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Learning from the Dutch

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How do I find the Dutch?

“So, how do you find the Dutch?” I remember that was one of the first questions asked to me before I started working for Antenne Rotterdam as a volunteer writer, two months ago. And I remember that my answer was, “I find them friendly.” And that sounded very strange to them.

They say that the Dutch are not very friendly. But I do find them nice. They will help you find your spoor number in the train station when you ask for their help. They will even let you go first in line for the cashier in the supermarket if you have to pay for only one or two items and they have more. And they do ask you what you want to drink every time you visit them in their homes. You may get only one cookie but you may ask for more.

My life every Thursday for the last two months of my stay here in The Netherlands includes going here at the Antenne office and well, writing something. That is good for my integration, because then, I am able to meet more people, or in this case, more Dutch people, and listen to them and get used to the language. And boy do they talk a lot! I guess that’s one trait where they are the same with Filipinos, they have a lot of stories! I just wished I understood them all. Auspiciously so, some are concerned enough to say their sentences once or twice or thrice so I can practice listening to the language and use it properly.

Here at Antenne, I saw two traits that I guess says a lot about the Dutch: (1) They are ready to help you, if you will ask and (2) they offer you and make you coffee when they make one for themselves.

That is one thing that Filipino colleagues do not do a lot for each other. Make you coffee. In the office, when it’s coffee break, we make coffee for ourselves, it is almost NEVER that we make coffee for others. When I do it, they think, it’s a special day. Or maybe, because, in our office, there are far too many people in one department that it would be tiring to make coffee for everyone. Rewind to one of my very first articles: we only make coffee for everyone during wakes and funerals. Morbid, eh?!

The Dutch may be misunderstood for being unfriendly because they are direct in the way they talk. They say what is and what they want and do not beat around the bush or sugar-coat their words. On the other hand, that is nice, because then, when they praise you, you know that it is true and not just mere politeness.

That is another difference between the Dutch and the Filipinos. In the Philippines, we do not want to hurt feelings so there is a lot of beating-around-the-bush and sugar-coating going on. You do not really know what people think. And if you directly say what you think, you are thought of as arrogant or impolite.

So, if they ask me again now how I find the Dutch, I will still have the same answer. Or maybe, staying longer in this country will change my mind. But then, I don’t really like beating around the bush. #

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