Expat life in Holland (or elsewhere) is about exploring, learning and accepting the ‘other’ culture, not about judging…
Expat life is about exploring the other culture. During this period of exploration, the expat reaches a point where they decide whether the food, customs, rules, habits and behavior are acceptable to them. Unfortunately, many often stop exploring and decide to judge instead.
Judging is easy. One can find many posts on the internet about how difficult it is to accept the Dutch culture. They focus mainly on clichés and situations that people struggle with because they don’t make an effort to look at it with an open mind, with the intention to understand. Expats, and internationals in general, need to approach life in another country with an open mindset, to embrace life which may be different in order to thrive in the ‘other’ place.
Starting fresh in a new country is not as easy as it seems. Being confronted with unfamiliar habits and behaviors, makes us realize our own boundaries and limitations. This is a natural progression in the whole international experience. No matter what phase of the expat changing process we’re in, or how long we’ve already been living in the country, it’s always worth taking time to discover otherness.
Once we begin to see connections between words, behaviors and social norms, and make the effort to look at the other culture from the inside, through her eyes, we become able to understand, adapt and accept smaller or larger facets of it.
It is about choosing what aspect of the “other” is good and interesting for us to take on. Accept the otherness and you may end up liking it.
Of course, we don’t need to like everything or to blend in to a point that we loose our own identity. Surely not. But we can accept that things are done differently, perceived and intended in another way.
My advice is whenever you feel like someone or something is unexpected, try to look at it from another angle. Question if what you see is what it means, and try to find a way to accept it like it is.
The next time you judge a comment as insulting, rude or blunt, ask yourself if it might actually be someone just being honest and straight forward. What is positive about being honest and straight forward? What about it makes it difficult for you to accept?
Most of the time things are different from what we expect and us jumping to conclusions only leads to misunderstandings. Our struggles come when we forget that things are done, seen and made differently, not only in other cultures, but by other people in general. We are all different.
See how much you know and understand the Dutch here.