Today marks my fourth year of living and moving to the Netherlands. If I were in school, I would be a senior, ready to graduate 😉
Living in a different country for four years surely has changed me in many ways, both physically and mentally. Physically: I have grown my hair and gained a few kgs. Mentally: nothing much has changed, but I have become more assertive and a go-getter in more ways that I used to be.
However, even though I have lived here for 4 years, I still can’t manage to change my love-hate relationship with Dutch society to love relationship :p Here are the things I like and (still) dislike about them.
Disclaimer: The following points are taken from my observation and experience. Please take these with a grain of salt.
What I like about Dutch people (and society)
It’s not hard to find gezelligheid in this country
“Gezelligheid” can mean anything. In general, it means “a state of mind when you feel comfortable”, similar to Danish’s “hygge” concept. After hanging out with your friends, you can say, “Het was gezellig”, to show that you were having a good time.
In the Netherlands, you can find gezelligheid in almost anything, and it doesn’t need to be expensive to make you happy. Going to Saturday market, having a portion of kibbeling while sitting on a park bench on a warm sunny day can bring gezelligheid to you. Unlike in Jakarta, you need to spend a lot of money to feel happy and comfortable, such as going to shopping malls.
Dutch people are (mostly) chill
This is something I still adore. Dutch people are super chill everywhere, including in public. For example, when they are in a train station and someone asks for direction, they would help them. In Asian countries (or Indonesia), someone asking for something to strangers usually means a diversion because they might nick your stuff or even worse, hypnotize you!
Moreover, they are reasonable to people with mental problems. I remember going back home when an old man entered the tram. I could see he was not in his right mind because he was blabbering unintelligible words all the time. A girl asked for a seat, he gave up his seat and he tried to strike a conversation with her. “What are you listening?” he asked her, who was wearing earphones. The girl answered him. Then he said, “Why don’t you listen to your music without earphones?”, to which the girl answered politely, “I would love to, but I don’t think other people would like loud music in the tram.” Then the man started babbling about how one should break the rule, which followed with endless rants about the insurance benefits until he left the tram. (It was quite scary for me. If I were the girl, I wouldn’t answer his questions.)
Customer Service level is decent
This may or may not work for everyone, but I like Dutch customer service in shops. I am a no-nonsense shopper. If I went to a store to buy something, most likely I have known what I want to buy. If I had no idea yet, I would ask the store clerk for their recommendation based on my budget and my desired outcome from the product.
Dutch shopkeepers are no-nonsense and will give you a decent, ‘non-invasive’ customer service. Upon walking inside their shop, they won’t follow you around to promote their products or service. They usually don’t try too hard to win you over. And if you ask for their advice, they won’t point you to the new arrivals or the most expensive product in their store, they point you to what they think suits you the best.
This ‘enough’ attitude from shopkeepers really enhance my shopping experience in the Netherlands. However, things change whenever I go back home. There, the shopkeepers are mostly pushy and always selling things aggressively.
What I don’t like about Dutch people (and society)
Sometimes, they are so individualistic…
Most of the time, I love Dutch individualism. This is a country where I don’t have to feel bad to say “NO” to things I don’t want to do, and people totally understand it. However, this individualistic mindset is really annoying when practiced in public transportation.
I have been moving back to Den Haag for 2 months now and as someone living in the suburbs, I frequently use the tram to go to work. Therefore, I mostly use the tram during rush hour. During these hours, I can’t help to notice how lazy the Dutch people are to squeeze to the center of the tram. Let’s say all the seats are taken, whoever enters the tram will most likely stand nearby the tram door instead of squeezing to standing areas next to the tram chairs. This cause slight congestion near the tram doors and people from outside will get the impression that the tram is full, while actually, it can accommodate more people.
The same thing goes for people on cross-country trains. I once got stuck in a station because there was an accident on my usual route. This meant I had to wait for another train in that station. When the train arrived, it was SO FULL around the train doors, but SO EMPTY in the middle. Why people, why don’t you squeeze in?
And sometimes, they are quite rude!
If I must say, the Dutch are the least politically correct group of people. They have this mutual understanding that their expression must be heard. If they can’t sugarcoat it, they might as well give the ugly truth. This directness can be translated to rudeness for some people, even for me. Though I love their directness, sometimes I think they don’t understand the saying: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.
However, I love Dutch directness in general. This means I don’t have to wonder what they are thinking because they like to say exactly what they have in mind!
That’s it, my opinion of what I like and dislike about the Dutch. I understand that 4 years is still a short amount and I still have got a lot to learn. But I’m thriving to step up my integration game, starting from attending integration exams to trying to get to Dutch friendship circle. Wish me luck!