Dutch sincerity

I met an American the other day who told me that one of the things they most like about living in the Netherlands – she’d only moved here a couple of months ago – was their innate friendliness.

Coming from someone who hails from the land of the “have-a-nice-day” greeting, this struck me as a bit rich.

Especially as, a month or so ago, we were rudely ejected from a Bed & Breakfast in Vlissingen, Zeeland, where we had been trying to have a relaxing weekend away.

It was Valentine’s Day (of all days!) and our crime had simply been to stay 15 minutes longer than the curt message said on the door. First the wife came up the stairs, at bang on 11, to advise us that we should be leaving. We said that we were almost ready. Then her grumpy husband clomped up the stairs, 15 minutes later, and started swearing at us.

The most irksome thing was that the reason we left so late was that I – against Violetta’s better judgement – had been clearing some of the breakfast stuff away.

The B&B cost 60 euros a night – not exactly cheap – and the whole incident was most upsetting, really putting a downer on Valentine’s Day. It was all most unnecessary and caused me to mutter something about the brusqueness of the Dutch, as we hobbled out on to the snowy streets.

So the American lady’s comments about the friendliness of the Dutch caused some surprise.

But, on probing a little further, I started to understand a little of what she was getting at. Whilst Americans may leap at the chance to wish passing strangers a nice day, they more often than not say it with more conviction than they actually feel (or so she said).

By comparison, the Dutch are a much more sincere lot, and when you see them being friendly, that is because they genuinely want to help. The other day, we were lost in Deventer. When we stopped a couple of women to ask for directions, they didn’t just tell us where to go, they escorted us for a good few blocks (before turning round and heading back – never having intended to go this way in the first place). That is the genuine friendliness she was talking about.

So what if you have to occasionally face verbal abuse from the owners of a seaside B&B. At least you know where you stand with these Dutch.


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