Home in Leiden

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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FAQ: Moving to Leiden


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Most of this website is intended to help get you up and out and involved with life in Leiden and all it has to offer. This part of the site attempts to help you get along - and even, dare I say, make friends - with all those Dutch people who you'll be coming across while doing this. Marianne has covered the nuts and bolts of what people do when (and how ) in the Festivals and Traditions sections, and I have attempted to discuss the thornier issue of why in this introduction and the Etiquette section.

A Disclaimer to begin with: This section is not meant to be a comprehensive manual of How To Behave in all situations - it's more an series of snapshots from my experience which I hope will make you smile (or wince) in recognition, and maybe help you fit in better as you, like me, fumble your way into settling down here. Remember that I am merely an English expat living in Leiden, and this piece is a rather personal and perhaps not entirely serious take on things. If you feel I've got something wrong, I do apologise, and please let me know! You can reach me at .

Being English - where I'm coming from

The aspect of my Englishness which I think collides most often with life in the Netherlands is the essential reluctance to make a fuss about anything or to be a nuisance to anyone. This is seen at its best in British tact and courtesy, and at its worst in our spinelessness and hypocrisy. None of which characteristics I would normally use when describing the Dutch.

Consensus and Individuality

This isn't really meant to be a piece on national characteristics - but this influences how people interact here so much that I feel I need to mention it. The Low Countries (in one form or another) is a small, densely populated area which has long been inhabited by groups of people with differing views and/or religious persuasions who were more or less forced to co-operate because if they didn't, they would literally go under, the geography of this place being what it is. This means that the country - and to a certain extent its businesses and its people - were then and still are run with an emphasis on discussion and consensus, rather than one group or person imposing their views. Everyone's view carries equal weight (in principle), even the ones whose religion or lifestyle you disagree with, so a large dose of tolerance and reasonableness is also required, and then - eventually - an agreement will be reached.

Realising this made a lot of things fit together for me. Everyone (this includes children) is encouraged to think for themselves and to speak up; adults rarely hesitate before offering an opinion no matter whether they are involved (see 'Offering of Advice', in the 'First Impressions' page), and it's all just a normal way of getting on and expressing views. They're only trying to help.

First Impressions

The one thing I'm sure you've read or been told is that the Dutch are legendarily outspoken (some might say tactless), and are liable to call a spade a spade at all available moments, appropriate or inappropriate. This is, essentially, true and will go a long way to explain a lot of what you experience. Do not be misled, though, into thinking either that this means there's nothing you can't say, ever (although I tell you, at times I do wonder), or that the Dutch are all boorish and rude. They are not. It's all to do with tolerance - tolerating something doesn't necessarily mean you mayn't express your opinion about it.

Lesson learned : Do not confuse outspokenness with bad manners, although they sometimes seem only a hairsbreadth apart here. Just like you, the Dutch have gradations in between courteous and rude - it's just that the boundaries may not be where you expect them.



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