Melissa Adams, an American ex-pat living in the Netherlands, had to give up two habits: political correctness and closing the blinds.
Living in the Netherlands alters you in subtle ways. Losing some of your foreign habits will undoubtedly aid your integration into Dutch culture.
Driving – Habits You Must Quit In The Netherlands
In California, I had no qualms about hopping in my mini-SUV and driving three blocks to the nearest store for something minor. I haven’t driven a car since I totaled it in 2009 (long story). There’s also no need to drive in Amsterdam, a horse-drawn village where bicycles outnumber humans. Because the city is as flat as a Dutch pannekoken and parking is as expensive as gold, everyone rides a bike, rain or shine – or, more often, rain, wind, and more rain.
Riding a pricey bicycle
While many Americans spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on bicycles that are only used on weekends, Dutchies commute on ‘beater bikes’ painted in bright colors to make them easier to identify in a mile-high stack. Then they chain them up with chains large enough to secure an army tank, yet such precautions are ineffective in deterring thieves who naturally repaint their ‘new’ rides before selling them on the underground market.
Despite their worn appearance, Dutch commuter bikes, omafietsen (grandma cycles), and bakfietsen (freight bikes) are the epitome of function, transporting children, groceries, plants, and appliances, and are frequently decorated with flowers to freshen up their appearance.
Purchasing on credit – Habits You Must Quit In The Netherlands
We Americans pay high-interest rates on credit card balances, but Dutch people never spend more than they have. Debit cards are widely used and assist consumers in living within their means — or until their bank account reaches zero. The overall result is priceless debt relief from credit cards.
Correctness in politics
In the Netherlands, everyone from the janitor to the CEO may and will criticize you. Dutch people can be harsh because they are so direct. If they are sufficiently enraged, they will curse you with a fatal disease such as typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera, smallpox, or The Big C. ‘Sterf aan kanker!’ they’ll yell, swearing by sickness like no other nationality.
Even though their lack of PC may upset the sensitive, no one ever has to guess what a Dutchie is thinking.
Tipping – Habits You Must Quit In The Netherlands
Americans are famed for their generous tipping habits. Because restaurant employees in the United States are paid less than the minimum wage, servers routinely ‘brown-nose’ customers to earn good pay through tips. Staff in Dutch restaurants do not go out of their way to provide timely service; they are sufficiently compensated, so customers should be grateful they are allowed in at all.
Assume that everyone understands English.
Although Amsterdamers are among Europe’s most skilled English speakers, the Dutch city is home to over 180 nationalities, including a large Turkish and Moroccan population and an older population with less polished English abilities. It is impolite in the Netherlands, as in any foreign country, to begin blathering in English before knowing what language your listener understands.
The Dutch are a timely bunch, and they expect the same from you. This became evident to me when a doctor told me, after I arrived 10 minutes late for an appointment, that “you’re sitting in someone else’s chair.”
In the Netherlands, agendas are taken seriously – and openly displayed in bathrooms, where the obligatory ‘Birthday Calendar’ (De Verjaardagskalender) hangs. Dutchies, ever frugal and efficient, use these perpetual calendars, which lack days and years, to save purchasing and updating a new one each year. Erasing a few entries from one could cause disaster in the life of your Dutch friend.
Work comes before play.
Americans are workaholics by Dutch standards, working 40+ hours per week, 50 weeks per year to earn two weeks of annual vacation. Europeans work 37.5 hours a week on average, but Dutch people work only 30.6 hours per week, the fewest in Europe.
Romance – Habits You Must Quit In The Netherlands
Expect three kisses on alternate cheeks from your Dutch date, but don’t expect much passion beyond that. While your sexy eyes battle for attention with the night’s Ajax match, plan to divide the dinner bill. On the plus side, Dutch people are often tall and well-built. If you reside with one, make sure to document every possession and bank account you have, as you may miss out on more than just romance if you don’t have a samenlevingscontract (living-together contract).
Dutch people hate excessive behavior. They say, ‘Do maar normaal, dan do je al gek genoeg’ (Just act normally, that’s wild enough), referring to Calvinist roots that advocate a lack of flash and hoopla. On Koningsdag (King’s Day), the orange attire appears and everyone in the Netherlands acts as insanely as humanly can.