Now, I know the Dutch have a reputation as a cold and abrasive bunch, but being the open-minded soul that I am, I always try to give people, especially an entire population, the benefit of the doubt. So I greeted my new Dutch neighbors with as much American bubbliness I thought they could stomach. I’ve been in Amsterdam a year now. I gave up. In fact, I think I became one of those (well not beautiful blonds) but one of those scowling cyclers flipping off the tourist. If you can’t beat em’ join em’ right?
Two weeks ago I started working for an IT company in Utrecht (a city about 30 minutes from Amsterdam). To say I know nothing about IT is the understatement of the century but the position was in marketing and sales so I thought, why not? Now I know why not.
First of all, I still have no idea what I’m trying to sell and to whom, but I’ll just keep smiling and nodding and hope for the best.
The people I work with are quite an interesting bunch…
There’s one Dutch man I work with who over the past two weeks I think I’ve seen crack one smile.. and I’m not even confident you’d call it a real smile in fact I think it was more of a smirk than a smile really. He’s ice-cold. There’s no warming up this guy, trust me, I tried. Even jokes at my own expense, and the expense of my country, didn’t do it for this guy. (The Dutch LOVE making fun of Americans, I thought for sure that would work). Not even a smirk this time.
Another interesting trait I’ve discovered about my new Dutch friends is the brutal honesty with which they operate. It’s one of those places where it’s better just not to ask “Does this shirt make me look fat?” because it probably does, and they will probably tell you so. My boyfriend’s mom is a perfect example of this charming Dutch trait. First of all, I love her like a second mother so please don’t get me wrong here. Linda is one of the kindest, warmest and most open people I have ever met. That being said, she certainly isn’t afraid to tell you what she think whether you asked or not.
For example, Sebatsiaan and I recently went to this amazing event in called “Taste of Amsterdam.” All my fellow foodies out there I highly recommend it. Anyway, I digress. We went to the event with Sebastiaan’s mom and her best friend. The four of us spent the day walking around the beautiful Amstel Park tasting Dutch delicacies (well Dutch food..), drinking prosecco and chatting with the various cheese, wine and beer merchants. Sebastiaan and I found this booth that sold homemade sodas, lemonade and ginger beer. We thought it was really cool so we called Linda over and asked her to try a taste. She was not impressed. She turned to the guy, scrunched up her nose and said “well, it’s certainly not for me. ” Sebastiaan turned beet red, the poor vendor looked like her had been punched in the gut and Linda just flipped her hair over her shoulder and walked away. I thought the whole thing was hilarious.
Now, if this had happened a year ago, I probably would have been mortified, profusely apologized to the guy and reassured him that he had a golden product, hell I probably would’ve given him a hug. This time, I just shrugged my shoulders, smiled and walked away with Linda. If there’s one great lesson that Linda has taught me (there have been many actually), it’s why hold your tongue? Life’s too short, if you don’t like something what’s so bad about saying so? Why am I so preoccupied with what other people think when what I think and feel is just as important? That being said, I don’t think its necessary to go around squashing people’s dreams left and right but maybe sometimes a hefty dose of Dutch honesty is just what the doctor ordered.