You’ve heard me talk about how some things in the Netherlands are truly very different from what an American like me is used to. There’s a lot of culture shock to deal with when you move from the United States to the Netherlands.
And even though I don’t think about this much, there’s A LOT that Dutch people find weird about Americans too.
Today, I thought I would take some time to talk about those American things that may be strange to Dutch people, since it isn’t exactly fair that I spend so much time talking about the Dutch from a (loving) outsider’s perspective.
Turns out Americans do some weird shit once you start thinking about it. We also have things that absolutely make no sense.
So let me tell you about these things, from a Dutchie’s point of view.
#1 Eating potatoes for breakfast
By potatoes for breakfast, I mean fries. Us Americans, we love to brunch. And the brunch trend has definitely caught on in the rest of the world, including the Netherlands! Which is great— I couldn’t live here otherwise.
But there is one notorious thing on our breakfast menus that really SHOCK the Dutch. This is not an exaggeration.
That thing is fries. Normal cut fries, home fries, doesn’t matter. The fact that potatoes are on the menu along with our bread, cheese, and eggs is blasphemous. Gasp!
This might come as a surprise to some of you. After all, the Dutch LOOOOVE their fries. Very true! Except that it’s very much mostly just a dinner thing.
For breakfast, the Dutch like to keep it simple. They’ll either have some bread with cheese or other spreads on it (like the infamous chocolate sprinkles hagelslag) or yogurt and muesli/granola.
Eating potatoes for breakfast in the Netherlands is as weird as eating steak for breakfast in the US. Nobody does it, and people are horrified if you do.
#2 Super-sized food and drink
I am hungry all the time in Europe. Especially in the Netherlands. The food portions here are SOOO small.
But here’s how the Dutch look at it: the food portions in the US are GIGANTIC! And, yeah, I guess they have a point.
When my Dutch girlfriend and I go for a proper American brunch, she normally ends up bringing some of it home with her to eat later. Obviously I finish everything. Here’s the American brunch I’m talking about:
You’re looking at french toast stuffed with cream cheese completely DOUSED with maple syrup. Depending on where you’re from, that either sounds delicious or absolutely disgusting.
For comparison, here’s a picture of the most recent brunch I had in the Netherlands. I see a difference, do you?
#3 Small talk
Two Americans who know each other happen to meet on the street.
American 1: “Hey, how are you?”
American 2: “Good, how are you?”
American 1: “Good.”
And then they continue walking.
This is totally normal to me because I’m American. Dutch people visiting the US have no idea what’s happening.
When Sara, my Dutch girlfriend, first moved to the US, she had no idea how to respond to the notorious “how are you?” because people wouldn’t stop long enough for her to finish her response.
Another kind of small talk that we Americans like to do is to ask the same kinds of questions to people over and over again. “Where are you from?” is a pretty standard conversation starter in the US. To the Dutch, that isn’t really as interesting as other things about you that they might like to know.
Fun fact, in the Netherlands, I was once asked how much I pay for rent BEFORE I was asked where I was from.
How do you like that?
#4 Bathroom stalls with tiny doors
These are American bathrooms.
To an American, there is nothing out of the ordinary here. But we don’t see what the Dutch see, and what the Dutch see is a massive invasion of privacy here.
If you’re American, remember the last time you went into a bathroom stall? What’s the first thing you did to see whether any of the stalls were free? That’s right, you looked underneath to see if there’s a person there.
AMERICANS LITERALLY LOOK INSIDE A BATHROOM STALL WHEN SOMEONE IS USING IT HOW WEIRD IS THAT???
I had never thought about it that way until Sara pointed it out to me.
Sometimes, you can even see whether someone is in the stalls through the side cracks. That’s actually pretty insane. The next time I use a public bathroom in the US, I’m going to be mega aware of my surroundings.
The Dutch, of course, have found an ingenious solution to this. Their bathroom stalls simply have walls and doors that touch the floor. Imagine that!
#5 American English
Most Dutch people speak amazing English. Especially the younger generation. But they grow up learning British English. That makes sense, one monarchy befriends another. It’s touching. I just wiped a tear thinking about that.
Because the Dutch learn British English, American English can sound really weird to Dutch people. They do watch American shows, but there’s only so much you’re prepared for when you encounter a real-life American.
And it’s not just how Americans speak English, which is bad enough to them, it’s WHAT we say in English too.
During my first ever trip to Amsterdam, I made a stop at the Scotch and Soda. I handed over the t-shirt I wanted to buy to the dude at the cash register. The guy asks me if I want a bag. I smile and say, “I’m good.”
The dude at the cash register then suddenly starts smiling and says, “coooooool” like a surfer dude who’s smoked too many joints he can’t remember his name.
“I’m good” doesn’t mean “no, thank you” to the Dutch. It just means, “I’m amazing” or “I’m doing good.” After that incident, I’ve had people misunderstand me many, many more times. They definitely think I’m not all there.
According to the Dutch, Americans also pronounce English words is a very strange way. We say “zee” for the letter z instead of “zed”, and we say the word “can’t” with air blowing straight out of our noses.
We also write our months first. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?
#6 Ugly grocery stores!
Have you guys been to the Albert Heijn here in the Netherlands? If you have, you know how amazing Dutch grocery stores are. They look nice, have nice lighting, and the store even freaking smell nice.
You can buy a nice coffee before you start grocery shopping— there are often coffee machines right by the entrance. For the Dutch, grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a chore that you don’t want to do.
American grocery stores are NOT made for a pleasant experience, and the Dutch know it and are horrified!
Dutch people visiting the US are always confused by how “dirty” the supermarkets in America are.
I don’t know why— I’ve never noticed!
The florescent lighting also leaves much to be desired. Who thought that it was a good idea to make grocery stores in the US that way?
#7 Drinking alcohol in a brown paper bag
This one is SO normal to me that I don’t even know what Dutch people are talking about when they ask me about it.
In movies, the Dutch have noticed that Americans drink alcohol in brown paper bags out on the streets. And they are so confused. They don’t know why.
Of course, in the Netherlands, you can just drink on the street. You don’t need to hide the alcohol if you’re going to drink it in public. The Dutch have a lot of freedom for a monarchy.
In America, drinking on the streets is very much illegal. But say you’re homeless and an alcoholic. If you drink out of a brown paper bag then, the cops will most likely leave you alone.
Americans drink out of brown paper bags because drinking in public is illegal, but if it’s in a brown paper bag, the cops will let you get away with it. I realize how insane that is as I’m typing it. The Dutch realize it too.