Recently someone commented on one of my videos that I’m not an immigrant because I’m from the west. A lot of internationals use the terms immigrant and expat interchangeably; me included sometimes. But the reality is, I came here for love, did all the inburgeringsexamen, and own a business registered with the Dutch chamber of commerce. So by definition, I am an immigrant. As that’s out of the way, here’s one of the things I miss the most from the USA (and from other countries I’ve visited). It’s not the food, the space, the familiarity, or such. I miss how warm and open people are.
Dutch People Are Lovely People
This is by no means saying that Dutch people are not kind and friendly people; they are. If I ever need help with something, they will help out. My Dutch neighbors will always help me drag things or water my plants when I’m gone. Dutch people are always willing and offer to give you directions if you need them. But they won’t go out of their way to be kind and don’t understand what it means to be warm.
So before you come at me with hate, know that I don’t hate Dutch people at all. In fact, I think they are wonderful people. And if you’re going to say “if you don’t like it here, go back to where you came from,” understand this. Just because I miss some things and don’t like some things, doesn’t mean I hate it here or don’t want to live here. It’s normal to not like absolutely everything about a country, even if you were born and raised there. Try moving abroad first and then we’ll talk.
People From Certain Other Countries Are Just Different
However, most, if not all, of the Dutch people I’ve met lack certain qualities that I’ve seen in American, Italian, Irish, and people from some other countries. Dutch people aren’t going to be selfless for the sake of being selfless. They aren’t warm people. When I meet a Dutch person, I don’t get that feeling that I can become their friend. They aren’t going to welcome you with open arms.
If you get what I’m saying, then you get it. People from certain other countries are just extra friendly, warm, kind, and inviting. They make you feel like you’re at home, like you’re part of their family/friend group.
Getting Invited Just Because You’re New
My sister recently moved back to the USA after living abroad for several years. She was telling me how she keeps getting invited to birthday parties, dinners, and much more by her coworkers and other people she meets. The first time my Dutch partner Kevin went to the USA for work, he too was amazed by how many invites he got for dinner from his American colleagues. This isn’t something that typically happens in the Netherlands. This is something that Dutch people wouldn’t do because to them, you are a stranger.
I experienced the same kindness and warmth that Americans show me from Irish, Italian, Israeli, and other people. I have never experienced that from Dutch people. And I really miss it. I miss the warmth people show you no matter who you are.
My Recent Trip Back to the USA
I flew back to the USA for the first time in about a year recently. One of the very first things I noticed is how extremely friendly and chatty US customer service workers are, even if they don’t rely on tips for a living. They are just so nice and able to make your whole day just by having a conversation with you.
I even told the Starbucks barista from whom I got coffee from the first day how much I miss that. She was telling me about how she’s looking for a place to live and just chatting with me about life. Going out for coffee, to me, is an experience. Part of that experience is how the people that make the coffee behave. I know very well because I used to work at Starbucks.
The United Airlines Flight Attendant
The most memorable person I encountered during my trip was the United Airlines flight attendant. He went above and beyond to make my flight nice and peaceful. He was just so extremely kind. He even went up to me and told me to look outside when we were flying over Greenland so I can see the northern lights.
I was so touched by his behavior and thoughtfulness that I sat him down and explained how I was feeling. He told me that decades ago, he also lived in the Netherlands as a student. So he could relate to what I was feeling. After I got home, I sent United Airlines an email to recognize his kindness. Yes, part of his job is to be nice and friendly, but he went above and beyond.
This Is One of the Things I Really Miss
Those kinds of behaviors and attitudes are what I miss so much about the USA (and some other countries I’ve visited). It doesn’t cost anything to be kind and friendly. It doesn’t cost anything to be open and inviting. They do say that the more north you go, the colder people get. Maybe there’s some truth to that, I don’t know.
Luckily I have the most incredible friends here who are all internationals as well. They are super kind, friendly, open, inviting, and supportive. But it took me a long time to meet them and build those relationships. My friends have really been there for me. Some of my friends from the USA are also still in my life and are amazing. We try to meet up when possible.
As someone who worked for many years in customer service and as a human being, a smile, a kind comment or gesture, a nice conversation can make someone’s day. I know I’ve had my days turned around in the past by kind people.
What do you think about this blog post? Am I on point, or did I miss the mark? Why or why not?
If you are in need of a native English-speaking writer and editor, contact me here. I’d love to work with you! Follow me on social media for more content on life in the Netherlands.
5 People reacted on this
Here’s a reaction from yet another Dutchie. However, I am not here to advocate for “the Dutch”. Because who are “the Dutch”? And who are “the Americans”? From my point of view it is really hard to put a group of people in a box and call them all warm or cold.
I have an Italian boyfriend, and therefore have been to Italy many times. He is from a smaller village, and his mother who lives there is from Germany and after 30 years still an immigrant. In the smaller communities you are not usually invited to peoples homes. Which to me seemed weird. I, myself have engaged in international studies and have also been on an internship abroad. And have therefore experienced that in a more international environment people are always a little more open to new ideas, and “warmer”.
I felt a little sad reading the article. As I am Dutch and don’t see myself as cold. Neither, have I luckily never heard that I am cold. I am not friends and don’t get along with all Dutch people and have learned over the years, that you cannot be friends with everyone. If you have a nice community of nice people and friends surrounding you. Why would you want to be invited to a colleagues birthday party? In general Dutch birthday parties are not so great anyway to be honest. I do agree that Dutch people in general can be perceived as closed and less open. In the way we/they communicate we are I think more reserved. That doesn’t mean however, that we/ they don’t like other people.
I am looking forward to hearing from you. And I sincerely hope you will meet some warm Dutch people.
I do recognise what you write. I am Dutch and live abroad…I am well travelled and have a wide (multicultural) circle of friends. I agree that the Dutch are a bit different in social aspects, possibly just less embracing of potential social opportunities and more driven by their practical mindset. Most Dutch I know get an enormous amount of work/ tasks done each day….they are far more productive and efficiently than most nationalities in managing day-to-day life. There are no siestas, limited impromptu (social) distractions from the tasks set out for the day….
I don’t want to generalise but see the Dutch as a ‘practical’ people first and foremost, they will help when help is needed, comfort when comfort is needed but will not go out of their way to make all and sundry feel welcome in their space because there is no practical reason to do so. They do have the level of warmth and caring for those who are in their ‘inner circle’, friends and family 🙂
I am not Dutch, but I am an immigrant/expat living in Amstelveen for 10 years. I recognise a lot of the things you mention in your post and I do not think either that it is easy to get this warm feeling of being embraced in love and care by most of Dutch.
At the same time, I see a significant difference between Americans and Italians/Spanish/Greeks or even Russians, just to mention a few. Do not get me wrong, but I find American friendliness a very superficial, being kind of a ritual, but not coming from the depth of the heart. I haven’t experienced in my life any Americans doing things for the others that are low profile/visibility or would require some sacrifices. Especially, I do not see this happening if you are a bit different from what is expected in a community you are part of.
Hence, although I find Dutch kind of pragmatic, I also find them more friendly than Americans. Maybe they smile less, but:
– Dutch do not mind welcoming kids from different culture/neighbourhood/ethnicity at their home to play with their kids,
– they do not expect you to pay for their
[…] get. And I completely agree with that statement. Dutch people are very nice and helpful. But they aren’t warm people. They won’t invite you into their home unless you’re their friend or something. When you spend […]
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