British and Dutch Cultures Compared Guest Blog Post
The old saying of “men are from Mars women are from Venus” (the planet not the chain of sex shops) is something that certainly applies to countries too. Being from the UK, I can tell you that the Netherlands is so different that it was a real culture shock when I first moved here. Even after 14 years in this country, there are still things about Dutch culture that continue to amaze me, which is why I could relate to today’s guest blog post by a lady from Cyprus who has spent four years living in both the UK and the Netherlands.
British and Dutch Cultures compared
Here are some thoughts about the British and Dutch cultures, that I believe, have no place on the world wide web, other than on this page! Be warned, it will be a long one.
So, with all those stories of people sinking while attempting to skate on pieces of frozen water recently, I couldn’t help but think that, in some ways, the Dutch culture is the polar opposite of the British. Not because one nation might be skating better than the other, but because… ‘Health & Safety’! This got me thinking of all the things the British taught me in four years and the Dutch un-taught me in just about the same amount of time. For those who care to dig deeper into my thoughts, please, be my guest! Here are all the things, I, as a 100% Mediterranean-built-human, learnt and unlearnt while living in the UK and the Netherlands:
1. Let’s start with the biggest one: Health & Safety.
A national sport of the British. I was introduced to it during my first year of studies while stepping on a perfectly safe and robust chair to reach something from a relatively low shelf (art school…) when out of nowhere an incredibly anxious man stopped me from ending my life in this thoughtless, life-threatening way! His name tag read: “Health & Safety officer”.
Now, the Dutch side of things… if it’s 100% safe, it most likely won’t be fun. Why not skate on a semi-frozen canal where there are visible holes the size of volcano craters? Or why not cycle through the Dam, yes, obviously during peak time, with your kid STANDING on the back of your bike, holding your shoulders as the only means of harness, while dodging tourists, crossing red lights, smiling and having fun, carefree, as if you’re at the Efteling! Oh! And what do you mean you wear helmets to cycle in London? Scared of those red double-deckers’ blind spot, are you? Oh kom ooooop, you big baby!!! Live a little eh!
2. Being punctual.
The British approach:
Be on time, no matter what, cause life might cease to exist if you’re late!
The Dutch approach:
Well, try to be on time, but if you don’t make it… meh… helaas pindakaas and jammer de bammer. Nobody really cares, we’re all too relaxed. And what if you don’t make it at all? We could always look at our agendas and re-schedule for Monday… in two months. Yes, we’re that busy!
Workaholics. 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. It’s 17:00; not finished? Stay longer.
I hate working, so let me figure out the most efficient and effective way to do it so I can work 4 days a week, or 6 hours a day so I can leave earlier for borrel! (after work drink). Top!!!
4. Rush hour
Victoria Station 8:50 a.m.: People running around like headless chickens while respecting the escalator’s “fast lane”. Some of them are even reading a book at the same time, wow!
Amsterdam Centraal 8:50 a.m.: We never really queue, but let’s queue for the escalator that almost nobody knows how to use! Oh shit, this is actually taking longer than my train ride, but hey, at least I didn’t have to walk to the stairs at the other end of the platform!
The British way
The British way of expressing respect and fairness. Even if that means you are so far at the end of that neat queuing line that you can’t tell if there is still a bus there or not…
British style queuing.
The Dutch way
The Dutch way of showing that ‘survival of the fittest’ is the only way. And also, “line” is not exactly the shape that describes a dutch queue, unless of course, it’s the one at an AH kassa… well okay, most of the times. And if the person behind you is only buying a chocomel, you’re getting a dirty look of “oh come oooon, you’re buying groceries for one whole meal, I deserve to go first”… Efficiency and common sense!
6. Personal space.
Walking on the streets of London, the worst thing that can happen to you is to accidentally have your coat sleeve rub on somebody else’s sleeve. You’re both going to be so terribly sorry and beg for forgiveness!
Walking in the streets of Amsterdam, well, you’ll rub, nobody cares, nobody’s sorry.
7. On manners.
British way: Be polite, and oh well beat around the bush a little. Hurt nobody’s feelings. Offend no one!
Dutch way: Be direct. Maybe cross the line between direct and downright rude. Offend everyone without even being aware you’re doing it. Yes, of course, you can publicly share your opinion without being asked. What do you mean you might hurt somebody’s feelings? Oh, boohoo!!! (Still an effective means of communication though!)
I guess a bigger, busy country makes you want to stand out. I’ve seen pink, blue, purple and rainbow coloured hair, piercings and tattoos, 80’s wardrobes, 20’s wardrobes, goth wardrobes, hipsters, hippies, and basically, hello Camden town!
You know the drill, “Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg”. Denim and white sneakers are crazy enough. Need to stand out? Then give those leopard prints or floral men shoes a try. Should do the trick!
9. Small things
In the UK I learnt to drink tea and beer.
In the Netherlands, I learnt to drink coffee(s) and beer.
10. More Small things
In the UK I taught myself to choose the till over the self-checkout, because “unexpected item in (the freakin’) bagging area”, was more painful than the endless queuing and the human interaction.
In the Netherlands; Oh who cares, we know they’re most likely stealing from us, but it’s still cheaper than paying a human to scan groceries and take pin payments! We need no monitoring of the bagging area! AMEN!
