturalism definitely spurs one towards learning about the new cultures and ways of life. It is really interesting to know about the various cultures and cultural dilemmas.Wish you a great day ahead!!

  • @Liz : Thanks Liz. Undutchables is an excellent book about the Dutch culture and about The Netherlands in general. It is like a cult among the expatriates!! And yes, it will leave you rolling with laughter.

  • @ Up Your Bottom: Thanks for your comment. I will check this out.

  • @ ana: Thanks for your comment. I am glad that you found the article useful. Wish you a great day ahead!!

  • Incredibly accurate! Some of the things I love most about the Dutch. Makes up for their bluntness and endless paperwork most times :D Great article Arwa :)

  • Thanks for the compliments about us Dutch! I didn’t know we were regarded as friendly for tourists!

    I often see Amsterdam people trying to run over tourists with their bicycle – but that’s probably an exception…

  • Thanks for commenting Bart. We were missing the Dutch point of view here :)

    Me, I always found Dutch people to be very friendly. But then I managed to keep away from the bicycles!

  • @ Breigh: Thanks for your comment. I have personally had a lovely experience with the Dutch way so far. This has made me all the more curious about knowing more. Though I agree the paperwork loaded us when we came! wish you a great day ahead.

  • @ Bart: Thanks Bart. Its really nice to have the local Dutch perspective. True, may be Amsterdam is an exception but otherwise I have some good experiences to share!
    Thanks for joining in and wish you a great day ahead!!

  • @ Liz: Thanks for stepping in.

  • Stephanie Croymans

    Nice blog!! =) Maybe you should also put Carnaval in the list of the most awaited holidays. It’s only celebrated in the southern part of Holland though…

  • @ Stephanie : Thanks for your comment and for the nice words. True, the carnaval is also one of the most popular holidays, though not so much in places outside Maastricht I guess.
    I visited the carnaval last year with my husband, it was a unique experience.

  • Marjon

    @Arwa : Yes, Carnaval isn’t celebrated that much if you don’t live in Limburg or Brabant, but it’s getting more popular every year. I know people who live in the northern part of the Netherlands and they go to Brabant every year when it’s Carnaval.

    thanks for your kind words about us :) are we really that weird with the diaries? (I rarely use mine..)

  • @Marjon : Thanks for your comment on this. Excuse me for replying a little late. Carnival is certainly getting more popular every year.
    Frankly, I have enjoyed my life as an expat in Netherlands so far and have had some good experiences to share. Perhaps that reflects in my writing too :) Do keep sharing your views here and on my blog!
    Wish you a great evening ahead!

  • Nuria

    Nice post, Arwa! :) I have a really good Dutch friend and while reading your post, I mainly thought of her jiji I also spent some days in Amsterdam about 5 years ago, and I can say that I found Dutch people very friendly. I was so amazed at the number of bikes! lol Btw, isn’t Sinterklaas an awaited holiday as well? Or maybe only for the children? I’ll share your post with my Dutch friends ;)

  • @ Nuria: Thanks!! Glad to know that you liked the post. Let me know what your Dutch friends have to say after reading it :)

  • You have a lovely and soothing writing style. I am an expat as well, but imbedded in an International community. I am jealous of your direct contact with the Dutch culture. There are times I feel I am looking at it through a glass.

  • Thanks Joan for the lovely words. This used to happen initially as we were taking time settling down, we were more into the expat groove but now we have made a conscious effort to also interact with the locals. Though you always seem to have a different perspective on the same things.

  • simple boy

    wow i learn alot about dutch people i want to live in netherlad zwolle i like the happy and healthy and peacefull envoirment of dutchsland i want to be a citizan over there any way God bless all arwa and nuria you people r good in ways i know dutch people r friendly and they r good in talk my kind of person easily live in that peacefull country

  • Shahzad Khan

    The cheek to cheek kiss! That was something new for me when I stepped on this wet land. And the word, aaaAAAAlstublieft! Wicked.

  • I love that word too. And graag gedaan sounds cool as well.

    Enjoy the wet land :)

  • Hi Arwa,

    I know this was posted a while ago, but I thought I’d let you know I enjoyed reading this, being a roving Dutch expat now living in Moldova. You never quite see your own people the way foreigners do. I am happy your view is a positive one!

    • it’s good says miss Footloose! I like your article! Actually i am new to dutch culture , would you share some about that please , i am looking for wards!!!!

  • As an Dutch expat now living in France, i’m impressed by your view of the Dutch. I’m missing the most important word in the Dutch language “gezellig” and our culinary skills (or lack there of) Although I do miss “zoute haring” “stroopwafels” “rookworst” and of course “Drop”
    O and don’t drop in unannounced at dinner time (between 6 and 7) and bring flowers to any visit.