The biggest obstacle international workers in the Netherlands find to making friends with the Dutch is breaking into their social circles, according to an online survey of over 1,200 people carried out by DutchNews.nl and broadcaster RTLZ.
Almost seven out of 10 people said Dutch people tended to hang out with friends from school and college and 56% said the Dutch are not very spontaneous about socialising.
Six in 10 expats in the survey said they had suggested going out with colleagues for a drink after work and nearly half had invited colleagues or neighbours for dinner. Joining a social or sports club or a church group was also a popular way to meet the Dutch.
‘It would be nice if Dutch people were more open generally to foreigners as they tend to prefer to stick to their own friends. At least that’s my impression after all these years here,’ said one participant.
But others pointed out that it is hard for older people to make friends in any country: ‘Finding and making new friends is not easy as an adult, no matter what the nationality.’
And while 44% of those polled said they would like more Dutch friends, over half said nationality is irrelevant. ‘My friends tend to be people who have lived abroad and have a global perspective,’ said one expat. ‘Nationality is irrelevant but my strongest friendships are with people who have lived in more than one country.’
People who had made Dutch friends tended to meet them at work, while 38% had met them in bars and clubs.
Asked what tips they would give new arrivals, an overwhelming majority of respondents said ‘learn Dutch’. ‘Learn the language. While English works fine one-on-one, you will be somewhat isolated at Dutch events,’ was one suggestion.
‘Learning Dutch helps, but only to a point,’ said another expat. ‘Since most of the relationships will start in English, if you don’t speak Dutch when you arrive, it’s hard to transition. Still, learning Dutch helps you to feel more involved, less isolated, and more in touch with your environment.’
In total, 1,123 people took part in the survey, of whom half came from Europe, 20% from North America and 12% from Asia. Some 44% have lived in the Netherlands for more than five years.
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