7 Secrets to Making Friends with Dutch Women

4 October 2013


Disclaimer: Written with a partial knipoog (wink)


Ahh, Dutch women. We all know that Dutch women don’t get depressed. They also have the happiest kids in the world. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with these tall gorgeous happy blonde beauties with flawless biking skills?

A common complaint among fellow expats is how difficult it is for them to actually make friends with Dutch people. Expat forums are filled with questions and concerns on just how to infiltrate the local Dutch circles. Sometimes expat women spend their entire stay in the Netherlands not having any real Dutch female friends.

Being a seasoned expat for the past 6 years now, I’ve gained some valuable insight on how to establish real, genuine friendships with these wonderful women. I’ve also learned a thing ( or two or more) actually about how not to make friends with them. Some of the mistakes I made are long-lasting and quite irreparable.

However, pure luck and a lot of practice has allowed me to forge genuine friendships with these wonderful women. They’ve welcomed me into their country, their homes and into their hearts. My Dutch girl friends even flew all the way to my wedding in San Francisco to celebrate my special day. An invitation to a Dutch bachelorette party and a wedding invitation that includes dinner are signs of a true friendship with a Dutchie.

I’d love to impart my wisdom on other fellow expats on how to make Dutch female friends. I guarantee that it will make your stay in the Netherlands no matter how short, or long a worthwhile experience.

Here are my 7 fool-proof (Dutch approved) tips on making Dutch female friends:

dutch women(We were in Ghent celebrating a friend’s bachelorette party. It also coincided with Ghent Day and we had to pretend that we were Belgians. Dutchies were historically not welcomed on that special day.)

1. Doe maar gewoon, hoor!
Just be “normal“. Being cool, calm, and collected goes a long way with making a good first impression among Dutch women. American enthusiasm should be casually put away until you become better friends.

2. Learn the Dutch language
We’re in their country and no matter how obscure Dutch is, making a concerted effort to learn the lingua franca of the Netherlands demonstrates your seriousness of acclimating to the country. You can always make the excuse that everyone speaks English so why bother. However, making an effort to learn their language will be considered endearing and thoughtful to a potential new Dutch friend.

Dutch can be a challenging language to learn, especially since the Dutch are notorious for switching to English to speed up the flow of the conversation, or to practice/show-off their English skills. Be stern. Throw in the words gezellig and lekker for good measure.

3. Develop Ninja Agenda Skills
If a potential new Dutch friend suggests to meet up for coffee, lunch or dinner date, pretend that you are busy for the next month or so. This will give you coolness points. Having an impeccable, precisely planned out life is a character trait that many Dutch women pride themselves in. Look at your calendar, and pick a date that is four weeks away.

Insider tip:  Once you’re “in”, randomly calling on Thursday afternoon to meet up for last minute drinks and or/dinner can give you “gezellig” points. Some will welcome the spontaneity as a breath of fresh air.

dutch women

 4. Patience
We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither is a true genuine friendship with a Dutchie. Give them time to warm up to you and get to know you. It could take months, or even years. However, once you make a Dutch friend, you’ve more than likely made a friend for life.

Insider tip: The Dutch often are part of various circles of friends. If you can somehow crack the sanctity of the inner circle and one of them vouches for you, you are sure to have at least 10 new Dutch friends. This often happens if you fall in love with a wonderful Dutch guy who happens to also have like-minded lovely Dutch female friends.

5. Do Not Over-Share in the Beginning
American women beware. Our idea of keeping it real by divulging in our innermost secrets and insecurities upon feeling a “connection” with a potential Dutch friend can cause her to run to the nearest polder. Your “openness” may be construed as not having the ability to keep secrets. It may also freak her out by being so candid about your feelings. I learned this the hard way.

dutch women

6. Do Not Complain About The Netherlands, the Dutch Culture or the People.
A common trait of the Dutch is that they are a very vocal lot with very strong opinions that can be considered as “complaining”. You’ll get the seemingly harmless question, “What do you think of this country?”.

Let them do the complaining, politely nod your head and smile. Do not fall victim to their self-deprecating humor about their own country and their country(wo)men. If you are an expat experiencing culture shock, reconsider your readiness with making friends with the locals. I have a sneaking suspicion that it may not end well.

