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Anyone over here living in the Netherlands?


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I'm going to the netherlands on january next year (I have the ticket already) so it's actually a fact I'll be going :)  I'd like to learn Dutch because I might end up moving there with my boyfriend, I'm going to meet his parents during this trip and I'm nervious as heck!  I really don't know what to expect, seriously! 

It'd be nice if someone living in the Netherlands or a native dutch person could tell me more about dutch culture.  I come from a very different culture and I don't want to screw things up!  I know how to behave, but I think our cultures are so different.  Also there are some particular idiosyncrasies that can only be noticed by foreigners living in the Netherlands, please feel free to share if you know any :)

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I don't live there anymore, but I am a Dutch native.

Dutch culture, I would say, is generally quite free, open, understanding and tolerant. There are of course exceptions, and these people tend to have the loudest mouths, so it may not always appear so free, but with the right people, there's little you can do wrong.

We may not seem very polite, for example, in English, you would say "Can I have a cup of tea please?", in Dutch you simply say "Can I have a cup of tea?" That's very normal and is still polite. In our own way :P

One thing I noticed when I came to the UK, when you're having a coffee or something to eat in an establishment in town (not all though, not in restaurants for example (except places like MacDonald's)), it is common in the Netherlands to bring empty glasses to the counter, and throw rubbish in the bins provided. Not so in the UK, and possibly in other countries, where you just leave everything on the table. That's considered rude in the Netherlands. As I said, not in all places, it's hard to define exactly where and where not, but if you're with natives, they should show you where it's appropriate.

Here in the UK, I often hear when people are talking about the Netherlands that they think it's the cleanest place they've ever seen. I've heard somebody call Amsterdam the 'cleanest city'. While I do not think it's entirely true, it is fairly clean. I think that's because there are bins everywhere. here, I can sit on a public bench and don't see a bin anywhere, in the Netherlands, there should be a bin next to every bench. Although it is considered rude if you do not throw rubbish in the bins, people probably won't comment on it if you just throw stuff on the ground. The councils send out cleaning trucks regularly (especially Sunday mornings in Amsterdam) to keep the city as rubbish-free as possible.

We all ride our bicycles, so there are bike lanes all over the country. Bicycles should not be used on pavements, that's for pedestrians only. Exceptions are when the public feels the council should've added a bike lane shortcut. You will of course find people riding their bicycles on pavements anyway (especially teenagers, lol), but most people will stay in the designated lanes.

And speaking of traffic, with the exception of Amsterdam (although they're trying to enforce it now), when you're a pedestrian and you cross a road, if the light is red, you wait. I've noticed in the UK this is usually not the case, because "you can't get a ticket for it", but you can in the Netherlands. Except when it's late at night or you're in the middle of nowhere, but generally you wait for the light to turn green (push the button though, or it will always stay red).

Pedestrian traffic lights are always across the road from you.

If you're crossing a road and there's no traffic lights, but there is a zebra crossing, pedestrians have right of way. Cars have to stop if they see you want to cross the road. They don't always do this, especially when they see the pedestrian is foreign and may not know the rules, but they have to. What you do, you just pretend to put one foot on the crossing (often there's also a bike lane, so you can usually safely step on that) and observe if the oncoming car is slowing down. If it is, usually you can go ahead and cross. Some people will always be jerks and won't stop, so you should still be careful. Bicycles also have to stop for pedestrians, but you can't be sure of that at all, so the trick won't work here. There's usually not a lot of bikes anyway, so you can wait for them.

I hope that helped a bit. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask.

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Wow!!!!  Thanks for the awesome reply, I wasn't expecting such a detailed reply :o  Thanks for covering all those topics related to traffic and crossing.  Where I come from people cross the street whenever they can!  Seriously!  It's interesting to find out that you can get a ticket if you don't wait for the light to turn green :o  Woah!  It seems it's very easy to get a ticket over there, at least that's what my boyfriend has told me :P 

Could you please ,pleeeeeeeeease... tell me more about the general etiquette, like for example when you are invited to a house for dinner? Should I shake hands with my boyfriend's parents? Hug his mom? :P  And also... how should I react to the weird comments my boyfriend's sister makes? 

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When you first meet his parents, especially when you're a bit nervous about it, you can just shake hands, that's fine. Later, when you're more comfortable with them, you can go on to kissing. It's not really kissing, you just sort of touch cheeks and make the smack sound. In the Netherlands, you do this 3 times, first you move to the left, then right, then left again. That's your left, so you get the kiss on your right cheek first.

But if you still feel weird doing that, you're fine to keep your distance.

It depends on what weird comments his sister makes, but having two older brothers, I'm used to weird comments myself. For me at least the best way to deal with it is to go along with it. Laugh, make a comment yourself. If she's making the comments to try and make you feel awkward, by doing that you'll show her it's not working, and then she'll stop it eventually.

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Wow!  Thank a lot!  Tghe kissing part sounds like a whole process, I could have never guessed dutch people actually liked to greet each other that way.  I thought it was more like a middle eastern and french thing.  In my country we kiss only once, left or right cheek is ok :)  Hehehe!  Woah!  I have so much to learn! I'm just 9 weeks away from my trip... *shivers*.

Where are you from exactly?  I hope you don't mind I ask :)  Are you from the north or the south of Holland?

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  • 2 weeks later...

That's good to know :)  But tell me one thing... is it true dutch people are really direct?  direct to the point of being rude? My boyfriend mentioned something like that yesterday, his family came from Amsterdam.  I lately been thinking that his sister comments might have been what is known as ''dutch directness''.  I'm direct as well, but I'm em... very diplomatic :P  I mean, I believe you can be direct and all, but there are way to say things so they don't sound so blunt.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, I think that might be true, although it differs from person to person. But I do think Dutch people are more direct than British. Especially if they're originally from Amsterdam. But it's not always meant rude, so try not to feel strange about it.

I think it's considered more rude, sneaky and shrewd when people are not direct when insulting someone. Think of like in films bad guys say something like: "it would be a real shame if something would happen to your wife." Well, that's obviously threatening, but not direct at all. So we think that's mean. At least if they'd say "I'll kill your wife for this," they're being honest about their intentions :P

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  • 4 months later...

Hahaha, you are right!  But...  I really think most Brits aren't direct at all!  They actually seem to be the opposite of direct, isn't it?  I say it because the boyfriend of my boyfriend's  sister is a Brit and at first he was shocked to see how direct dutch people were, lol.  His family felt the same way when they met his now wife!  They were shocked and felt she was extremely direct and rude.

I didn't find them as direct as I thought they'd be tho :)  The mother talked about things I'd rather she had kept to herself, but it wasn't as bad as most foreigners make it sound :)  All in all I think it was a good experience, and not as scary and terrifying as I thought it would surely be, hehehe! 

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...

Thanks :)  I'll be at it once again, I'm kinda scared, but also excited.  This time I'll know more dutch!  Going to at least get to lesson 15 of the course.  So after that Ill surely be able to understand at least a bit more :)

Btw, you know what would be awesome??  If you could create posts with some basic vocabulary, the kind of words people like me (who are just starting) surely need help with, like for example the body parts, house and food vocab, etc. It's just a suggestion, in my opinion it would be awesome!

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