With the exception of the Belgians maybe, there is no people that we Dutchies are more closely related to than the Germans, culturally speaking. The German regard the Dutchie as that little brother that you simply cannot help teasing (no, we are not going to talk football yet again, it’s bad enough that we didn’t make the EC 2016 qualifications!), and the other way around the German is that older rival you love to hate. If only he’d finally give grandma’s bike back!
Although the German celebrating a holiday on the beautiful shores of Zeeland (note: insert pictures of my wonderful home province Zeeland for PR purposes, we thrive on German tourism!) may still occasionally be confronted with those particular five years in history that all was not well between our nations, we have come a long way. Relationships have only improved since the time my Germany-born grandmother married my Dutch grandfather, right after the war. As Germany is our largest trading partner and so many Dutchies (like myself) study or work in Germany and the other way around, these days the Germans are more than distant relatives for sure.
There are more challenging moves to think of. So when one of my international friends asked me, just before relocating, about cultural differences, I couldn’t really think of something. “They dig holes at the beach when they come here for holidays, but other than that I don’t really think there are any”. How mistaken I was. Although Germany is indeed not as unfamiliar as other countries I previously lived in (Turkey, Tunisia, Kuwait and Egypt, to name a few) the difference is in the subtlety this time. Germans ride their bike on the pavement (yes, exactly where the pedestrians are!), eat a hot lunch (my poor sensitive Dutch stomach), everyone waits to cross the street when the traffic lights are red (hahahaha!!) and all shops are closed on Sunday.
Before travelling to the Middle East I assumed that everyone in the world spoke English. Rather naive, but hey, I come from a country where everyone – from the youngest to the eldest inhabitant – speaks English. Before moving here, I assumed that everyone in Germany would speak English, because hey, this country is so much like mine. Again, how naive. When asking the local government questions via e-mail I received a short reply: “Bitte richten Sie Ihre Anfrage in Deutsch an uns” or “Please ask your questions in German”. Luckily we still have online dictionaries with phrasebooks, like bab.la!