HIT #7 Stereotypes about the Dutch – facts or myths?

‘Hang In There’ is a weekly series hosted by our Marketing & Communication intern: Hang Vu. After 2 years of studying in the Netherlands, Hang wants to share her most honest experiences with other internationals who are also living in the Netherlands generally and in Eindhoven specifically.

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Back in 2019, while I was searching about Dutch culture on the Internet for my study abroad preparation, I came across some blog posts written about the stereotypes about them. At that time, I have not been to the Netherlands, so I was always questioning whether those preconceptions were right or not. And now, after 2-year of living here, I would clarify some misconceptions that you might bump into while researching about the Dutch.

Disclaimer: It is quite superficial to frame the whole country in a few words, but there are some behavioral traits and customs that you should know, to minimize the number of cultural shocks that you encounter.

#1 The Dutch are tight-fisted and miserly - Myth

There is a popular expression called "going Dutch". If you have not heard about this term, it means that each covers their own expenses when going on a group, or a romantic date, instead of letting one person pay the full bill.

The Dutch prefer sharing the bill, but 'miserly' and 'tight-fisted' are definitely not the right word to describe them.

Since some people might not so familiar with splitting the bill equally on a romantic date, it could be the reason they think the Dutch are stingy and unromantic. However, it is a common action that indicates gender equality in the Netherlands. Don't be too surprised if the waiter asks you and your partner "do you want to pay together or separately?" when you two have finished your meal.

Fact: Many Dutch banks even create their own 'split the money’ add-ons on their applications to help their customers collect money easier within a link. In the mobile application of ING, the feature is called 'payment request' while ABN Amro has a separate app called Tikkie, and everyone who has a Dutch bank account can use it.

Therefore, after a day of hanging out with your date, if you receive any message sort of like "Hi, I have created a payment request of...” or "Wil je mij alsjeblieft…betalen voor...", do not be panic, it is not a scam. It is just a sign showing that your date is done by spreading all costs and it is time for you to send his/her money back.

#2 The Dutch are punctual – Fact

One of the most high-valued characteristics in Dutch culture that you should keep in mind. When you schedule a meeting with your Dutch friends or colleagues, the last thing they want to experience is your tardiness for no proper reasons. Being well-known for their punctuality, some Dutch people might find it rude and disrespectful if you show up late without giving them a notification.

Planning is one of the most important soft skills that Dutch children learn in primary school. They have fixed time slots for nearly everything and keeping track of the schedule has been their responsibility. Hence, rearranging their timetable just because you are late would be quite annoying to them. When you have a schedule with the Dutch, you should pay extra attention to timing. They barely let you wait, so you'd better do the same.

Dutch punctuality
To be honest, no one likes to keep waiting for so long.

#3 The Dutch are straight-forward – Fact

If you are in a discussion with the Dutch, it is easy to see how frank they are. The Dutch are not afraid to give you their opinion in the most direct way, even if their words let you down.

It may sound harsh and rude for newbies who are not yet familiar with Dutch culture (believe me, I used to feel so offended and hurt when I got aggressive comments from my Dutch friends). But after several times, I learned not to take their words personally. Dutch people are just very down to earth in verbal communication and pouring honey in your ear is not their style. Do not see them as being intentionally mean; they are just being explicitly honest. And let's face it, truths hurt sometimes.


written by Hang

As a travel freak who moved from Hanoi to Eindhoven, I love spending my day discovering new angles of this city and learning about the country from the locals. Hopefully, my articles would help you step-by-step entering the world of Dutch culture and make your every day in the Netherlands ‘a great stay’!