Dutch Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Direct Communication: Dutch tend to have a direct communication style, speaking quite frankly in a straightforward manner. At times, this may be misunderstood as rude, especially if one is not used to forthrightness. However, the Dutch tend to view direct communication as a well-appreciated form of openness.
  • Communication Style: Dutch tend to speak in a friendly tone of voice and often in short sentences. Excessive politeness is often viewed as distrustful as it may imply a lack of directness in communication. Dutch also generally avoid over-exaggerating and will often tone down statements and compliments.
  • Humour: Much of Dutch humour relates to ‘schadenfreude’ (a sense of pleasure or amusement from another person’s misfortune). Dutch humour may also be cheeky or nuanced. Irony and sarcasm is often not appreciated as many Dutch take what others say at face value.
  • Formality: In the Dutch language, different forms of expression indicate varying levels of courtesy and formality. The polite form of speech is to address people in the formal form of ‘you' (known as ‘U’). The informal address known as ‘jij’ is becoming the most common usage of ‘you’.

 

Non-Verbal

  • Personal Space: Many Dutch value their personal space and do not appreciate it being invaded by others. When conversing, an arm’s length or more distance is acceptable. Dutch may have their furniture arranged in a way that puts more distance between people in a room. Avoid moving your chair closer if this is the case.
  • Physical Contact: Among friends and family, light touching of the arms, shoulders and hands is acceptable. The Dutch are generally less tactile among strangers and acquaintances. It is common for couples to display affection in public.
  • Body Language: Dutch people rely heavily on words and generally make less use of body language to emphasise a point in communication. Some hand gestures may be used during conversation.
  • Eye Contact: Holding eye contact is valued and shows sincerity. Occasionally diverting your gaze is common and can help create a more comfortable situation.
  • Gestures: Putting your index finger to the temple of your head or forehead is considered an insult as it indicates that the person you are talking about is crazy. Pointing is also considered rude. The ‘thumbs up’ gesture implies that something is good.
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