Maybe you heard of it before you arrived in The Netherlands, possibly you encountered it since you have been here, or you are still waiting patiently to experience it, Dutch directness.

I arrived here young and silly, in love with a Dutch guy I had met in my home country, Australia. I had no idea about anything I was about to go through from moving here and especially I knew nothing about Dutch directness.

My initial experience with Dutch directness was a shock to say the least, it hit me hard and I was left with my mouth-wide open! As an Aussie, I would say we tend to ‘beat around the bush’ and not really say what we are thinking. I was raised to be polite and basically you should keep your mouth closed to avoid any type of confrontation! So, arriving here in The Netherlands was certainly eye-opening.

It became apparent after living here for a year or two that I was being asked the same questions. At first, I didn’t know how to answer them, but after a while I became a professional.

When someone cares about it so much they make a ecard out of it…

Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions I have encountered from the locals since my arrival and how you can answer them. This is my go-to guide to prepare you for Dutch Directness!

5 Dutch directness questions you’ll get in the Netherlands

(and how to answer them)

Dutch directness: Question 1: Hoe is het met je Nederlands?

“How’s it going with your Dutch?” – This question is the number one, most frequent question you are sure to be asked upon arrival and throughout your stay here. It is a question that will never go away, you will be asked it from absolute strangers, people you hardly know, grandmas and general people passing you in the street on a bike. You could be asked in any kind of setting, so be prepared. Obviously, when I arrived here, I had no idea what these words even meant, but trust me, you will learn them quickly!

The first few times I was asked this question, I was speechless! Later, I started to try my best attempt of:  “Um, Ja goed”

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I was told, I sounded German. Well, Germany is close by, so that’s good right?! I often thought I was safe and this question wouldn’t be asked because I was at a place like a festival and being tipsy, they surely wouldn’t bring up such a subject, I was wrong. It didn’t matter if there is pumping music and I was already slurring my own native language, I was confronted with it: “Hoe is het met je Nederlands?”

So, when you are asked this question, I suggest you are ready with a solid pronounced answer. Say it with confidence, even if you are shaking in your boots. Look them directly in the eye, stand up straight and practice, practice, practice! Be proud, be strong with the can-do attitude. Here are some helpful phrases to answer this question with:

  • “Mijn Nederlands is uitstekend”
  • “Ja, gaat goed”
  • “komt goed”
  • “lekker”
  • “ik hou van nederlands”
  • “slecht”

Dutch directness- Question 2: Don’t you miss your family?

Dutch families: they’re close!

Hmmm? Well of course I do. This question was asked repeatedly and usually straight after asking how my Dutch was. I was initially shocked when I was asked this as I was not sure exactly why I was being asked this. Were they trying to find out if I was a runaway? Some people I barely knew gave me a look, like how could ever leave your family. I felt strange, guilty and as though I had committed a crime for wanting to see the world, follow a dream and be young and in love!

Well, after some consideration, I guess it could be the size of this country that means family is always close by and perhaps a cultural difference that families stay close to each other here? For example, my Dutch partners family all live in one village and they literally live one block from each other. If I ride my bike through this village, I am sure to run into his aunties, cousins and grandma. In Australia, my family lives all over Australia and so it is not given a second thought of how much distance lays between you.

I started to try to answer this question with things like

“Ja, but technology is so good these days, so it’s fine”

Still, I felt like I was getting judgemental looks. My advice to answer this is perhaps not try to defend yourself because there is no need to. My family loves me, and I love them. That’s it, yes, I do miss my family (FULL STOP) (Mind your own business).

 

Dutch directness- Question 3: Where are you from?

This is a general question, which after some time became evident there was always a similar reaction.

“Where are you from?”

“I am from Australia”

“Oh, my uncle’s son is there in blah blah blah”

Or

“My grandma’s sister went there back in blah blah blah”

Or

“My friend went there in 1980.”

Okay, I get it, many Dutch people have a connection to my country but seriously I don’t care! Pardon me, if that’s rude, but I don’t. It’s lovely you have a connection with my country, but I would rather hear about you and your experience, not Larry and Harry who went to Australia back in 1950.

I am not sure if you will experience this coming from other countries, I am guessing you will. Maybe you don’t mind at first, but after awhile it may change. My advice is to always nod and smile and pretend to be interested, it works best for me!

Here’s another video on how to deal with the Dutch and their directness

 

Dutch directness- Question 4: Why are you here?

Usually, after I have heard about the strong connection with my country, this next question is asked. I kind of enjoy this question though, it humours me!

There is a look in their eyes, like how could I ever leave that amazing place, Australia and come here? This rainy, crowded and bad place. Australia is often seen as a godly place with weather that is never bad, and life is all rainbows and lollipops. Well it’s not! THE WEATHER CAN BE TERRIBLE, it does get cold and life can be hard sometimes (yes, even with that amazing nature and long stretched sandy beaches).

On the other side of that question, why I am here, well yes, I fell madly in love with a Dutch man. So, I often answer with something like

“oh yes, I was young and in love”

“OH, but why don’t’ you move to Australia?” they say.

I just blame my husband and say he is a mummy’s boy!

