Sunday, November 11, 2007

Life in the Netherlands
The Dutch have a code of etiquette, the code that governs the expectations of social behaviour, and it is considered very important. Because of the international position of the Netherlands many books have been written on the subject.
Some customs listed here may not be true in all regions of the Netherlands, and they are never absolute. Nevertheless these are generally accepted modern customs in the Netherlands. Some customs have changed over the course of history.
In addition to those specific to the Dutch, many general points of European ettiquette apply to the Dutch as well.

Drug policy
Same-sex marriage
Pillarisation Dutch customs and etiquette The people

When entering a room it is customary to shake hands with everyone present whether it be men, women, or children. Shake hands again when you leave. Usually if accompanied by an acquaintance he or she will introduce you to others; if no one is present to introduce you, do it yourself. The Dutch consider it rude not to identify yourself.

  • When stopping in the street to have a small chat with an acquaintance, a younger Dutch person especially will not take the trouble of introducing an accompanying friend to this acquaintance.
    Phrases used for saying hello or goodbye differ quite a bit between regions, but are generally understood everywhere. However, the use of dialectal forms, for example the Brabantic "houdoe", will really identify you as a person from that particular region, which might be met with surprise if you are a non-native.
    When introducing themselves the Dutch will shake hands and will generally say either their first or their surname.
    When answering the phone Dutch people say their first and/or last name, usually preceded by "met", which means (you're speaking) with, and not with just "Hello" or "Hi". This is usually on the case when the answerer has no caller id. When picking up a friend, the greeting is usually more loose.

    • Children tend to answer the phone by saying their full name (first + surname) to avoid being mistaken for their parents as the Dutch often get straight to business and tend to chat afterwards.
      When one spots or makes eye contact with someone you know with a relative distance in between, for example when on opposite sides of a street, it would be wise not to yell for this person. It is considered impolite to shout a greeting, and will probably cause some annoyed looks. Instead, wave if greeting someone from a distance, or quicken your pace to catch up with them.
      When arriving at someone else's house, do not step in the house without being explicitly asked to do so. The Dutch consider such an action a huge invasion of their privacy and authority.
      Be careful what you do even when told to "make yourself at home"; the Dutch don't take kindly to people who go "searching" their house or even as much move one step forward too much.
      It is a good idea to ask where you may be seated as taking a seat in the house owner's personal chair or spot on the sofa can make the house owner feel invaded.
      When meeting with friends and relatives, the Dutch usually kiss each other on the cheeks three times. Normally, the first kiss is given on the left cheek, the second kiss on the right cheek and the third kiss again on the left cheek. Women will kiss women and men, whereas men will only kiss women and shake hands with other men. This ritual is also often used when saying goodbye.

      • However, male acquaintances or friends, when not related, generally do not shake hands or have any other physical contact upon meeting and leaving and saying goodbye on a day-to-day basis. Greetings

        Compared to most cultures, the Dutch are rather reserved in public and do not often touch each other or display anger or extreme exuberance.
        The Dutch value privacy and seldom interact with strangers, no matter where they are from. However this should not discourage foreigners in their actions. Dutch people are very curious and when addressed will most often converse or try to converse with them or be of any assistance.
        The Dutch expect eye contact while speaking with someone. Looking away or staring at the ground is considered impolite and may be perceived as if you are lying.
        The same, but to a lesser extent, goes for hand gestures accompanying speech. The Dutch tend to be reserved in using hand gestures. However, having your hands in your pockets or your arms crossed might be interpreted as a sign of disinterest.

        • Moderate hand gestures do, however, give the impression of self-confidence and they make the user look social and approachable. Using hand gestures to accompany your speech is usually seen as a characteristic of an 'open' personality.
          The crazy sign is made by tapping the centre of your forehead with your index finger. This gesture is considered very rude.

          • To make things even more complex, the sign indicating someone is smart or intelligent is made by tapping the area around temporal bone (just above the ear) with the index finger.
            Another rude sign is to 'give someone the finger' by raising your hand and sticking up your middle finger. If this sign is accompanied by slapping the elbow of the raised arm with the palm of the other hand, it turns into one of the most insulting sexual gestures that exist in Dutch culture.
            Nodding the head is a sign of agreement, but shaking the head from right to left is very rarely a sign of disagreement. Rather, the shaking of the head tends to imply disapproval or (if combined with looking away) sadness and compassion.
            Winking at strangers (when not accompanying an insider's joke) will generally be perceived as a sexual advance and is unlikely to be appreciated. Dutch society values equality and women are considered equal to men. For this reason most women are unlikely to be charmed by sexual advances of the sort. Body language

            To beckon a waiter or waitress, raise your hand and/or make eye contact. This usually works, if not just say "ober" (waiter) or "mevrouw" (which normally means "madam", but in the context of a waitress it is correct).

            • Leaving a small tip is customary in restaurants.
              In most cases the Dutch will make it clear when they intend to pay the bill, if not assume to "go Dutch" and pay your share. No one will be embarrassed at splitting the bill and the latter generally is the norm rather than the exception.

              • However, on a romantic date, the man is expected to pay for the woman (although she may offer to pay her share, this is purely out of politeness) She may leave the tip for the waiter.
                Dutch manners are frank and can be described as a no-nonsense attitude, informality combined with strict adherence to basic etiquette. This might be perceived as impersonal by some other cultures but is simply the norm in Dutch culture. As always, manners can differ between groups of people. Asking about basic rules will probably not be considered impolite.
                Food does not play a major role in hospitality, like it does in many other cultures. It is not considered imperative for making someone feel welcome.
                Do not expect to be served a meal unless the invitation specifically mentions a meal. Do not try to stay over until dinner is about to be served, it is considered rude as dinner is often considered a precious family moment, or at the very least a private moment. Usually only family or the closest of friends may join without asking.

