Typical Dutch? Diversely Dutch!

It’s almost a year since I arrived in Wageningen and I thought I could reflect on my own experience of ‘typical Dutch’.
Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek

As a new student, this mantra was a key feature of my cultural orientation. I sincerely appreciated the information I was given, but I wish to reflect on its ‘side-effects’ on me.

My mind formed a picture of formal, unfriendly and rude people

The moresessions we had where we were told about Dutch people and culture, the more a list of what to expect of the Dutch was developing in my mind. I would subconsciously carry this list with me into every encounter I had with Dutch fellow students. So every time someone said ‘I am Dutch’, I would take out my list to check if they were tall, spoke frankly or even bluntly, and were always busy and rushing around. For we had been told not to be offended (in group work) when the Dutch state their opinions frankly to our faces. ‘That is typical Dutch – we speak our minds.’ And we were told always to be on time! ‘Time is money for the Dutch!’ Not far from the truth, perhaps, but that list influenced my mind, which formed a picture of formal, serious, intimidating, unfriendly and rude people.

Have I not met smiling and relaxed Dutch people? Those who greet me when I am running or cycling in the woods? Those who invite me to dinner? Don’t I have Dutch friends who go by ‘African time’ (showing up late)? Of course, my experience of typical Dutch is diversity. So, for now I’m giving up the ‘typical Dutch’ list. For no sooner had I started making more Dutch friends, than the ‘typical Dutch’ list disappeared.

Matthew Ncube, an MSc student of International Development Studies from Zimbabwe. 

Do you have a nice anecdote about your experience of going Dutch? Send it in! Describe an encounter with Dutch culture in detail and comment on it briefly. 300 words max. Send it to Resource@wur.nl and earn 25 euros and Dutch candy.

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