Obviously, in a room full of expats, a favourite subject is Dutch culture – especially the quirks. Every international student had some stories to talk about and loved to discuss since we all had bumped into a number of Dutch cultural peculiarities. While there were many good stories, the best one came from an Indonesian friend and it involved cookies and coffee.
The story was that my friend went to visit a Dutch friend and he asked for a cup of coffee. The host gave him the coffee with one cookie and then closed the cookie box. After finishing the coffee and the cookie, my poor friend found out that he was in a difficult situation. To make it clear, there was nothing wrong with the taste of the coffee, or the cookie. But the cookie tasted so good that he wanted to have more. However, there was no way that he was getting any more cookies without having more coffee, as that is considered rude in Dutch culture.
As my friend explained: “So you know what I did?” he smiled, “I got to drink a lot of coffees.” he laughed bitterly.
This stinginess has nothing to do with the Dutch being cheap, it’s just that the way they see it, there is no need for more than one cookie when you’re having only one coffee. This is completely different from my culture, where we share all the food we have with our guests as a sign of generosity and welcome.
After three years in the Netherlands, my international friends and I sometimes will still get together and chat around, but we complain about Dutch culture way less than before. I guess it is a good sign as we all already have settled in and learnt to be more open-minded. In fact, I now make it a point to learn about a country’s culture first before making any quick judgements.