“Zo, wat heb jij een hamburger kop gekregen!” I burst out in laughing. Although this person just told me that my face looks like a hamburger, I can’t even say I’m shocked. The woman who said this is actually really friendly and I haven’t gained any weight in the last two years of eating American food, so the comment seems a bit misplaced. But I’m still not surprised. In the few weeks I’ve been back in Holland now, I got introduced to this kind of communication for too many times to be shocked – or offended – by it. This communication style is called ‘honest’ by the Dutch, ‘direct’ by foreigners who have spend less than a week in this country and ‘blunt’ by everyone else. How I call it? Hilarious.
I laugh. It’s my strategy for adjusting to a new culture; cherishing the similarities, enjoying the uniqueness and laugh at all the things that are weird from my point of view. I can’t take it too serious. After all, it’s only weird in MY point of view.
It’s a bit different now this ‘new culture’ is the culture I grew up in. But I’ve decided to keep the same strategy anyhow, especially because the Dutch culture deserves (and needs) to be taken not too seriously.
So I smile when I hear friends say that they’re going to the beach, because the weather is going to be beautiful. I love that they can enjoy the wind and the waves when it’s 17 degrees out. Have fun! You can find me wrapped in a blanket on the corner of the couch with a cup of hot tea.
So I smirk when I see a glass of water on the menu for €2. Nothing is for free, not even the water from the tap. I lose my smile when I see that the glass of orange juice I ordered contains barely enough fluid to drown a fly in. Luckily, I can at least make the waitress smile by giving her something unexpected: a tip. It’s probably the first, and last, tip she receives that week.
So I giggle when lunch is somewhere between 8 to 12 slices of bread. Can anyone guess what we had for breakfast?
So I chuckle when the Dutch are proudly talking about their ‘big cities’. From my perspective, cities like Utrecht or Amsterdam are villages with a lot of confidence. They’re cute towns that should be adored for their character, but they barely made it to be called a city. The real ‘big cities’ of the world have a population that could easily swallow up our whole nation. But hey, 17 million people is quite an accomplishment considering our size!
So I laugh when I stand before closed doors – again. I’m reminded that in the Netherlands, all the stores close at 6pm, with the exception of one or two brave supermarkets who decided to stay open ‘late’ (respectively 8pm or 10pm). I have to adapt my shopping habits slightly, since I’ve been getting used to the “open 24/7”- culture of the States. Besides being closed in the evenings, store owners also consider it weekend from 5pm on Saturday till about 1pm on Monday. Shopping centers will look as crowded as the planet of Mars during those days. Did I already mention the lunch breaks most local stores have?
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t laugh at this culture, because I mock it. I laugh, because I truly find it amusing. I laugh, because I realize that I’m just as much guilty of every single part of it as everybody else – and I’m proud of it. I laugh, because I really like this country, I like it with all of its weirdness.
With curled up lips and a twinkle in my eyes, I can quietly appreciate the culture I was raised by.
(Do you want to read more about my journey from Holland-hater to Dutch Pride? Click here!)