Why I am here? I ended up here, sometimes life does that, I think the grass is always going to be greener on the other side. Be happy where you are, and I do love my life here in The Netherlands!

 

Dutch directness- Question 5: When are you leaving?

Okay, okay! Slow down, I am just getting used to the Dutch weather, so I think I won’t be leaving just yet!

Dutch weather: explained

So, there they are, the top 5 most frequently asked questions the Dutch asked me. I hope this comes in handy for your life in The Netherlands. I am now 7 years living here and I can honestly say that I love Dutch directness. There is nothing more amazing than knowing exactly where you stand with someone instead of having to second guess. I have even mastered it, telling people things, I would have never done this before.

Good luck out there and go and embrace that Dutch directness like a fresh breeze on your face! Oh, and don’t forget to share you experience with us in the comments!

26 COMMENTS

  1. Best story Ive read in a long time, great writing Vanessa it was funny, humourous and very direct lol. Loved it .

  2. On the first question you could also make a joke, especially when you’re at a festival: Beter als ik dronken ben!
    Better when drunk/ better now that i’m drunk.

  3. As a Dutchie who has lived in America for 20 yrs now,I get all these same questions, albeit maybe a little different.
    1. “Wow, your English is so good, no accent at all!” to “Where’s the accent from?” Guesses are the South of the USA, the North-East of the USA (NY, NE, etc), Denmark, Poland, Norway, Germany, Russia, Austria, Australia.
    2. Yeah, I get that one, too. Followed by “When was the last time you went to visit?”
    3. The responses to my answer on this go from exasperation to hilariousness (on my part). Netherlands is mistaken for Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Austria, Australia. The funniest ones are when someone tries to sound as if they know where it is, but is very clear they don’t.
    4. “How did you get here?” In the US I have learned to bite my tongue and I still am being told I am very direct. My bitten off response to this is: “I swam.”
    5. “Don’t you want to go back?” Especially when they find out the answer to #4 is now an ex-husband.

  4. There is another question that I usually get: What do you like more here in Netherlands?

    And everyone insist to me quit to learn Dutch…Everybody speaks English in NL.And all the talking with the others continuum in Dutch, and I stay out.I am studying hard and by myself to change this.I am Brazilian with a relationship with a DutchMan.

  5. Great writing!
    As a Dutch person I really enjoy reading stories like this one. For me it’s so normal to be direct and when I’m watching foreign series or movies I am secretly annoyed when people just won’t say what they are feeling/thinking. Not because I think it’s rude but because I think it’s healthy to share your thoughts.

  6. Nice to read these directies examples. Me, as a Dutchie in Texas ( by the way Bedford That I live-cd in both California and Ohio, about 20 years or so) encounter many of these too:

    – where are You from? Also often they think Germany, Some even don’t ASK but say Danke to me.
    – how long are You here?
    – are you legally here?
    – are you an American yet?
    – what do you like about Texas?

    So you see, whoever we are, wherever we go and how good or bad we speak one or the other language, there is a lot of directness towards “ us” as foreigners. Luckily I’m Dutch so I can easily handle this directness😂😂😂

  7. The article must have been written by a snowflake. One comment about “Dutch Directness” .. This always seems to be the experience with interacting with folks “Northern of the rivers”. Travel a little bit further down than Amsterdam in our country, ok?

  8. Well, I’ve been living here in the Ntherlands since January 2017 and despite being myself quite straightforward, I really enjoy their directness. I’m Italian and everytime ik probeer te spreken in Nederland and also they ask me where I come from, they are so fascinated with me and my country that they start to list all their trips in Italy. On top of this, they are so surprised that, according the Dutchies, “ik spreek goed Nederlands”. I don’t mind their questions at all and plus I really like mooi Nederlandse jongens!!! 😀

  9. Even though you write this in English, some answers on the questions you get are quite direct…. Just like a Dutchie would do.

    Nice story.

  10. I live in Australia and am from the Netherlands. Ozzies ask me the same questions! The difference it that I don’t feel the questions are direct at all so I just answer them and feel comfortable, probably because I am Dutch!

  11. Being a natively dutch, I am surprised these questions are considered ‘direct’. Often times people ask these questions out of genuine curiosity, not as some sort of crime interview hahaha

  12. Dutch Directness also means that there is very little hidden meaning. In some other cultures its common to implicate through passive aggressive questions. Not so much with the Dutch! Being told “Your hair is a total mess” when entering a building is not an insult, but statement of a fact, the person is trying to be helpful by notifying you.

  13. Interesting story.

    As a Dutchman I wouldn’t consider these questions direct at all. In fact they feel like very safe conversation choices with somebody who immigrated into the Netherlands. Pretty much just showing an honest interest in you and your life.

    (Except for maybe the last one, if it is asked in such a way though. I would sooner expect this to have been the “safe” question of “are you thinking about going back sometime in the future” (especially considering the context from the other questions).
    The only way I can imagine this question in the format proposed would be if it isn’t clear that you are here (semi-)permanently. With the context of a short stay (like a vacation), that question as proposed would once again be in the safe range.)

