Ahhh, the infamous Dutch directness: is it a stereotype, or is it accurate? Should it even be called “directness” or simply, “honesty”?
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.
One of the first comments I heard when I moved to the Netherlands was from someone I had just met an hour earlier. As I sat in a bar, sipping a Heineken Pilsner, a 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 personally find Dutch directness extremely refreshing as it creates authenticity and builds good rapport. Though not everyone values it, as it sometimes can just be downright rude.
We asked our loyal readers, “What is the bluntest thing a Dutchie has ever said to you?”. Here are some of your stand-out responses.👇
- I was at a festival when 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 ran into a Dutchie 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, b*tch!”. When I turned around, they quickly followed with, “Oh, sorry, dude. I thought you were a woman”. — Levi, Leiden. 👀
4. My neighbour in Haarlem told me off for having a barbecue and exclaimed it was the worst smell she had ever encountered and that my daughters’ voice gave 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. 🦭
6. It was at a bar in Amsterdam, and we had been waiting to be served for over 30 minutes despite the bar being almost empty. We eventually approached the waiter, who was chatting with someone, and asked if he was going to take our orders or if we should just go up to the bar. He replied very rudely and bluntly that if we were there to enjoy friends’ company, then 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.
Dutch directness in a single piece of paper. #🇳🇱 pic.twitter.com/OtUiOvWpA3— Joaquín 🇲🇽 ✈️ (@JoaquinRQ) October 18, 2022
Offending people’s nationalities
7. I was accused of being a “mail-order bride” just because I am Hungarian — Hanga, Leiden 🤦♀️
8. A cashier told 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 told me: “Just because you have my WhatsApp doesn’t mean we are friends” — Renan.
Dutchies self-reflect and self-defend
“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 agrees 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.
A reader’s question
Here’s something to consider: “When you are looking for true friendship, what do you prefer?”
A. Honesty and directness.
B. Sugar-coated sentiments.
If you choose A, then go find some Dutch friends. 🤗
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2019, and was fully updated in May 2023 for your reading pleasure.