Why bother to learn Dutch?
The Netherlands is certainly a nice country: everything is flat and you can get around anywhere on your bicycle. The country is well-ordered and nearly everyone speaks English. Easy, right? So you don’t have to make any effort to learn the language. Besides, the Dutch allow themselves to be easily observed: after all, in what other country are the curtains left open at night?
However, if you’d like to learn more about what lies behind this outward appearance, it can’t do any harm to get to know the language and culture a little. Did you know that if you say to a Dutchman ‘you should come by and visit’, he will immediately take out his agenda? And if you ask his opinion about something, then don’t be alarmed if he speaks his mind unreservedly!
It is also useful to know which subjects are not spoken about in public. In talking about their level of income the Dutch are nearly as stingy as in spending it, but on the first sunny day in March they fill the city terraces, everyone facing the street to unabashedly watch the passers-by. Two Dutch people are standing at a bus stop making conversation: ‘some weather, huh?’ ‘You can say that again.’ The Dutch turn out to be true masters in raising clichés to the level of art.
If English is your first or second language and you hear a Dutchman say that he mishandeld someone, something more is going on than an error of judgment. Better to call the police in that case! If a Dutch person says that he went to the gymnasium he doesn’t mean the fitness centre but wants to show you how slim (smart) – not thin – he is.
Do you want to get more out of your stay in the Netherlands, get by a little bit in Dutch and gain interesting, worthwhile knowledge about the culture? Register for Social Dutch I, Social Dutch II or Social Dutch for native speakers of German.