The Shallow Man recently read an article on Joop.nl that covered a story by a fellow blogger called how to piss off the Dutch. It referred to a recent survey of 4000 Expats from over 100 countries whose results concluded that the Netherlands is the most expat unfriendly country in the world. I had to laugh when I read this as I simply cannot agree with this at all.
More whining expats?
As a resident of the Netherlands (Amsterdam) for almost ten years now, and the author of a blog that is followed by many expats and Dutch alike, I have to question the validity of this survey and some of the “advice” provided by my fellow blogger on how not to piss off the Dutch.
Rina Mae Acosta, an American that’s lived in the Netherlands for seven years described several things that annoy Dutch people. One I have to agree with, based on my own experience with this blog is that criticising Zwarte Piet does drive some Dutch people crazy! Just look at some of the comments to my piece on Zwarte Piet last year. On the other hand, I’ve sat around a dinner table with some Dutch friends (Groetjes Jim and Corrina) and had a rational and civilised discussion with none of the hysteria that was displayed by some angry Dutch folk on my blog and in the media.
What Rina’s blog piece and the Wat je in Nederland niet moet doen article seem to suggest is that you should hold your tongue and not speak your mind if you want to get on with the Dutch. This is total nonsense. The Dutch people I’m friends with, appreciate that like them, I’m open, honest, direct and opinionated. In her piece, she talks about not joining in criticising aspects of Dutch culture and bureaucracy, and to save this for discussions with other expats. I couldn’t disagree more. We expats, are here working, paying taxes, contributing to the wider economy and experiencing exactly the same challenges with Dutch bureaucracy as everyone else. Why shouldn’t we complain about it? If you have to keep your true thoughts to yourself for fear of upsetting people, then these individuals can hardly be described as your friends. I’d rather annoy the hell out of people than act like some kind of docile servant, who to keep things “gezellig” keeps his mouth shut for fear of upsetting local sensitivities.
The shallow man is the first to acknowledge that making friends with the Dutch isn’t always easy. However, I firmly believe that people should accept you for who you are. Yes, I agree that learning the language, even some basics can be a big advantage. Especially if you’re sat in a cafe while several women discuss you in a loud voice as they’ve heard you speaking English and assume that you can’t understand a word of Dutch. It can be entertaining to watch their shocked reaction when you suddenly interrupt them to correct their assumptions.
To describe the Netherlands as expat-unfriendly is far removed from reality. I would say that the Netherlands is one of the best places in the world for Expats to live. There’s a great quality of life here. Affordable public transport, and a wide choice of cultural activities available throughout the country. Some of the best fine dining places outside of France and the UK are to be found here as well. Even more important to the Shallow Man is that some of the best looking (even when badly dressed) people in the world are here as well. There are also many multinational organisations that use English as their official business language headquartered here. What more does an expat need?
Yes, I do understand about the general lack of choice in the supermarkets, compared to other countries, and the quality of fresh bread is not as good as in Germany or France, but ultimately, this is a great place to be. For those expats who are having difficulties making friends with the locals, there are plenty of activities that one can partake in to correct this. For example, I attended a wine tasting course and became firm friends with a couple of Dutch people I met there.
There are also plenty of social events in most big cities where you can come into contact with friendly open-minded Dutch people. Living in a country other than your own can be challenging and is a learning curve, but ultimately rewarding experience. My last word on the subject is that if people are your friends they should respect your views even if they don’t agree with them. Mutual respect is the key to any relationship.
What are your views on this? I’d be interested to hear from my fellow Expats if they agree with the results of the survey.
A fellow blogger was not hurt during the writing of this post.