Many expats find making friends and building a social network difficult in the Netherlands. Apart from the language barrier, many find that the Dutch, although very open-minded and welcoming, don’t necessarily feel the need to expand their circle of friends. So, how do you squeeze in?
Top 8 Tips to Meet and Keep Dutch Friends
We’ve said it before and will say it again: Nederlands (Dutch local language) is an important part of the country’s culture. So, learning it will help you make friends easier.
Note that you DO NOT have to be fluent in speaking Dutch. A few important phrases to start things off will already inform people that you’re willing to do what it takes to integrate, and they will appreciate that.
Further, as with any new language, practice makes progress. So, the more you speak Nederlands, the better you’ll get at it!
Understand Dutch friendship norms.
Every country has its own customs and traditions. To avoid awkward situations, it’s important to know—and respect—Dutch ways. Here are a few of them:
Don’t show up uninvited. The Dutch don’t like unexpected visits. Apart from being private people, family time is important to them, and arriving unannounced impedes on that time. Further, Dutchies like routines and things being on a schedule. So, no, you can’t just show up when they’ve already planned months before to go to the zoo that day.
Don’t show up empty-handed. If you do get invited to a Dutchies’ home, you’ll score a lot of points if you bring something for your host. Note that you don’t need to give anything extravagant. A bouquet of flowers, local cakes or pastries, or some nuts and cheese are more than enough.
Don’t take liberties at their homes. Although you mean well, don’t cross boundaries. For example, if you want to help your host, ask if they want help and how you can provide it. Don’t just stand up and go to their kitchens.
Don’t stay for lunch/dinner. Unless you’ve been invited specifically for lunch or dinner, don’t stay. When the Dutch say, “come over for coffee,” it’s highly possible that they mean exactly just that. If they don’t ask you to stay until mealtime, it’s rude to do so.
Don’t be afraid to make the first move.
If you wait to be invited, you might never make any friends. So, muster up the courage to reach out and take initiative. As an expat, your first Dutch contacts will probably be your coworkers. Say something like, “Hey, would you like to grab some coffee? I don’t know many people here yet.” (Extra points if you can say that in Dutch!)
You can also invite them to your home. Dutchies are very open to learning about different cultures, so this is your chance to teach them about yours.
If someone says something like, “let’s go and have lunch sometime,” and you haven’t heard anything, follow up! For example, say, “Hey, you mentioned lunch the last time. I’m actually free Thursday. Does that work for you?”
Join local clubs.
The key word here is “local,” not expat or international clubs. For example, if you’re into sports, music, or cooking, then join a local gym, music club, or cooking class. You’ll find like-minded Dutchies, so that’s already one thing you’ll have in common with them.
Go digital and use social apps and networks.
Meetup is a popular app for people who like the same things and want to go to events together. You can meet other Meetup users by joining a group (or creating your own group on the app) or going to an event.
Eventbrite is a social media network where you can look up upcoming events specifically in your area (i.e., the event recommendations are tailored to your location). If you find an event that interests you, simply “reserve” a slot for that event. (Note: Some events are free, while others are not, so do check.) The social network also allows you to create your own event.
If you’re looking for friends not just for yourself but for you and your partner, you can try the app Party of 4. You’ll need to create a profile, write a short bio, and set your location. From here, you can find other couples in your area you might want to meet, and vice versa.
Understand Dutch directness… and be ready to dish it out too.
The Dutch are as world-renowned for their directness as they are for their tulips. However, remember that this is NEVER meant to offend anyone. They’re just not the type to beat around the bush or sugarcoat things. They simply say things as they see them.
It’s important to know this Dutch trait so that you don’t get upset when you’re on the receiving end of such directness. In fact, our advice is to be direct too.
For example, say a Dutchie says or does something that offends you or your culture. Be direct and say, “That’s actually offensive in MY culture. I prefer you don’t say/do that.”
This leads us to our next tip…
Honesty is the best policy.
Dutchies hate anything that hints at fakeness. If they feel that you’re not being “real,” they’ll avoid you. So, there’s no need for empty praises or promises. Also, the Dutch are very down to earth. So there’s no need to bend over backward to impress them, either. Just be you!
We hope the above tips help you meet friends and make lasting friendships during your stay in the Netherlands. You may find it a bit difficult at first but keep at it! There’s bound to be a Dutch friend or two out there for you.