This is my top list of Dutch traits that can be useful. I have learned this after living 10 years in the Netherlands.
The Dutch are gurus of planning. At work, this is clear and expected, but in day-to-day life this is something unbelievable. If I start to think about the summer holiday only after I see the sun shining and reminding me of the coming summer, the Dutch start to plan their next summer vacation right after they came back from the current one. That felt like robots to me. Everyone has planners and agendas, notebooks, google calendars with filled-in children vacations, hobbies, family events, personal projects, courses.
Not so long ago a Dutch lady at my dance class said: yesterday I sat down to plan the year and I wanted to know if our dance class will continue on Wednesdays.
CAN YOU IMAGINE THIS? SHE SAT DOWN TO PLAN THE AGENDA FOR THE YEAR!
10 years ago I looked at people who took out their fat planners and notebooks and start to look for a free date when you ask them for a coffee with amusement. And yes that date could be a Thursday in two months.
Later I realized that there is rationale in this and it all makes sense. I always thought: why plan? Everything will be different tomorrow. And yet I came to an understanding that in most cases tomorrow you will have what you have planned. And if you want to be having coffee with someone in two months, you have to plan it today.
One more reason for all that planning is that the Dutch are very active people outside of working hours. They have a lot of hobbies and activities: salse, local volunteering, courses, workshops, so they are forced to plan. And yes, all these extra activities are one more point to learn from them.
Oh, all these uncomfortable moments in the beginning. I was feeling so awkward and confused. I think it took me several months to understand: It is absolutely common for women to shake hands the same way men do. Women do shake hands when introduced, both women and women and men and women. In the culture where I come from women do not ever shake hands, they just smile:).
Do not wear heels
On the third day of my Dutch life, I needed to go to a wedding party. I glamorously entered this party on a motorbike in a short skirt on high heels. On a bike because we did not have a car, on the heels because it was a wedding and in a short skirt because I had no clue about motor-bikes. I never wore these high heals again. And after five years I threw them away.
AND OF COURSE, IT IS NOT MY POINT THAT NOONE IS WEARING THEM, WOMEN DO. BUT YOU WILL STILL BE CONSIDERED A FEMALE IF YOU DO NOT.
Spend and value your time outside
The Dutch are fond of outside terraces of cafes, their small gardens, any outside activities. Right after something looking like sun appears after the winter, they start to brag about the fact that they already managed to ‘sit outside in their garden’.
Drink wine alone, burn candles and buy flowers, not for romance
Maybe my life in Belarus was different or time was different, but we never drank wine just at home with appetizers or just a glass of wine. The wine was always at feasts and parties and it was inappropriate to leave the bottle unfinished.
Burning candles and generally having them at home was not common. Buying flowers in the supermarket just among your normal groceries was double uncommon for me.
Burning candles not for romance but for your own pleasure? Uncommon.
Talk positively about yourself publicly
This needs a separate post!
Listen to yourself and be aware of your wishes
I never could take this for a reason: ‘I like it, it is fun, I am going to see if it will be fun’. I all the time thought: are we allowed to consider this as a reason? a point? Are all these ‘I like it’ a reason to do something or not to do? It’s work! These are your responsibilities! I was so envious to these people and how many hours of self-reflection I still need to be able to hear what I want.
So how do you like the Dutch?:)