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Croatian, Za vise informacija na hrvatskom jeziku, molimo kontaktirajte Tamaru,

German, Wenn Du weitere Informationen auf Deutsch brauchst, wende Dich bitte an Dorothea,

Danish, For mere information paa Dansk kan De kontakte Heidi.



Czech, Pro více informací v ceském jazyce kontaktujte prosím


French, Pour plus d'informations en français, vous pouvez contacter Claire Caron sur

Polish, Po dodatkowe informacje w jezyku polskim kontakt or

Spanish, Si quieres más información en castellano, no dudes en ponerte en contacto conmigo, Laura

Indian, Please contact Rippy at if you'd like help in Hindi or Punjabi.

Diana Jekina,


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The Offering Of Advice, or Knowing Best

The corollary to everyone's opinion being equally valid, of course, is that everyone will want to express their opinions, which means you may well find yourself fielding comment and/or criticism rather more often than you would expect. This is particularly foreign to the average Briton, as one simply wouldn't dream of butting in uninvited except in emergencies, and even then . Combined with a language which doesn't - as do many others - have elaborate structures specifically designed for tact, concealment, prevarication and beating-around-the-bush (see 'Ps and Qs', below), is that unsolicited advice from the Dutch can come over at best as, well, unsolicited advice, and at worst as bruising or even insultingly rude. Just remember that it is in almost all cases very well-meant.

Lesson learned : Do not be surprised if a complete stranger comes up and offers unsolicited advice - see 'tolerance' above; he's just saying what he thinks, and won't be in the least offended if you disagree. And, by logical extension, you should positively expect family and friends to come up with observations, advice and criticism, all the time. Smile and nod - default behaviour for the foreigner - while you're mentally reeling at the sweeping demolition of your taste in interior decoration - and work on the self-assertiveness and quick ripostes.

Ps and Qs*

Can't get around it: the Dutch don't use 'em in daily life half as much as many other nations (particularly the British) do. See also Not Mincing Your Words. Where I might ask a stranger 'Excuse me, sorry to bother you, I was wondering whether you could tell me where I might find the town hall?', a Dutch person will simply ask 'Where is the town hall?' and this is perfectly pleasant and normal. They do not dislike you and they are not being rude, that is just How It Is. When you think about it, it fits in with their general preference for clarity and directness.

Lesson learned : Get used to it; people here are not being rude if they don't surround every comment with apologetic asides. The Dutch tend to see all that 'polite' verbal cushioning as irritating and obstructive, not to mention time-wasting. It is entirely possible to exercise old-world courtesy while remaining totally direct in one's communication. Try it sometime!

Don't Mince Your Words, or: How to Get What You Want

It works both ways, this outspokenness thing; they can do it to you , but you can do it right back to them . When you're talking with professionals - the notary, the doctor, the town hall official - who are in theory there to help you (and are in any case being well paid to do so!) it can seem as though they are not offering all the options, or just laying down the law and not listening to you at all - where's the opening for 'erm, I was wondering.'? where's the extra information? Don't they want to help?

They nearly all do, most definitely, but they are waiting for you to come out with the questions! Remember the 'everyone's view is valid' point? Just because she's the doctor (or head teacher, or builder) doesn't mean she necessarily knows it all; you, the patient/parent/customer, have every right to (and are positively expected to) add your opinion to the debate. This can be a real cause of frustration for expats here ('I had another meeting with his class teacher today about the bullying and she just didn't give me a chance to talk' .) and is worth remembering.

Lesson learned: Inform yourself beforehand and take the initiative. Ask questions, press for what you want if need be, and don't worry about being brusque or pushy. On the Dutch scale, you won't be anywhere near.

*In British English, 'minding your Ps and Qs' means being particularly courteous in speech and generally minding your manners.



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