Is it difficult to make friends in the Netherlands? Is it possible to socialize, or even, is it possible to integrate? Since this is a question rising often, I have decided to share my opinion and experience. And my question in turn is, do we need to specify “Dutch”, or do difficulties exist in making friends in any new environment?
This isn’t the type of posts I am typically used to write, but I have felt the urge to share my idea on making friends in the Netherlands. I have seen recently the opinion from other expats about the topic, and even services offered to help integrating. Furthermore, some time ago I got to talk with somebody really interested in the dynamics of internationals joining the Eindhoven community. It’s a cause really close to me, and we got to confront each other on the matter, sharing personal experiences (as we both got to integrate in Eindhoven) and our view on how this could be facilitated.
A particular point got stuck in my head, and I kept reflecting about it: I was asked whether I had Dutch friends – and when my answer was a couple – whether I knew why they had chosen to be my friend.
Well, why? I first stumbled on my own words, feeling wrong for not having an answer. I then got pushed by other questions like what are your common interests? And also there I seemed really uncertain. But with time and reflection, I started rephrasing well, why are asking me why? And reflecting deeply about that question.
Is it difficult to make Dutch friends?
In my personal opinion, too much attention is given to the origins. I think the ease of making new friends decreases with aging because we have less time, more responsibilities in our personal life and less structured activities outside work (like sport groups).
I do not think making new friends in a new Italian city would be much easier than here for me, and I do not think Dutch people coming from other cities can very easily make bonds with Dutch people here.
I just think making new friends (wherever) is matter of time, energy and attention. Thus if we do not invest in making friends of other nationalities we won’t get them.
Cultural background definitely plays a role, sharing the language and uses facilitates the connection.
Furthermore, in most cases getting international (non-Dutch) friends when living in the Netherlands seems natural because we share situation, difficulties, and the English language. Or maybe, we just believe it is easier. We are naturally driven to stay in this comfort zone, and as a consequence, we are less pushed to make Dutch friends.
But if we want to step out of that comfort zone, then it is definitely possible.
My Dutch friends
I got to know some of my now good Dutch friends when doing an internship together. We were a nice group of young (mixed Dutch and international) colleagues, having lunch together every day. That was already something for us, but from there we built up to also having periodic appointments to eat at each other’s places. It may seem a lot goes around food, and in fact I can confirm we appreciate good food, and find in ice cream our guilty pleasure.
But it’s really all about that? Well, no, not if I have to tell about my friendship.
It’s a lot about making sure we can spend time together, matching two or more different and busy agenda’s, a bit about food and ice-cream, and all about *that click*.
There’s always been understanding, and that has only grown with time, getting us closer, talking about everything what matters and worries us, and laughing – a lot.
And that one is not the only one, with time we have met and became friends with more people that are making us feel home. Yes, mostly Dutch. And no, not thousands. Because I have never had thousand friends in my home country either.
And it is not because we love ice cream, or we have babies of the same age. That made the initial connection maybe, but then something else kicked in.
I’d have so many friends otherwise (who does not love ice cream?!).
Why some Dutch people have chosen to be my friend?
Well, I’ve never asked that to myself so openly – and definitely I’ve never asked myself why a friend has chosen to be my friend (in Italy and anywhere else) – but I was forced to think about it, and now I have an answer. Which simply is my answer.
That happened because we like spending time together, and we had *that click*. But maybe we should ask them!
(Stay tuned because I will make sure to share their opinion as well).
What is it all about then?
If you asked me again, then I’d be able to tell you promptly my idea now. I believe we shouldn’t wonder why we make friends in a foreign country as we do not question that in our home country. Because in the end friendship is all about *that click*, about filling our agenda even a bit more because that time is charging us instead of drawing energy from us.
And that click happens between people sometimes, independently of nationality, gender, family situation, political orientation and other preferences. Sometimes being from the same country and culture helps, sometimes not. Probably there’s not a why, it just happens.
And for you, what is it all about? I would be happy to read your opinion!
Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash. Disclaimer.