Friday, June 29, 2012

Greeting people

Greeting people in Holland still makes me uncomfortable after more than 20 years. I know the norm is to hold out my hand, give a firm handshake and state my first and last name clearly. But I'm more of a "Hi, I'm here and wave in the air to all the strangers" kind of person. Very often I find myself walking into a meeting and forgetting to shake everyones hand. Or meeting someone new and forgetting to introduce myself.

The same thing happened yesterday. I went to pick up a number of my girls friends from the train station. I said Hi (I think) and told them I would give them a drive to our house. What followed was a very quiet drive.  And then got to thinking. I think the silence came from me not following the norm. What I should have done is shaken their hands, said my name, and introduced them to the others that were driving along. Then the ice would have been broken and chatter might have ensued. 

All during the afternoon and evening I watched how people greeted or didn't greet each other. Some friends came in and immediately introduced themselves. Others came in and gave me the obligatory three kisses that you give if you know people just a little bit longer. (I accepted them with good grace but felt just a tad uncomfortable). Some ignored me entirely which also didn't seem appropriate. And one or two got and gave a big hug, but those are the ones I know very well.

If I had been a good hostess, dutch style, I probably should have walked up to every person and introduced myself. But like I said, greeting people in Holland still makes me feel uncomfortable! It feels so formal and distant and so not like I want to be. But yesterday I also realized that me not following the norm may have led others to feel uncomfortable as well.

I suppose I need to resign myself to this dutch norm. That way it will only be me feeling uncomfortable. And who knows, maybe dutch formality will grow on me!


  1. Another great post! When I first came to NL, I overcame the meeting people-part after several months of constantly meeting new people, but my problem that remained was that I would forget everyone's name after the handshake/3 kisses and/or "gefeliciteerd" birthday party greetings. This was especially whenever I walked into a room full of people, rather than just a few. I would then find myself trying to think (in Dutch) how to politely ask them again for their name... A whole new ball game! Thanks for sharing this :-)

  2. This is so interesting to read! I'm Dutch, but having lived in the US and many other countries, I am now thoroughly messed up in the greeting department. When I visit my family in Holland - brothers, sisters-in-law and so on, I want to give them a warm hug American style, but what I get and end up giving is the two (three?) kisses on the cheeks thing. Sheesh!

    About the two or three kisses maneuver - this depends on the country you live in or the part of the country. I have just given up. I most often just stick out my hand and smile if I don't know the person. Still, even when you don't know a woman well at all, often you do the cheek-kiss thing in some places. Nice as that may be, I'm not all that comfortable being so physical with strangers. Then again, as I said, I gave up and just go along with the flow as best I can and don't stress over it.


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