7. Do Not Drop by Unannounced (especially during dinner time)
It is considered quite rude to show up to a Dutch friend’s home unannounced. Unexpected visitors during dinner time may find themselves either being sent away, or made to sit in the living room while dinner is being eaten. The Dutch usually do not embrace spontaneity, especially from someone new in their routine-filled lives. Also, keep in mind that since everything is pretty much carefully planned out, such as the exact grams of meat per person, there is a high probability that there wouldn’t be any food to share anyway. Try not to take it too personally!


Thrown in For Good Measure: “Insider tip” from a friendly random Dutch woman I met at Kurz hair salon:
If you have your heart set on making friends with real Dutch women, go for the home-run and wear three quarter white leggings. Extra bonus points if you wear it with brown boots.


(photos courtesy of Ruth Uitewaal)


P.S. Want to waste more time on the internet? Check out Postpartum Care and What We Can Learn from the Dutch.

  • nylonliving

    Wow! The Dutch seem super-organised. Although I have to agree with No 6 in any country – rude to complain about a country to its people. Instead, complain to other expats privately 🙂

    • rinamae

      They really are! It’s actually amazing how well the country works because of it -though initially as an outsider it takes some time to get used to and to understand the “ins and outs”. I agree with you about No. 6 too- true for the rest of the world isn’t it? Unfortunately a lot of expats in the NL haven’t always quite caught on so quickly.

  • Ute (expatsincebirth)

    Thanks for this very interesting post. Point 6 is valid for every country you live in, like nylonliving already pointed out. I realize that I came to this country when I was older than you 😉 I already had a kid, was working and then got my twindaughters after exactly one year. Making local friends in these circumstances is less easy, or simply different. But I managed. Also about being invited to weddings, well, and if they are already all married (with kids) or going through a divorce? I might write a post about how to make friends with Dutch women when your, let’s say, around 40 😉 – Thanks for the hint!

    • rinamae

      Thanks Ute for your comment! I can’t wait to read your blog post, and you’re definitely right that make friends with Dutch women is a whole other ballgame when you’re in your 40s, married and with children.

  • MissNeriss

    Number 3!! I’m sure that’s what people actually do Rina Mae! Oh, sorry. The first available date we can possibly have coffee together is November 3. I’m calling BS. It is just not possible to be busy every day between now and November 3. Having said that, I’ve become a slave to my agenda and I have something planned every single Saturday until the end of November.

    I’ve witnessed number 7 in action. I was horrified to be honest. There was plenty of food, why not offer a plate and a chair? But that’s just my Australian culture coming out I think.

    You’re fast becoming one of my fave Dutch/expat bloggers, thanks for the fantastic posts!

    • rinamae

      Thanks for reading my blog. And your compliment means a lot to me too.

      I’m also a foodie at heart so I had difficulty with the transition. 😉

  • Astrid van der Flier

    Hilarious! It’s true that it does take a while to figure out these kind of subtleties in social relationships. During the 5 years that I lived in San Francisco I didn’t have too much difficulties connecting with American women, but now as a Dutch “accidental expat” mom in France, I could use an article like this about French woman 😉

    • rinamae

      Perhaps you can try to write one yourself Astrid and I’d love to read it! 😉 I am so glad that to read that you had an easy time in San Francisco–I hope that means you left a piece of your heart there too. I sure did. It took me a really long time not to feel homesick every day.

  • Karien Van Ditzhuijzen

    Haha, it is so funny to read about expat life from ‘the other side’, I am an expat blogger myself, and Dutch, living (at the moment) in Singapore. Interestingly, I got ‘Dutch culture shock’ when I moved here, where I was confronted with a large Dutch community (I knew we should not have selected the Dutch school for our kids…), and me not having lived in the country for a long time felt very spooked!
    Maybe I need your tips as well 😉 And at least I have my genes in my favour, as I am tall and blonde already, and know how to ride a bike as well (in contrary to my kids, but hey, they can swim at 2 yrs old…)

    • rinamae

      Thanks Karien! What is your blog?I’m really curious to read what it’s about. A good friend of mine is also living in Singapore and happens to send her half-Filipino, Half-Dutch kids to the Dutch school. It would be a funny coincidence if it was the same school!

      • Karien Van Ditzhuijzen

        It would not be that much of a coincidence, there is only one Dutch school 😉 I might even know your friend, I know some Filipina’s. And have in fact made some good Dutch friends over the last year as well, they do tend to grow on you, I suppose you found the same. And I think I must be more Dutch sometimes than I think myself. I lived in the UK before moving to Singapore, and never had any problems making friends there either, it might be a language thing? Although most Dutch speak good English, it might be more difficult in a group.
        My blog is http://www.bedu-mama.com, you are more than welcome to come and have a look!

