We asked readers about their experiences with the infamous Dutch directness

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 by 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? and here are some of the best responses.👇

Appearances

  1. 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.
  2. I ran into a 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.
  3. 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. 👀

Sensitivities

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. 🦭

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.

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 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.

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. 🤗

Featured Image: Rocapurpura/Pixabay

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2019, and was fully updated in November 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Freya Sawbridge
Freya was born in Edinburgh but raised in New Zealand (cue every person she meets saying “oh I have always wanted to go there but it’s so far away!”). A restless and curious nature has led her to move countries 5 times in the last 3 years in attempt to find a place she can call home. She contacted DutchReview on a whim and arrived in the Netherlands in summer 2019 to start her internship.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I am Dutch and since 1993 I live in the US. I came first through a professional exchange program, where I had to be introduced often, to different groups of sponsors. I often heard them introducing me as “ she is Dutch and Dutch are very blunt” it sounded almost like a badge I had to wear. Talking about being blunt! Then I started working and one day wore my Dutch pantyhose, black with lips on them. Someone came up to me and said: only whores here in the ?US wear them” . Not blunt? Yet, after all these years here, I still will hear things said to me that are not “fun” no matter how funny it is meant by those who bring it up, in describing me. Bluntness is everywhere and as a foreigner you seem to be relegated to it more often. I think I have adjusted well in this culture, having lived in Ohio, California and now Texas( every State is different in it’s culture). I love Texas, they are respectful, not phony like in CA and not stand-offish like in Ohio. But I constantly, in new situations and groups, check if I come across too blunt or too “ foreign”.

  2. Some people confuse plain rudeness with directness. Just three of the examples are proof of the Dutch directness (1,2 &10), the rest is proof of Dutch rudeness. Dutch directness means that you say what you think without any intention to be rude or demeaning. If you ask a Dutch person out for a date and they don’t feel like it, they won’t make up an excuse. If you’ve been to a hairdresser, your Dutch friend will let you know if they don’t like your new hairstyle. Dutch people will let you know when something’s not right in your appearance: spinach between your teeth, a smudge on your coat or a booger on your nose will be reported to you. Not to embarrass you, but to keep you from further embarrassment. Directness is honesty. One of the downsides of the Dutch directness is that Dutch people are quite insensitive to careful hints or cautious suggestions. If you want to go out to a restaurant, say so. Hinting that it’s a lovely night and you feel a bit peckish will result in your Dutch friend telling you that there’s a snack bar down the street, so you can walk there and buy a kroket or frikandel.

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