                • When inviting a Dutch person over for dinner do not expect to be invited back, as cooking skills and food are not considered very important.
                  When invited over for dinner by a student or a younger person, you may be asked to share in the costs of the ingredients.
                  If one does get invited for dinner then please note that in a formal setting the men are expected to wait until all women are seated before they themselves sit down.

                  • This, of course, is subject to the people you will be dining with and the formality of the dinner.
                    Try to start by taking a small to regular quantity of food. A second helping will be offered and it is polite to accept.
                    While eating remember to keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal. However make sure you keep your elbows off the table, as it is considered impolite. (Dinner) Parties may continue until very late in the evening, even early morning.

                    • Plan to stay for an hour or two after dinner. The Dutch dine early: often around 6 pm, unusually after 7 pm. But don't let good times be spoiled by your interpretation of these guidelines.
                      Do not ask for a tour of your host's home; it is considered impolite. If offered, however, accepting is considered to be the polite response. Dining and entertainment

                      The Dutch avoid the use of superlatives to illustrate points. Compliments are offered sparingly. When something is "not bad", "OK" or "nice", it is good, the remark is a praise, rather than a sign of disinterest.
                      A person who never criticizes others or who's afraid to speak on his or her own behalf is seen as either being simple-minded or failing to tell the truth. Foreigners do not need to worry much about saying something that might (in their own culture) hurt feelings or be perceived as an insult. The Dutch will argue, but seldom take offense.
                      The Dutch speak directly and use a lot of eye contact. To a foreigner this might seem to be very intimidating, especially in cultures where matters are discussed with extreme care and politeness, but it is just the way the Dutch prefer to communicate.
                      In most languages, including English, the term "Holland" or similar is used incorrectly as a synonym for the Netherlands, by people who are not aware of the distinction between the two, similar to the way that the term "England" is incorrectly used as a synonym for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in many languages. Calling the Netherlands "Holland" when speaking to Dutch people may cause a discussion about what Holland actually is, but will rarely cause them to be offended. Remember that Holland is a region in the Netherlands, consisting of 2 (out of 12) provinces (North Holland and South Holland)

                      • An exception is football, as the Dutch in that case will sometimes refer to their country as "Holland".
                        Do not discuss expensive items you have purchased recently (or anything similar), as the Dutch will most likely interpret this as boasting about it. Asking personal questions is equally dangerous, as the Dutch are quite private and will most likely feel uncomfortable answering questions that are (in their interpretation) too personal.

                        • This especially includes asking about income or other personal finances; asking how much someone makes will be seen as very rude, and volunteering your own income may be seen as pretentiousness.
                          Globally the Dutch are thought to be good at languages. This is true to some degree. The Netherlands have a very high standard of education and an education system which greatly focuses on the international position of their country.

                          • According to a census, about 85% of the Dutch people are able to speak a reasonable amount of English although the accent can be quite present. While this doesn't imply fluency, they usually know enough to show you the way or explain where one can have a decent meal.
                            In the Eastern regions, the Dutch generally also speak German reasonably well. French is the third foreign language, but far less commonly spoken than English or German.

                            • Especially younger people generally do not have a lot of sympathy for the fact that English as a second language is not as widespread in other countries as in the Netherlands.
                              Trying to address the Dutch in their own native language may often result in a reply in English, depending of course on your perceived skill in Dutch. This can be frustrating for those who wish to improve their Dutch while those who are competent in Dutch may find replies in English patronizing. But Dutch people will perceive a foreigner trying to speak Dutch as someone who's having great difficulties trying to express him or herself (due to the difficult pronunciation), or they may even welcome the opportunity of trying their English on you.

                              • If you prefer to speak Dutch though, this is usually no problem and the Dutch will often correct you or help you with the correct pronunciation of words. Most Dutch will find it charming that someone is trying, although some may be genuinely surprised that a foreigner is attempting to learn his language. Conversation and language
                                Dutch humor has changed a lot over the centuries. In the 16th century for example, the Dutch were renowned for their humor throughout Europe, and a large number of travel journals have notes on the happy and celebratory nature of the Dutch. Farces, joke books were in great demand and many Dutch painters deliberately chose to paint humorous paintings, Jan Steen being a good example.
                                The main subjects in Dutch jokes at the time were; deranged households, stupid Germans, drunk priests, and people with physical handicaps. However, at the end of the 17th the Dutch 'lost' their sense of humor. The Dutch Republic was in steady decline, the Dutch reformed church denounced laughter and advocated sober lifestyles and special etiquette manuals appeared which considered it uncivilized and rude to laugh out loud, or certain subjects. This state of humor more or less continued into the sixties of the 20th century. It is interesting to remark that during the Second World War Americans soldiers in the Netherlands were instructed not to tell jokes to the Dutch, as "they wouldn't appreciate it". Current Dutch humor is subtle and somewhat black, rather than slapstick. It uses sarcasm in order to get a point across, in more or less the same way as English humor does. When making fun of other nations, the Dutch often target Germans, due to their perceived arrogance, and Belgians when it concerns stupidity.

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