Thu, 05/01/2008 - 14:02

Ever wanted to do business with someone in Amsterdam? Easy, as long as you don't call the Dutch Dutch

Koos Jan Schouten
Koos Jan Schouten

Most of my fellow “Nederlanders” do not like to be called “Dutch” because it sounds too much like our word for German (Duits). We attribute our dislike for our neighbours mainly to the 1974 World Cup Final. But since then we have fought other finals and we now play war with common enemies who blow themselves up, so what do I know. In reality, we truly are just the remnants of some Germanic tribes that drifted a little too far down the old River Rhine. During the days of the Romans most of what is now known as the Netherlands was called Germania Inferior, so there you are.

It was the British and later the Americans who had difficulties differentiating between them and us and started to call us “Dutch”. In the past this created many embarrassing incidents, especially in the 1930s when Arthur “Dutch Shultz” Flegenheimer, one of America's most famous gangsters, was believed to be of our soil. Ronald “Dutch” Reagan was actually nicknamed by his father, due to his “fat little Dutchman”-like appearance and his “Dutch boy” haircut. The nickname stuck with Ronnie throughout his life.

Many colloquial terms use the word Dutch: going Dutch - to split the cost of a meal (even on a date), Dutch courage - drunken heroism, double Dutch - gibberish, Dutch wife - a prostitute or a sex doll, or just Dutch - meaning marijuana.

Oh yes, there is another thing about Nederland, never assume that a Nederlander comes from Holland unless you are absolutely sure that they indeed come from either the province of Noord or Zuid Holland which are home to Amsterdam, the Hague and Rotterdam. The rest of Clog Land outside these borders prefers to be addressed as Nederland. In Amsterdam we say that the province starts at the end of town, so maybe we should just not argue with the villagers and farmers.

In Nederland the spoken language is “Nederlands” (careful here, it's NOT Dutch), and it should only be spoken by the locals. Foreigners who endeavour to master the language are benevolently tolerated, but as soon as the poor soul even stutters for a split second the conversation moves to English. This is designed to prove the superiority of the hosts.

If you decide to move to the “Land Behind the Dykes” you had better beware of this. In order to deal with the frightful onslaught on your throat and tonsils, every Nederlands speaking individual learns to like “drop”.

Drop is a kind of salty liquorice that only Nederlanders can eat. It can be recognised by its colour - black. The taste to the uninitiated is a cross between printer ink (blue), sea salt and earwax, and the locals absolutely love it and every year eat kilos of the stuff. It is entertainment for the entire family to look at the faces of foreigners who are tricked into believing it is edible.

A real Nederlander is always right and he knows it. With this in mind it is easy to deal with most of us. If ever you get into an argument with a Nederlander, tell him that he is absolutely right and that you see the error of your ways. This will drive him absolutely crazy: since you are a foreigner you can't be right. You agree with him. Therefore he too cannot be right. This would be totally impossible! He is Dutch (yes, I said it…). But... why... he... At this point you may want to stand back and watch him try to strangle himself with a tulip.

But if you really want to insult a Dutchman (again), which is not easy, just tell him that you don't think he is a pacifist. Now after you say this you should immediately start running for your life! Because he will want to prove to you that he is a peace loving person and he won't stop proving this until your brains are decorating the walls and your guts are spilled all over the floor.

And of course we are not tolerant. It is just an amazing country-wide marketing ploy. “We” simply make fortunes selling sex and drugs to foreigners. The traders make their profits, the taxman hauls in the VAT and the tourist industry does booming business. If you want to see how tolerant we are, try not to pay tax… Cheap, you have no idea how cheap the Dutch (final) really are. They'd sooner cut off their own ear than spend an extra cent. One of the main explanations why the River Rhine and the Amsterdam canals are so dirty is that the government doesn't want to spend its hard earned (read: squeezed) money on cleaning them up so fish can have free sex in their drinking water.

How To Win or Lose a Dutchman in Bulgaria

by Ani Ivanova

All you've got to know are the pitfalls that may convince a Dutchman that a Bulgarian partner is not what he is looking for. The following is a mix of advice shared at presentations at the How To Do Business With the Dutch seminar in Sofia. Organisers from the Bulgarian Dutch Business Club and the economic department of the Netherlands Embassy in Sofia brought together business people from the two countries to “compare notes” on the challenges of doing business in both directions.

Be direct: Even though Bulgarians believe straightforwardness is very close to rudeness you should bear in mind that the Dutch consider the lack of it nothing short of beating about the bush. The best approach is to state what you want without delay.

Be polite: No, it does not contradict the above. Politeness means you answer emails within 24 hours, arrive on time for appointments and switch off your mobile.

Speak English: This is especially valid outside Sofia where other foreign languages are not widely known. The Dutch don't expect you to speak their language, so don't expect them to have mastered Bulgarian.

Don't overuse statistics and data: It's admirable that your company has such a long history, but don't mention it all to your Dutch business partner or you will lose him.

Keep figures to a minimum and only include relevant details in your presentation.

Plan ahead and be well prepared: Seafarers and explorers, the Dutch are famous for their ability to think forward, so do try to be a bit like them. Don't ruin the good impression you've built so far by going to a meeting unprepared.

Don't bring only the good news: Don't say yes when you have to say no, and always state what can and can't be done. Bulgarians may be ingenious when it comes to ad hoc situations, but the Dutch like to prevent problems at an early stage and would rather know what to expect.

Don't use “no problem”: No further explanation needed.

To lose a Dutchman in Bulgaria is easy - just forget some of the above.

Issue 20

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