Dutch Quirk 42: Be overwhelmingly direct and never beat around the bush

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk 42: Be overwhelmingly direct and never beat around the bush

While there are many aspects of Dutch culture that may inflict a bit of culture shock on the unknowing international, nothing gives us whiplash quite like that good ol’ Dutch directness.  

Picture this: you’ve brought your Dutch boyfriend home to introduce him to your family. You introduce him to the most important member — the dog.

It’s a whole moment, the family is gathered around to witness the reception. Will he get a sniff of approval? Silence falls. He looks at said (slightly ancient) dog and says: “what will you do when he dies?”

To be fair to him, the dog isn’t shaken by this question — but the family certainly is.

What is it?

Dutch directness is a phenomenon that you will experience when talking with the majority of Dutch people.

You might ask how a person’s day is going, and instead of receiving the standard “good yeah, how are you?” you’ll get an actual honest answer: “Ugh, the kids are annoying me and I slept really bad.”

The Dutch don’t tend to beat around the bush and offer you empty pleasantries. Instead, what you get is simple: their thoughts. Laid out on a plate and presented to you.

Please read this Twitter thread if you’re still unsure of what Dutch directness is. ✋😭👇

Why do they do it?

There are likely a number of reasons behind why your housemate answered a simple “yes” to your question “is my music too loud?”

The first reason may lie in the Netherlands’ ties to Calvinism. As part of this religion, it was important to act as if you had nothing “sinful” to hide.

One cultural hangover that remains because of this attitude is the Dutch tendency to leave their curtains open. This may also be where their “tell it how it is” communication style originates from.

READ MORE | We asked readers about their experiences with the infamous Dutch directness

Others have suggested that another reason behind Dutch directness could be the Netherlands’ view of itself as a liberal and egalitarian society. 👀

It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to, you should be able to say whatever you want to whoever you want — and you know what? Fair.

Why is it quirky? 

It’s probably safe to say that many internationals come from cultures that enjoy a comfortable bush to beat around when they approach a conversation.

@dutchreview It’s so refreshing! #fypシ゚viral #fyp #dutchreview #nederland #netherlands #expat #expatlife #CapCut ♬ original sound – DutchReview

The Dutch chopped down that bush and stomped on it while making direct eye contact — and that’s something that can take some getting used to at first.

Should you join in? 

Let me be direct about this: Yes. Absolutely. Just do it.

We’re not saying you should start unleashing years worth of repressed feelings, but you should certainly allow yourself to try it out a bit more.

READ MORE | Dutch directness: 5 questions you’ll get in the Netherlands (and how to answer them)

Tell your housemate that their music is actually too loud, tell your boss that you also slept like 💩, and perhaps tell your boyfriend that if he disrespects the dog one more time, he’s out.

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Before becoming the Senior Editor of DutchReview, Sarah was a fresh-faced international looking to learn more about the Netherlands. Since moving here in 2017, Sarah has added a BA in English and Philosophy (Hons.), an MA in Literature (Hons.), and over three years of writing experience at DutchReview to her skillset. When Sarah isn't acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her trying to sound witty while writing about some of the stickier topics such as mortgages and Dutch law.
  1. In many cultures, harmony is valued very much in friendships. In Dutch culture however, honesty is often valued over harmony. Every year, I ask my Dutch students what their response would be if a friend had bought new shoes and asked for their opinion. What if you think those shoes are very ugly? Every time, I see my students clearly struggle with what they should say. They want to be nice to their friend, but they feel that, as a good friend, they HAVE to be honest. So, if you’re met with some Dutch directness, try to cut the person some slack and see it this way: the person cares enough about you to let you know what he really thinks about something.

  2. So hears the thing, we all know where the conversation is going so why waste time beating about the bush. Just get to the crux of it get it out of the way and move on. I don’t usually offer an unsolicited opinion, but If you ask for my opinion be certain you want it because that is exactly what you will get, no holds barred. Yes I am Dutch by birth and a proud “Canadian” by choice.

  3. Dutch directness is very dependent on the province. It might be that in Holland people really are brutally honest and direct, but in other provinces the directness is covered in sarcasm, avoiding to answer or changing to a totally unrelated topic of conversation.
    “How do I look in this blue dress?”
    “Are you posing for a “Save the whales” campaign?”
    “How do I look in this blue dress?”
    “They do have the same dress in other colors….”
    Changing topic:
    “How do I look in this blue dress?”
    “Hey, the pants are on sale with a 50% discount!!!”


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