11. Something that Dutch and British Cultures have in common
Let’s wrap up with one thing that remains the same in both the British and the Dutch worlds: Sun worship! Coming from a land with 367 days of sunlight, it always amazes me how the sun can turn any moody human being into a happy BBQ turning machine.
I hope I have not offended anyone with this piece of text, I’m terribly sorry if I have, my intention was not to offend, you’ve chosen to be offended. I was just being direct. 😉
The Shallow Man would like to thank the writer of this piece the amazing Anastasia Georgiou.
No sunbathers were hurt during the writing of this post.
Good article, some points a bit biased! But I can also confirm the Dutch are pretty racist and literally everything is mildly put… ‘oversold’- it can be food, work, music, culture, housing you name it – you quickly find out that it’s nothing special and it’s just a pile of sh*t wrapped in a nice box.
They really are protective the bs happiness of kids and healthcare system though, and I never understood why. The healthcare is dreadful to say the least, apart from maybe if you are about to die. Everything is masked as the right social or financial decision, but the truth is that professionalism and resources are lacking and that’s why they have to cut corners everywhere. And about the kids, for Christ’s sake this is the most difficult thing to measure in adults, let alone in kids. Kids are happy if you are a good parent, which you can do everywhere in the world.
London pros: English, lots of work opportunities, decent people, competence
London cons: Work culture, traffic (i.e. moving around), petty crime
Amsterdam pros: Small, relaxed work culture, safe, decent clubs
Amsterdam cons: Racist, “direct” (plain irresponsible/incompetent), expensive bs
Rude? Maybe Racist? Why do we have more nationalities living in Amsterdam than in London if we are so racist.. Anti Expat YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS They should fuck off and never ride a bike in my city… Theyre arrogant pricks who are to lazy to learn 1 word of Dutch, who are responsable for house shortage and behave like they are the saviours of our country because we cannot find qualified staff ourselves.. So… YEAH… FUCK OFF EXPATS WE HATE YOU The fact that youre too dumb to google famous Dutch artists, scientists and innovators says a lot about you.. Please F off if youre still here…
BASED EN ROODGEPILLED
I can’t believe reading this led me to leave a (somewhat) positive comment but here goes
Dutch honesty about their own country and their own psyche can be refreshing. You’ll never witness an American teacher saying “Oh yes, here we have some racists” or “People here behave like zombies”
Some Dutch people I met are not above calling themselves and others on their BS. I met two or three really good looking guys (Dutch) who just had this charm (okay, they were incredibly good looking and they were charming) about them. My good friend from Amsterdam (to whom I’m still in touch with to this very day) was nothing but kind to me, and contrary to some things written on here, she is really elegant.
There were cases where people were just mean and lacked emotional intelligence, like, five minutes of what I thought was a good conversation I’d get the weirdest comments (i.e. “I have Facebook like every NORMAL person and you don’t but I guess we’ll stay in touch.”) Or I met a guy and he was picking out my shirt and its design, and that came out of nowhere (10 minutes after I met him).
And of course there were mean people (rude people break social norms, like singing in an elevator, while mean people intentionally hurt one’s feelings). As that saying goes “candor without care is harsh”. But I’m not bitter about it because I did meet a couple of really decent people. so that was my first impression.
What struck me was how it seems how parts of Amsterdam were stuck in time. My tutors at UVA (who spoke amazing English) were also full of it. They would talk hours and hours while basically saying nothing, and most of it was just to make them look cultured.
But also, how guys I met still listened to techno circa 1994 or similar movies references (I had to look up “Thundercats”), or how they still focus on Latin proverbs and Dante’s inferno, whether in uni or whether cracking jokes.
Sometimes presentation was lacking. As if they were too proud to quality camera. Instead, they’d cheap pictures of themselves, as if they were unaware how investing in yourself and how you present yourself to the world is important. Shallow or not, it’s just more attractive to see someone who cares and puts effort in what they look.
And last but not least, there was this depressive/demoralizing vibe about living in Netherlands. Like, people were always making a point how they were too cool to care, or too cool to be upset about something, and I felt so much pain even caused them to act arrogant.
Still, I get it. Apathy like that (or depression) can protect one from much more dangerous states of mind. But being closed off like that also blocks one from experiencing love, affection, joy, and more positive states of being.
I think your blog is fun and refreshing but not something I could read every day. I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s possible to move past jadedness and cynicism to something fresh and hopeful, even though that might mean breaking old habits.
Thanks for reading and best of luck to you!
What a great reply, well done Svetlana!
Having lived and worked in multiple countries, I believe the Dutch to be one of the most arrogant, self-centred, cynical and rude nations on the planet. I dont care why they are like that, everything has a reason, but their total lack of emotional intelligence and humility is what strikes me most. They are blunt, like a brick. No sophistication, no nuance, no elegance – it leads to a drudgery, a minimum viable proposition…all the time. They have had no social impact on the world (yeh ok they had some good artists a long time ago) but name me more than one Dutch musical group/band, author, fashion designer, innovator/scientist, etc etc. Bet you can’t, because there aren’t any. The geography is bland and industrial, laughably they talk about their beautiful countryside! The people are inherently racist, anti-expat and rude, to the point of mean, and they know it but disguise it as ‘direct’, which by the way they love to dish out but can’t take it back at all (you dont believe me, try it).
You are stupid. If holland was any bigger you would have spoken dutch instead of english on this fora.