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British and Dutch Cultures Compared

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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”.

British and Dutch Culture elf and safety

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!

kid standing on back of bike without a crash helmet
Who needs crash helmets?


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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!

3. Work.

The British:

Workaholics. 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. It’s 17:00; not finished? Stay longer.


The Dutch:

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!!!

differences between Dutch and American men, Dutch men leave the office early

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!

british and dutch cultures typical Dutch one blocking the escalator
“NONE SHALL PASS” Typical clueless escalator use in Amsterdam


5. Queuing.

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!

Typical British politeness

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!)

Dutch directness

8. Looks

British looks

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!

woman fashionable in Camden Town
Camden Town Where Doe Maar Gewoon doesn’t exist

Dutch looks

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!

Why Dutch women are the happiest in the world they can wear whatever they like
I was at a party where 12 women wore identical outfits


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.

sunbed orange
Anouk spent a little too much time in the sun
woman heavily suntanned
An English rose

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. 

Anastasia Georgiou Photo by Izabela Bartyzel


No sunbathers were hurt during the writing of this post.



About Simon Woolcot

Infamous blogger, annoyance and self-confessed Shallow Man. Simon is a British expat who has lived in Amsterdam since 2004. As well as writing this blog, Simon also has a YouTube channel of the same name, writes and directs videos and hosts seminars about life in the Netherlands. He also works as a content marketing and SEO specialist.