Tips on How to Make Dutch Friends & Cultural Norms
Internationals living in the Netherlands often mention the challenges they face with respects to integrating into Dutch society, learning the language and more importantly making Dutch friends. The Dutch, most likely having their own set of friends over the years, (and have usually been friends with them for years) locals may not necessarily feel the need to make new friends. It would be the same for you if the tables were turned in your native country. Furthermore, friendships require time and energy with the risk of an expat leaving the country after a few years, this poses some challenges.
However, do not despair. Making friends in Holland can definitely be done, you just have to showcase your charm and intelligence (as well as your independence, open-mind, amazing hospitality skills and your love for the Netherlands) and you’re in! Below are some ways to claim a Dutchie as your bestie.
Be an open book
The Dutch value honesty. As everyone knows by now, they are a ‘straight-up’ kind of bunch and no Dutch man or woman appreciates anyone being fake. The more you wear your heart on your sleeve, the more Dutch people find that endearing. Let people know that you are new to the country and that you are looking for some mates. You might not become best friends overnight (it takes time for people to warm up) but they will admire your honesty about the situation. Important is not to brag about material possessions and try to avoid spilling your deepest darkest secrets from the get-go.
Don’t diss their country
Just like most people, no one likes it when a foreigner says negative things about the country they are living in, especially the Dutch. Many Dutchies love their country and rightly so! What is not to love about a country that offers employees a ‘13th’ month of salary, great social benefits, an advanced healthcare system, beautiful scenery, vibrant nightlife, a myriad of great restaurants, a dynamic economy with loads opportunities and encourages their people to be open-minded. Of course, you’ll find things which you don’ fancy that’s normal, but try to bring it in a positive light. For instance, “you know what would be great…” or “I wish I could see more of…”, this will earn you brownie points over slanderous negativity.
There is nothing more unappealing to the Dutch than people who have small and narrow minds. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage – enough said. The Dutch are always up for a good discussion about a wide range of topics and believe in expressing your own opinion, as long as everyone is respectful of those opinions.
You’ll find yourself, possibly being asked loads of questions, about who you are, where you’re from and why you are here, don’t fret this is normal. This is culturally how the dutch size you up. Embrace the cultural curiosity and of course, make sure to ask some questions yourself. This will allow you to learn more about the person and dutch society, which tends to help you feel more connected to the culture.
Contribute to Dutch society
Try really hard to find a job, enroll into a university or contribute to Dutch society in some tangible way. This might sound silly, but just like most people the Dutchies aren’t overly fond of freeloaders and the Dutch are especially unimpressed with this. Their deep Calvinist roots of working hard and not wasting resources are a unique and integral part of their identity. As an international/expat you bring a unique set of knowledge, skills, and language so make sure to put that to good use!
Learn the language!
This might sound like an obvious one, but a lot of expats do not try and learn Dutch because most Dutch people speak English quite well. Not only are you limiting yourself on the work scene if you don’t attempt to learn it, but you are also shooting yourself in the foot if you want to make friends with the Dutch. The question ‘so do you speak any Dutch?’ will come up and when you answer ‘no’, the next question will definitely be ‘why’? If you make an effort to integrate into their way of life, society, and culture, brownie points will be scored. Just try, that is all that is expected. If you’re not sure how to start, check out some of these schools
Go to events and embrace common interests
A great way to meet new people in a new country (not just Dutch) is by going to events around topics and themes you enjoy. Whether it’s comedy night, networking, kickboxing, book clubs or cooking workshops it’s helpful to search out people with common interests. Join these events and try to take some initiative by talking to people and engaging.
Invite Dutchies to your house
Invite a couple of Dutchies (whether they are colleagues, gym buddies or your local grocer) over for a home-cooked meal or some wine – basically anything that is ‘gezellig’. Showing the Dutch warm hospitality also shows them you are willing to put in an effort. If the invite is reciprocated and they invite you to their house, you know you have impressed. The Dutch only invite people over that they genuinely like or would like to get to know.
Friends cycle together
Yes, it may sound a little clichéd because everyone rides bikes in the Netherlands, but it is honestly a great way to make friends with the Dutch. The Dutch love to run on schedule and if they can fit in a quick chat while riding, that is even better for them! Ride to work or a party with a Dutchie – perhaps even ask them to show you the way. You’ll find that their cultural willingness to help is what makes life easier here.
Pay for a round
When Dutch people are out together in a group at a bar, they usually take it in turns to buy a round of beer for the group. And just because you are a foreigner doesn’t mean you should get away with not buying a round too. Join in this tradition and it will demonstrate your generosity. If there’s a beer pot you should definitely chip in.
It takes time
And it can, especially when it comes to making friends with the Dutch. They usually take a little bit of time to warm up and a few successful meet-ups before they begin to consider you as a friend but one of the best things about the Dutch is their loyalty. Once they are your friend, they will usually be your friend for life, so the investment is well worth the while!