Are Dutch people spontaneous?
Let’s take a look at this typical Dutch Whats App conversation
Whats-App gesprek van woensdag 23 oktober (Whats App conversation Wednesday 23 October)
- Hi Bart, zullen we binnnekort een keer samen eten? (Hi Bart, shall we have dinner together sometime soon?)
Hi Max, dat is goed! (Hi Max, that sounds good!)
- Kan je vanavond? (Can you do tonight?)
Vanavond?! Natuurlijk niet. (Tonight?! Of course not.)
- Morgen dan? (Tomorrow then?)
Morgen heb ik voetbaltraining. (Tomorrow I have football training.)
- En vrijdag? (And Friday?)
Vrijdagavond ga ik naar de bioscoop met mijn vrouw. (Friday night I am going to the cinema with my wife.)
- Ergens in het weekend? (Sometime during the weekend?)
Mmm… dat wordt lastig (Mmm… that’s would be difficult.)
- Misschien in november ergens? (Maybe in November sometime?)
Oke. Vrijdag 8 november? (Okay. Friday, 8th November?)
- Dat is goed. Om 6 uur? (That’s fine. At 6 o’clock?)
6 uur is goed. (6 o’clock is fine.)
- Tot dan! (See you then!)
Just a typical Dutch conversation, about trying to arrange a spontaneous dinner together. And is it easy to arrange something with a Dutch person?
Easy answer is: NO
Most foreigners experience the Dutch culture and people as not spontaneous.
Is it a problem that the Dutch are not spontaneous? – No!
For most people it is not. A lot of foreigners experience this as something you have to get used to, but it is not so difficult.
Some people say it has to do with the climate and the way ‘the country works’. During autumn, winter and often in spring the weather might not be the best. Which means rain, wind and short dark days. It’s normal for people to stay at home and not do anything spontaneous outside.
Is it a problem that the Dutch are not spontaneous? – Yes!
Some foreigners see this as a problem. Because they see this as ‘overplanning’. It is difficult to get a spot in someone’s diary.
An effect of this can be what is called the ‘expat bubble’.
Expat bubble in the Netherlands
It’s not unusual to hear from foreigners that at first, it is quite easy to make contact with the Dutch. In the street, during a festival, they are open to having short conversations.
What most expats found difficult is the next step, to make friends.
Taking the next step
You must know that it takes time. You should make an effort to take the second step. If you take the initiative, you will see a lot of Dutch people are open. But be aware that you should not wait for them to invite you. Because then the chances are high that you could wait a long time.
Druk druk druk
A student in the video uses the expression: druk druk druk (which means busy busy busy)
It’s an expression used often. If people greet you and ask you with a regular greeting
‘Hoe gaat het met je?’ (How are you?),
you might hear ‘ja, druk druk druk’ .
This is not considered a bad thing, but it’s not totally good. According to this student the Dutch cram as much into the day as they can. As one student says, this happens at the doctor’s. And it is not a joke. It might be difficult to arrange an appointment with the doctor. Of course, if it’s urgent, you could get a place in the schedule. But if you call too late in the day, the chances are it’s fully booked!
Not spontaneous but reliable
A remark from the Dutch that I read in the comments of the video and elsewhere is that they feel it’s normal. Not only do they have a lot of things to do, they feel that by being organized, you can rely on people.
There is no time to waste. So it’s very possible that on a birthday, a Dutch person will arrive at the time that’s on the invitation. While people from other countries and cultures will arrive later.
So “You know what you get when you set a date with a Dutch person”, is something you can hear.
“We are going to eat now, so bye”
Because there are so many plans for each day, it can happen that one appointment has to be cut short in order to go to the next. As a student says in the video: “We are going to eat now, so bye”. This is indeed something that can be seen as something completely Dutch.
TIP: Don’t arrive unannounced
The Dutch cook exactly the amount they need. Otherwise we would have to throw food away and that’s a shame. In many other cultures it is normal just to drop in when you feel like it. That is why Surinamese and Moroccans, always cook more, so there is always food for unexpected guests. These immigrants in the Netherlands still see this as something completely different than they are used to.
Also, if you’re a child playing with a Dutch family and it’s around five or half past five you might hear, ‘We’re going to eat now’. In other words, time to go home.
As queen Maxima said in her first official speech in the Netherlands, ‘It’s a country with one cookie with your coffee’.
What to do?
If you live in the Netherlands and resisting this makes it more difficult, what do you do? Adjust!
The only solution to this is to adjust to the situation. Don’t think you can change this typically Dutch trait.
As some students in the video say, they have become a bit Dutch, by carrying around a diary all the time. Something some would have never thought of doing.
Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School