The other day, I was having my ham and kaas sandwich at work, and it suddenly hit me: I had betrayed my initial oath to never get used to the plain taste of ham and cheese squeezed in two pieces of bread. I realized that somehow, after two years in this country, I was becoming a Dutchie.
I decided to find out if other internationals have found themselves adopting other Dutch habits. The result: cultures mix, and if you spend more than one year in a country, it is almost inevitable that you will pick up on the simple patterns that synthesize their identity and become a part of your own.
If you are an international, then you must have noticed how much the Dutch love planning and planners. Dutch people like being organised and keep everything on paper, “even the dinner they will have with their friends on Saturday night or the beers after that”, says Marion Feller from France. “There is nothing wrong with it. It actually saves so much time and trouble of forgetting things that you promised to do”, she continues. Many internationals have a “eureka” moment after taking note of this Dutch efficiency and eventually realising that a planner s not such a bad idea after all. For many of us, the first step of becoming a true Dutchie is planning and writing all the things you have to do on paper.
Did you know that you can use WhatsApp to send a message and get your money back? Yeah, me neither – until I moved in the Netherlands and I was introduced to Tikkie, the app that saved me from the awkward conversations about who owes how much money to whom after a night out with my friends so many times. The Dutch use this brilliant app to make sure that “short reckonings make long friends”. “After a long night out and rounds and rounds of beers, the two Dutch friends of our group said the magic word: Tikkie”, says Alberto Rossi, who left Naples two years ago to study engineering in Groningen. “Being Italian, I think having money issues is a part of my identity”, he says, but “with Tikkie, I feel no shame about asking what is mine.”
Everyone says that Dutch people are straightforward, which means that you don’t have to second guess or overthink whether they like you or if you correctly understood something they said. In fact, they are so direct that it is impossible to miss the message. Directness though shouldn’t be confused with being rude: on the contrary, Dutch people are incredibly polite. However, they like saying things as they are, they’re not much into “sugar coating”. “I’m British, and we prefer to bite our tongues rather than say exactly what are we thinking”, says Sophie Adkins, who has been living in the Netherlands for the past three years. To her, it was shocking that people could express their thoughts so bluntly. “Last time I went to visit my family, I behaved like a Dutchie and my mother was almost embarrassed”, she laughs. But she admits to feeling a sense of relief at not having to be conscious all the time about expressing your opinion.
Lunch (Ham and Kaas)
Ham and kaas broodje is the way to go. If you find yourself rushing and packing your ham and kaas, you’ve become more Dutch than you may think. As a Greek, I couldn’t accept that one day, or multiple days in a row, I would have a simple ham and kaas for lunch. Sara Ferrin Aguayo from Spain also sought to deny the urge. “I used to make fun of my Dutch friend who would bring a half or a full loaf of bread and ham and kaas”, she says. She came to Groningen to study arts, and she admits that she has kind of given up on warm Spanish food. “There are days that I can’t carry my food around, and the solution is always ham and kaas.”
“I don’t have many Dutch friends. But I remember once when I went to a birthday party of a Dutch girl I was dating, and I was completely taken aback by what I saw,” says Patrick from London. Patrick was introduced to what is known as a Dutch circle party, where friends and family sit in a circle and chat while food and drinks are served. “I don’t speak Dutch, so I was just sitting there nodding”, he remembers. The most surprising part was that “people would congratulate me and I had to explain that it wasn’t my birthday”, as if they don’t know. “I soon realized that it was the way to go”, he laughs. Since then, Partick has found himself “congratulating all the friends and family in those instances”.