EVS is one heck of a journey. Not only in terms of the distance you travel, but also in terms of personal experiences. When I came to the Netherlands I expected to visit different countries, travel lots, and eat a wide variety of food. However, I did not expect the cultural differences between myself and others to be so vast.
As a British girl manners are of utmost importance. Now, whilst I would agree that we are an excessively polite nation most of the time, I do find myself somewhat stressed by the differing levels of what is considered ‘polite’. As a British person you never want to sound too harsh, we like to soften the blow. Contrast this to the directness of the Dutch and you have two diametrically opposed styles.
I’ll give you some examples. If a situation occurs and a British person says “It’s fine, don’t worry about it”, the Dutch would never think of it again. Whereas the British person is probably stressing out about how terrible this situation is and will not be able to stop worrying about it for the foreseeable future. Now, I am aware of the fact that our use of language may seem very confusing to others as what we say vs what we actually mean can be quite contradictory, but we are a wonderfully peculiar species and we understand our own kind.
Whilst living here I have experienced conversations that I would never dream of having back home. The list includes comments about disliking food I made, the way I look/dress, the lunacy of the British people in voting for Brexit and countless ignorant statements about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. All of which I have attempted to respond to with as authentic a smile and chuckle as I can produce.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had many fabulous conversations here and I have met so many Dutch people who are more welcoming and pleasant than one could imagine, the bluntness is simply something you have to get used to. I do not think that the British people are in any way better due to their politeness, I have just learnt that Honesty, in all circumstances, is clearly a core value in the Netherlands. Learning about these differences has definitely broadened my worldview and understanding of the Dutch culture, and this is merely one of the limitless cultural differences I have experienced. I think that embracing these is what EVS is all about.