5 personality traits that the Brits could learn from the Dutch

What should the Brits learn from the Dutch? We’d never generalise, but the stereotypes do come from somewhere. Many of us will find that we can share these traits in one way or another.

We can all learn a thing or two about how other nationalities do it differently (and sometimes even better). Here are five traits that the Brits should learn from the Dutch (coming from a Brit). Don’t worry, no British egos were harmed during the making of this article.

“I’m sorry” – for the millionth time (cause I don’t want to offend you)

TIP: If you want to know what the Dutch could learn from the Brits we’ve already covered that, especially for those Brits that were already fuming when they started reading this article. 😉

1. Brits could learn from the Dutch: be straight with people

The debate continues on whether or not the Dutch forwardness is considered “rude”, but in reality, sometimes you need to be direct. The Brits have a tendency to skirt around the issue at hand. Say someone asks you if you like the dinner they made you. “It’s gorgeous” you say when really you think it tastes horrible. You don’t have to be rude about it, but say something like “thanks, but it’s not to my taste” wouldn’t go amiss.

Outright lying, to be polite just means that you’re going to have that same dinner served to you over and over and every time you’re going to have to wriggle your way out of eating it again. Practical? No. Polite? Kind of, but you did lie (don’t worry, we’ve all been there 😅 ).

Your boss asks you if you can work on your day off? “Sure” you say, when really you mean “no”, out of fear of looking difficult (I don’t do this, I promise). Your boss would rather you were honest, rather than you bailing out or spending the whole day miserable because it was too difficult to work that day. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Your friend asks if you want to go out for the day. You’re too tired but you don’t want to let her down. So you lie and say you have to attend your friend’s, sister’s, cat’s funeral. Why didn’t you just say you were tired, jeez?

You get the gist and I guarantee if we borrowed some more straight-talk from the Dutch, you could avoid half of these awkward situations. We Brits honestly are the worst for making excuses.

2. Brits could learn from the Dutch: be more stingy

Sometimes we Brits think that spending over €100 on a night out is money well spent. We think that getting a takeaway for the third time in a week is worth it if it means we don’t have to cook (we are a nation of takeaway-lovers). A lot of us want what’s easy. But being a bit stingy won’t do us any harm, will it?

I know for sure that impulse can take over sometimes and we may neglect our finances. Do you really need that pointless notepad with a picture of a cute kitten on it that you’ll never use? Can you really afford to pay for your friend’s meal? Or are you just being overly polite again?

There is a reason they call splitting the bill “going Dutch”, and maybe we should do it a little more often. By “going Dutch” on the bill everything is fair and equal. This may seem excessive, but we could learn a thing or two. I know people who have got into debt out of fear of not saying “no” to things or not splitting bills. We get so worked up about what people think of us.

Don’t do it!

3. Brits could learn from the Dutch: tone down the “sorries”

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being polite. The word “sorry” can be one of the most polite words that you can say. Unless you’re British of course, then you say that word for almost anything. I mean, we say sorry when someone else walks into us! What on earth is that all about?

It’s used so much that it’s essentially a filler word if you feel awkward and don’t know what else to say. The issue with this is that the word starts to lose its true meaning and as a result, so it can seem so insincere.

There’s been some discussion about whether the Dutch say sorry enough, but the Brits go overboard. Sometimes, I struggle to work out if we really do mean we are sorry. Maybe we should go more Dutch and only say it when it strictly needs to be said.

4. Brits could learn from the Dutch: chill out

Us Brits can get so stressed! Juggling a million things at once, not saying no to anything (in fear of offending someone) and just generally not relaxing. We would all be much happier if we took a little time for ourselves. The Brits work much longer hours than the Dutch and it would be great if that culture would change, maybe then we would get our work-life balance in order and be much happier overall.

We already know that Dutch children and the population, in general, is much happier than most of Europe. Why? Less fretting and more quality time. It does help that the Netherlands has endless beautiful cycle routes. I actually get more sun here than back in the UK (shocking, I know). Let’s practice niksen or gezelligheid, take a chill pill and try and stop ourselves from burning out.

5. Brits could learn from the Dutch: less Dutch courage, more actual courage

A lot of us get impostor syndrome every now and again. The fact of the matter is that if we get pushed back, the Brits tend to feel insecure (remember we’re an awkward bunch). As a result, we let those kinds of thoughts win. Alcohol usually gives us a helping hand. Even when we write a resume, we worry that selling ourselves makes us “stuck up.”

We constantly worry about what people think of us at any given moment. We worry about saying the wrong thing. If we forget someone’s name, we even try and avoid asking, so we are awkwardly trying to skirt around needing to say the person’s name.

In short, we are just awkward and insecure sometimes. After all, we do tend to have a glass of wine or two (maybe even the bottle) and call that a bit of “Dutch courage”, why’s that? Throughout history, we wanted your confidence! It would be great if we were a little bit less alcoholic for this.


So there you have it, a highly stereotypical, lightly over-dramatised overview of how the Brits would benefit from the Dutch way. You know it’s true though.

What else do you think the Brits could learn from the Dutch? Let us know what you think the Dutch could learn from the Brits down below. 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in February 2018, and was fully updated in May 2021 for your reading pleasure.
Feature image: Free-Photos/Pixabay. 

Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.



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