  14. I’m Dutch and in Australia, and I get asked the exact 5 questions by Australians, as I have by the locals when I lived in Germany, England, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, and the USA.

    I miss the directness, at least you never have the wonder what they are on about and what do they really mean. We mean what we say and ask, beating around the bush is something we do not do, and there is nothing rude about it. What is rude is the constant innuendo that there is more to a question then said and the hinting that you’re not getting it.

  15. I am dutch/american and live in the States for over 40 Years.
    I get also those questions. Last night I was in the emergency room and the doctor asked me where I was from. I don’t mind.
    I bite my tongue when they want my opinion. I learned very fast that Americans don’t like direct answers. When my friends asked my opinion I asked them which one. The one they like to hear or my opinion.
    I think too many people want to be like and answer too sweetly.
    When dutch people asking questions they are interested in you.
    When they don’t ask you are in trouble.

  16. Seems like you’re confusing people judging you with people being interested in you. I don’t think it’s specifically the Dutch asking these questions anyway, it’s just people native to a country asking these questions to foreigners visiting their country. This for the simple reason that the natives normally cannot have this topic of conversation because most of the time they are confronted with other natives. I understand though that for a foreigner this means you have to have the same conversation over and over, which likely gets boring after a while. Just understand that it’s out of interest and not out of judgement.

  17. Love your writting 😉 I felt the same when I lived there!
    I also followed my Dutchie to Holland & we are also Australian after living in Oz so long!

  18. I had a Dutch ex bf (I’m with a different Dutch bf now) I met his mom for the first time and she said I looked different than the picture and my ex asked, in front of me to her if it’s positive or negative? She just shrugged (I guess the answer was negative then) That same ex also asked me in front of the barista if i could pay for breakfast? He said because he had already paid for the hotel and stuffs. I felt bad. I didn’t mind paying just wished he save me the embarrassment!

  19. As a South African that moved to the Netherlands after 2 years in Sydney I can completely relate plus additional questions like: 1. Why did we leave Sydney – answer: to come enjoy the beautiful Dutch weather(seriously) we love the weather here and couldn’t handle the heat in Aus. 2. You’re South African? Can’t be, you’re too white?! Were there are many of us in Africa 🤣

  20. Some of these are really funny. I’m from Portugal so I also get a lot of ‘why did you leave that wonderful country?’ or ‘Yes, I know Portugal very well. I go to the Algarve every year for a week’. Or the most annoying one: ‘Ah yes! Cristiano Ronaldo!’
    For some reason the rest of Europe thinks it’s Summer all year round in Portugal… And think there’s nothing to it BUT sandy beaches and futebol!
    But the also happened in the UK, where I lived before. You get tired of these questions but I bet you still get them even if you’ve been here for 30 years. 🙂

  21. […] Behold, Dutch directness at its finest! And after what happened yesterday, we are all so happy that this is one thing Rutte did not leave behind in the Netherlands. Yes, the Dutch are known for cutting the bullshit once they have detected it and Rutte did just that. We all practically squealed in delight when Trump started talking nonsense, and the Dutch PM just cut him off and said ‘NO!’. Here is a video of what happened: […]

  22. It’s how you interpert the question!

    First one

    The Netherlands aways had been a coutry with many people from other countries. Because of it there are many who speak dutch with an accent, so we are aware that it isn’t an easy lanquage to speak. Therefore i think the question is asked to offer help with words or switch to english or german. So it would be better to be honest and say; ik doe mijn best / ik zal het proberen (i’m trying) or I prefer english.

    Second one

    People that are far from home, certainly when your from an other continent, it’s rather logic that you miss your family. Again, i think the question is asked to show compassion, support or understanding. Like you said it’s small so family is nearby, but knowing this and considder the large number of oversea colonies in the past and still a number of oversea municipalities belonging to the kingdom, for the exect same reason many had family abroad or missed them during the long journies in the times of the VoC / WiC

    Third one

    Again, the dutch are people of the world. So asking where your from helps us to know in what climate/culture you are used to so we can adjust our way of acting to set a step in your direction.

    Forth one

    We like to talk business. The question determins in what way we can be benificial to you. Vacation? Lets promote tourism and compliment your taste for beauty. Study? good to hear you appriciate dutch thinking and education and thank you for bringing other perspectives from outside the borders to the table, i hope the university learned something from you. Business? Tell me your profession and offer so we can trade.

    Five

    This question is not implying you need to go!!! It’s a question asked because we want to know how much time there is left. If your leaving fast, we will not bond or become attachted but if you are staying we will invest time and energy in you to make it better, more comfortables and try to from a win-win situation! Like the famous polder-model!!

    The way you look at the dutch is through the classes of your own frame of reference. Yes, we are direct. But we are freethinkers, the first protestant country and the place where Mr. Calvijn lectured. So we are humble, hardworking, effective, people with understanding of the world. We are traders, and are searching for an lets agree in between kind of situations, trying to make the best for the both of us. Not disagree and try to convince , but respect and try to understand way of life.

    Just answer honest and no-nonsense, we hate to waste time and if your answer is unclear hazy we assume you are unwilling to work hard to reach the best possibly situation/deal/grades/hapiness.

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