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  • Valerie Boswinkel

    a Dutch woman (although neither statuesque or blond or completely stable when
    biking with my two kids on the bike) I found myself eagerly reading this blog
    for tips. Because I too have difficulties making new friends with Dutch women
    or any women really. Possibly because I spent most of my childhood as a dutch
    expat in various countries or maybe just because I’m over 30 with kids. I
    haven’t made a non-child related friend in 7 years. Is it really that much
    easier anywhere else?

    • Having previously lived in London, Dubai, and Mumbai, I think it is easier in Dubai and Mumbai. about the same in London.

  • onetinkerbell

    Also, when visiting, bring flowers. I’m half Dutch and it’s been ingrained in me that this is the thing to do. My husband doesn’t understand it but knows it’s always a good idea.

  • Glen Moreland

    Always bring flowers for all occassions should be near the top!

  • Jessica Williams

    Ahaha, I so enjoy the “insider tip” at the end. I’ve never been quite that desperate, but I’ve had my fair share of trouble connecting to Dutch women. I came across your blog via my boyfriend who read your article in the AD. Ironically I’ve also been in The Netherlands for about 6 years now, and I live one train stop away in Culemborg. The article says you went to Penn State too (my alma mater); however, your blog says otherwise? In any case, your posts are lovely, and I can truly relate!

    • rinamae

      Thanks for the compliment! I have to confess that I also got extremely lucky – my husband’s friends took me in with lots of love and were incredibly patient with me (including all my complaining!).
      My alma mater is Berkeley and then I went to UPenn to do a postbac where I met my husband.

  • Rachele Bajema

    I am 100% Dutch, but grew up in America, and this still holds true in my family’s culture. I also agree with Glen Moreland and onetinkerbell about the flowers ( I didn’t realize that wasn’t something everyone did!).

  • Dutchie

    I love all of your writing! It is easy to read, full of humor and for 99% without any mistakes. The 1% that might need a slight change is the city name of your title: ‘Utrecht is the most wonderful canal city in Europe’ ….Because uhhm…,what happened to Amsterdam? ;-D

  • Quayyum Raja

    I am from Kashmir. I visited Netherlands many year ago and really enjoyed the hospitality. The Dutch people are very friendly, liberal and thoughtful. I love to visit Netherlands again.

  • Patrick Garcia-Hernando

    Good tips but I don’t think you have to behave giving a plan or anything else. The only thing you need is to be yourself anywhere you are without pushing to much when you meet people and they will naturally accept you or not. Life is more than an agenda and being different brings exoticism which change from what Dutch women can see in the everyday people 🙂

  • Amie Corbin

    Although I would love to have Dutch friends… I don’t like the idea of not being myself in the beginning of a meeting to try to gain friends (I’m North American and yes, I am very enthusiastic and high-energy, but I think this more my personality rather than my culture). This seems dishonest to me and almost backwards in the ideals of Dutch people (being honest).

  • kelly

    This is pretty interesting my dad’s side is mostly dutch and I’ve found alot of things about the Dutch that I see in myself and it now makes sense to why I’m the way I am. People definitely have a hard time making friends with me it takes a long time to be comfortable with someone and I’m very timid but i do like it that way. Not being very social has gotten someone to think I’m stuck up but when I talked it changed there mind. Thanks to that I know very well to not judge a book by its cover. They usually have to be the persist type and very talkative. I have a way of coming off as someone that’s not very interested.

  • Marijke

    :o) This is fun! I’m a Dutch girl, indeed tall and blonde. The remark about the flowers is so true! If you bring flowers (almost) nothing can go wrong anymore! About dinner that there is no extra food, I think that was in the past, nowadays an unexpected visitor can always join lunch or dinner. Yes we are loud and say everything we think, even it’s not pleasant to hear and we really don’t like the oooooohhh soooooooo amazing things, just act normal! Doe maar gewoon hoor!
    Love from Holland ♥

  • T.S.

    100% agree with Marijke! Life is so unpredictable and short to fill it with oooooohhhh and soooooo. Be yourself, stand for who you are, don’t be afraid to be old fashion! Nothing in this world equals the smile of a woman when she receives flowers! Nice to hear from you tall and blonde Dutch girl!