How to Make New Friends in Netherlands


A small country in northwestern Europe, Netherlands is a land of quiet, hardworking and conscientious people. The Dutch are on the whole friendly and sociable, though in rural areas foreigners may be still viewed with suspicion while in cities, people may not have the time to develop relationships. Even then it is quite possible for a visitor to make new friends and here are a few tips.

Polish your language skills

When mingling with the Dutch, you can on the whole look forward to spending time with people with an educated and cosmopolitan outlook. Here most adults are likely to have attended college and quite comfortable discussing a whole range of topics, starting from politics to the environment. In fact many tourists have found to their surprise that Dutch people can speak English quite well and almost always understand when being spoken to in the language. Indeed most of them seem to speak it better than many English people or North Americans. However bear in mind that when speaking other languages some Dutch people may sound abrupt or insistent. In Dutch they use short words that soften the tone, but these are missing when they change to another language and thus no offence should be taken.

Despite the Dutch familiarity with English, you will definitely have an edge in your socializing activities if you can pick up the local language. In fact if you simply make an attempt, it will be much appreciated, whether or not you are able to get finer points right. There are various opportunities to lean Dutch, which is not very difficult if you are already familiar with English or German.

Be open to discussions

You have a good chance of hitting off with the local crowd in Netherlands if you enjoy a lively discussion as much as the Dutch do. Both men and women here are avid conversationists though more than engaging in social chit-chat, you will find them enthusiastically expressing their opinions on any subject under the sun, including religion, sex, politics and events in their locality. Indeed sometimes their comments can seem rather direct, but that is merely an expression of their essentially honest and straightforward natures. However avoid discussing money and personal matters since questions on these can be construed rude and in poor taste.

What makes conversations with the Dutch even more satisfying is a high level of awareness as well as a well-read background. On your part though, you need to be careful to do some homework on the history and background of his country before you engage the Dutch in a discussion. For instance, always refer to his nation as The Netherlands and not merely as Holland; this is because both North and South Holland are merely two out of twelve provinces in all. So if the guy hails from outside the Hollands, he might feel that you have not bothered to read up on the land’s history or even chosen to exclude the other ten provinces because you don’t deem them important enough. Worst case scenario, you might raise the hackles of a Friesian separatist and then have to listen to him ranting about how Hollanders always take credit for the achievements of the entire country.

For all their love of lively discussions though, the Dutch people are known to be very polite and extremely well-mannered. They are considerate not only of the wishes and needs of people known to them but for that matter of any other living creature they meet on the road like old ladies, babies and even stray animals.  Thus when making new friends in this country, keep in mind the intrinsic regard for civil behavior and other people’s comfort; avoid doing or saying anything that smacks of bad manners. The Dutch in fact observe certain formalities when greeting others and if you are keen on striking a good note with your friends here, remember to shake hands, smile and look at the person in the eye. If you are introducing yourself, give your first name as well as surname – this gives the person before you the option of addressing you by either. In case he/she chooses the former, you have a clear indication on being first name basis with the person though on the whole it is better to address senior people by their surname.

Where to meet them

Unlike some Europeans, especially Germans and Austrians, the Dutch do not have a culture of segregating their personal and professional lives, which is why you can look forward to fraternizing with your Dutch co-workers after office hours. In this respect the Dutch resemble the British and Americans who may thus find it easier to make friends in Netherlands as compared to some other west European countries.

Yet another great way to meet new people in Netherlands is to join a club or a group where meeting people is inevitable. Joining an activity or sports club means that you will have no choice but to come in contact with new people. Clubs are popular in the Netherlands and they cater to every kind of interest - From "moms and tots" groups to rugby clubs, there is bound to be something that fits in with your personality and preferences. For the expatriate community,  there are several social groups designed to bring together people from all sorts of nationalities. Likewise look for evening classes which conduct classes in everything from languages and art to music and handicrafts – these classes are conducted by adult education universities also known as Volksuniversiteiten and by further education colleges and provide a good opportunity to come across new people.

Apart from these, the bigger cities in Netherlands have a thriving nightlife including bars, restaurants, nightclubs and theater. Here you mingle with the local populace on your own or go out in a group. If you are staying for some time, frequenting the smaller commercial establishments in your neighborhood may be more effective in the long run in making new friends here. Bear in mind though that you are expected to greet everyone – shop assistants as well as customers – when entering a small store or cafĂ©. Over time you will become a familiar face at the place and find it easy to get to know the locals as well as other visitors.