The Ten Dutch Commandments for expats
After telling his followers about the Stuff Dutch people hate, the Shallow Man was cast out into the wilderness. For a long time, I wandered until I reached the highest point in the Netherlands, Vaalserberg otherwise known as Mount Vaals. I camped there for a couple of nights when on the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, and an incredibly loud female voice (even louder than that of a typical Dutch woman) shouted: “Shallow Man come to the top of the mountain”. Upon nearing the peak, the female voice said “Shallow Man do not look in my direction, to which I said, “it’s ok, I know better than to look at Dutch women, always allow them to make the first move, what can I do for you?”. The loud voice responded, “Shallow Man, you have been chosen to give the Dutch commandments to the expat community. To your left, you will see ten tablets.”
“Tablets? Hold on a minute, I’m not a Dutchman, I can dance without them, and am not planning to visit a festival”.
The voice became even louder. “Not those kinds of tablets”. Return to your expat followers and tell them that Henk and Ingrid, the Gods of the Dutch normen en waarden are not happy with the unintegrated behaviours of many expats in the Netherlands. You are to share these commandments unto them so that they can change and become more acceptable to the Dutch. Not accepted, but tolerated”.
I was going to ask where Henk was, but of course, I knew the answer, even Dutch gods are afraid of their wives, he was probably in the kitchen baking apple tart. I did ask for more information, but being a Dutch female she only worked three hours a day and had to hurry off to attend a Yin Yoga class. So as ordered, the Shallow Man has returned from the mountain, with the Dutch commandments.
The things I do for my readers!
1. Thou Shalt be Koppig (stubborn)
Behave like the Dutch, cling to your point of view and never, ever admit even for a second that the other person might have a point. Shout people down who disagree with you, or if you feel really passionate, issue death threats (from the safety of sitting behind a computer screen, never in person).
2. Thou Shalt Not Show Empathy
If something goes wrong when dealing with customers, make sure that your number one priority is to explain the rules and processes of your employer. Under no circumstances display any signs that lead your customer to believe that you might give a rats bottom about their problem. Just keep repeating the rules and regulations, in a pissed off tone of voice as if speaking to a six-year-old child. In fact, if you work for a certain famous Dutch postal company, you’ll probably be promoted for being so consistently unhelpful.
3. Thou Shalt Wear Birkenstocks in summer (all five days of it)
As well as wearing sunglasses at every given opportunity, sandals should be worn when the sun is shining. They are comfortable, practical and good value for money. They can be worn to just about every occasion in the Netherlands, to work, to Michelin star restaurants, weddings and funerals.
4. Thou Shalt Love the Netherlands
You’d better love the Netherlands as much as Donald Trump loves himself. Not only should you better love living here, make sure that you tell people how grateful you are that they’ve given you the opportunity to live and work in the paradise that some people annoyingly call Holland. There is no better country in the world, and you’d better make damn sure that you keep reminding every Dutch person you meet of that.
When you get on the tram in the morning and swipe your OV-Chipkaart, say to the conductor, “good morning, I just wanted to say how happy I am to still be living here in Holland. I used to live in Zurich which was a medieval hell hole, thank you for saving me”. Even though the Dutch hate you calling it Holland, they’ll be grateful that you clearly know your place.
If you’re in a relationship with a Dutch person, impress their parents by bringing your passport along with you to dinner and setting it on fire.
5. Thou shalt eat children’s food for lunch
Lunchtimes are not for warm food (unless it’s an uitsmijter). There is nothing finer than watching adults eating slices of bread with flakes of chocolate (hagelslag or vlokken) spread on top. This is the cornerstone of a nutritious and healthy diet. If you eat this, then you will be well on your way to becoming Dutch.
6. Thou Shalt Send Tikkies
If God had wanted people to be generous, he wouldn’t have allowed ABN AMRO to invent the micropayments app Tikkie. It’s absolutely your right to be repaid for every damn thing imaginable. If someone comes round to your place and watches Netflix but fails to engage in some hot passionate jiggy jiggy afterwards, send them a Tikkie for their share of your subscription. If you go on a date with a Dutch woman, they will be offended if you don’t send them a Tikkie for the two glasses of Chateau Migraine and the cigarettes she smoked from your packet. Doe maar effe normaal!
7. Thou Shalt Avoid Confrontation with Thy Neighbours
If your neighbours have the bloody cheek to make noise after six pm, don’t knock on their door and ask them if they can make love more quietly. Adopt the Dutch method, wait until three am in the morning and leave a note in front of their door. Tell them that “here in Holland we make love after eleven pm”. Spend the next five years avoiding them if possible.
8. Keep thy nose out of the Zwarte Piet discussie
You are a kut expat, know thy place. You’re a ‘guest’ in this country. Yes, you’re expected to pay taxes and line the pockets of Dutch landlords by paying higher rents than Dutch natives. Don’t for a minute believe that this gives you the right to lecture the Dutch about Zwarte Piet. Unless of course, you see nothing wrong with white people blacking up and pretending not to be black. If you don’t have a problem with it, then, of course, you can talk about it, otherwise mond dicht mafkees!
9. Thou shalt not blame Dutch property owners for the cost of renting in Amsterdam
Nee! Echt niet. Expats are to blame. They arrive in the Netherlands and when a letting agent says, “this 25 m2 mouse infested studio apartment in the Pijp costs 1400 euros a month,” expats turn round and say, “how much? That’s too cheap, I can afford to pay 1700, please meneer, take my money”. That’s the reason why Dutch families who can trace their roots in Amsterdam back hundreds of years are now having to go and live in Almere or Hoofddorp. Which we all know is a kind of open-air prison. Expats are definitely to blame for well everything bad in the Netherlands actually. I know this because I read it in De Telegraaf.
10. Thou shalt not make jokes about the way the Dutch dress
The Dutch are of course the most stylish people in Europe and anyone making snarky comments about leopard print, brown shoes and Dr Maartens is, of course, an idiot! The fact that the majority of the Dutch dress as if they’ve rolled off the production line of a human cloning factory, is a wonderful thing. It makes identifying who is worthy of having a conversation with incredibly easy. Learn to love the fact that you can leave home wearing absolutely anything and people will only look down on you if you dress up. As long as you dress exactly like everyone else you’ll be fine!
If you obey all of the commandments provided by Henk and Ingrid, you’ll become so Dutch that the locals might even forget that you’re a kut expat and invite you round to their place for dinner within less than the usual six months obligatory ‘calendar is full’ waiting period. Enjoy! No need to thank me.
No residents of Hoofddorp were hurt during the writing of this post