What Really Is Friendship, and Why Do the Dutch Do It So Well?

What Really Is Friendship, and Why Do the Dutch Do It So Well?

Friendship is one of those things that most of us cannot live without no matter what we tell ourselves. Humans are like animals, they travel in groups, or in pairs. If we don’t spend time with people and don’t get any affection, the majority of us will end up feeling depressed. One of the hardest things about moving anywhere new is, finding new friends and building a good community. This is especially true in the Netherlands. The Dutch do friendship so well that becoming friends with them takes heaps of work.

A while ago, I wrote a blog post titled “How the Heck Do I Make Friends in the Netherlands?” The reason I wrote it was because I know how incredibly difficult it is to make friends in this country. In the blog post, I explained how to make friends in the Netherlands. Mostly, I advised reaching out to internationals instead of Dutch people. Why? Because becoming friends with Dutch people is extremely hard.

Meet a Dutch Person and Then Get Ghosted

I can’t tell you how many times I had a wonderful conversation with a Dutch person at a restaurant, bar, or wherever. I always thought, oh great, let’s exchange numbers and hang out. Boy was I surprised. I never ever heard back from a single one of those people even when I tried to message them first. It was like total ghosting. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I finally did. Dutch people don’t want to let people in.

Think about friendship. What is it really? Every culture has a different definition of it. Do you instantly become friends after having a good conversation with someone? Or is it after you hang out a bunch of times? Or perhaps, is it after spending several months hanging out with that person? What does friendship mean in your culture?

What Does Friendship Really Mean

According to the Oxford dictionary, friendship is quite a foggy term. There isn’t a concrete definition. To the Dutch, having a friend means, that person will always be there for you and is extremely reliable. You both worked on getting to know each other and put in the work to prove yourselves to each other. Dutch people take a long time to open up and won’t chat about serious or private subjects when they just met you.

I started taking a dance class, and all of the ladies are Dutch. I’ve gone twice so far and still barely know anything about them. I don’t even know most of their names. In Dutch culture, friends become like family. So not every person you meet can become your friend. Friends bring value to your life and help you through sickness and health. They won’t be flakey or scared away by difficult things. 

Privacy Is Extremely Important

Another thing to mention is, Dutch people are pretty private. They don’t overshare about their lives in person or on social media. It can take a year to learn serious things about them. Whether you think that’s good or bad, they have a point. Not everyone needs to know everything about your life. Some things are meant to be private. And if you share those secrets with people, hopefully, they are loyal enough to you to keep those things a secret and not blab.

Personally, I gave up on trying to make friends with the Dutch. I’ve made some incredible friends from other countries, mainly Finland, China, and Romania. For me, those people have proved themselves to me. I didn’t have the energy to chase Dutch people. But, if the opportunity ever presents itself to me, I may reconsider and put in the effort, who knows. 

To Try or Not to Try?

If you want to try and push through that bubble, go right ahead. You’ll gain a friend that is honest, loyal, and there for you. That is who the typical Dutch person is. But you can find those people from other countries as well. It’s up to you how you want to lead your life. Making a Dutch friend can also help you with your Dutch. So it is not such a bad idea. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to put in the work, and it may take what seems like an eternity to gain their trust. 

Follow me on my Instagram and my Facebook for more about my life in the Netherlands.

l The featured photo was taken by my friend Anna Salminen. She is available to shoot portraits, family photos, and more in Amsterdam, Alkmaar, and other places in the Netherlands. l l My nails were done by my friend Dana Van Oeveren. She can do your makeup, a manicure, and a pedicure. She is located close to Roosendaal and is willing to travel. l

Do you have any Dutch friends? How long did it take before you felt accepted by them?

7 thoughts on “What Really Is Friendship, and Why Do the Dutch Do It So Well?

  1. There are “vrienden” and there are “kennisen.” Even in the US we have quite a few more acquaintances than we do friends. I think many Dutch people live very near where they grew up, so their families and people they grew up with are their main friends. They just haven’t had to work very hard to make friends, and they don’t feel the need to do so. On the other hand, I live in a small rural New England town and have found people here to be similarly stand-offish. They are friendly, but they seem to think they have enough friends. I have found newcomers to town much easier to make friends with, just as you have found internationals more “friendly.” So I’m not sure it’s necessarily a Dutch trait.

      1. I lived in The Netherlands as an exchange student. So I was immediately taken into the folds of a Dutch Family. We are very close still 43 yrs later. One thing that I really love is that they consider me their daughter/sister. But their friends/neighbors don’t understand that & question it all the time. Even the in-laws that have married into the family don’t “get it”. But my Dutch family stands strong & doesn’t back down from the term. I must say that almost all my Dutch friends are connected in some way to my Dutch family. There is 1 exception & I met this particular Dutch family in the USA!

  2. I don’t think that this is specific to the Dutch – but rather to any (small) country. Most locals will have their family and (old) friends in close vicinity. Add a job and a hobby (let alone kids) and the schedule is full. Finding time for your existing friends can already be challenging – and then there is simply no space for new people, as great as they may be.
    Having lived in 5 different countries, I have come to accept that it is usually easier making friends with other expats. Their schedules are usually less busy…

  3. My ‘dutch experience’ has been a breath of fresh air. The best thing about Dutch folk is that they are not here to judge you and they’re just direct. If they ask you a question that seems very personal, it’s because they’re genuinely interested in you. If you get invited for koffie … That’s one step closer towards ‘friendzone’. Just be you and keep an open mind.

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