Ahhh the infamous Dutch directness. Is it a stereotype or is it accurate? Should it even be called “directness” or simply, “honesty”? Perhaps even phrased as “no-bullcrap”?
This straightforwardness is so valued in Dutch society that there’s even a Dutch word for it: bespreekbaarheid. This translates to “speakability” and means that no topic should be taboo.
Having lived in New Zealand throughout my teenage and early adult years, I got used to politeness interfering with honesty. Kiwis pride themselves on being kind and pleasant. When I first moved to the Netherlands, one of the first comments ever said to me was by someone I had just met an hour earlier at a bar. Whilst sipping a Heineken Pilsner said person announced: “your hair looks terrible and your hands are big for a girl”. I laughed and felt lucky I was confident enough to brush this off.
I find the Dutch directness extremely refreshing as I believe it creates authenticity and builds good rapport. Not everyone values it though and sometimes it can just be downright rude.
We asked our loyal readers “What is the bluntest thing a Dutchie has ever said to you?” and here are some of the best responses…
Have you ever had your appearance commented on? Dating in the Netherlands can be tough sometimes…
- Whilst at a festival, one Dutchie came up to me and exclaimed, “Your outfit is nice but your bag is hideous.. can I throw it away?” – Holly, Amsterdam
- I am Dutch and the culprit here! The other day, I saw a guy I used to date and one of the first things I said to him was, “well you’ve lost some muscle haven’t you?” – Layla, Leiden
- Someone once yelled at me: “Watch where you are going, bitch!”. When I turned around, they quickly followed with an: “Oh, sorry dude. I thought you were a woman”. – Levi, Leiden
Are Dutch people so sensitive to voices?
4. My neighbour in Haarlem told me off for having a barbecue and exclaimed it was the worst smell she has ever encountered and that my daughters’ voice gives her a headache. – Shireen, Haarlem
5. When I had friends visiting my place, my neighbour said, “oh I hear the girl who laughs like a seal is back”. – Kavana, Rotterdam
“Just shut up”
6. I remember the first time I was surprised… It was at a bar in Amsterdam. We had been waiting to be served for over 30 minutes (despite the bar being almost empty). We came up to the waiter, who was chatting with someone, and asked him if he was going to pick up our orders or if we had to go up to the bar. He replied very rudely and bluntly that if we were there to enjoy friends company we should just shut up and enjoy the conversation and that he would eventually come by. He added that if we were in a ‘hurry’ we could always go get fast food… – Ana, Amsterdam
Offending people’s nationalities…
7. I was accused of being a “mail-order bride” just because I am Hungarian – Hanga, Leiden
8. A cashier said to me the other day “I don’t like French people” after I had just told her I was from France – Kimberley
Rejected and dejected…
9. When I offered my homemade cake around a Dutchie said outright, “No thanks, that looks disgusting” – Aurora
10. Someone rudely once said to me, “Just because you have my WhatsApp doesn’t mean we are friends” – Renan
How about we let the Dutchies provide some self-reflection and defend themselves…
“I will just say that my Dutch directness has not served me well at all in my many years outside of the Netherlands and I recommend tempering one’s honesty a bit. After all, the fine art of diplomacy is to state one’s opinion in such a way that no one takes offence and even agree with it.” – Norma, America
“I am Dutch and from my point of view the directness does not come from being honest but from being efficient and pragmatic …we don’t like to lose time and effort in making the situation more pretty than it is.” – Marie, The Hague
One reader asked the following question and perhaps that’s all we need to consider
“When you are looking for true friendship, what do you prefer?”
A. Honesty and directness.
B. Sugar-coated bullshit?
If you choose the first one go find some Dutch friends
Featured Image: Rocapurpura/Pixabay