How to adjust to life when you're Dutch living in the US

16.08.16
3 minute read
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There are approximately 4.5 million people from the Netherlands, or with Dutch heritage, living in the U.S., according to the latest Census data.

But moving to the U.S. can be a big adjustment. From the lack of bikes to the tipping culture, here are a few tips to help you adapt to life in the US.

How are you? Just kidding.

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You may be surprised upon how, when arriving in the U.S., even the woman at the grocery counter asks, “How are you doing today?”

Expect to receive a stare or awkward silence when you tell her sincerely that things aren’t going so great. They are just accustomed to hearing “Good. How are you?” -- the standard response to this standard greeting.


Working more but less

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Especially in bustling cities, everyone always seems to be busy with work, day and night.

Yet a lot of the “working hours” of friendly Americans are actually filled with socializing. Tim, a Dutch expat in New York, advises:

“So don't stress when you feel like you aren't putting in the same number of hours as your US colleagues - it's mostly optics!.”


‘The American 15’

Sandwich

Americans have coined the term “Freshman 15” for the first year of university, in reference to the 15 (or more) pounds many students put on in the all-you-can-eat dining halls.

But there might as well be an “American 15” for expats coming here. Many notice a few more inches around their bellies when living in the land of supersized portions and extra sugary drinks. In the words of one former expat:

“I saw my pants size expand a little during my year in New York.”


The tipping point

Tip

The price of a restaurant item may look like a good deal, but don’t make the classic U.S. expat rookie mistake: forgetting that there is an additional 15-20 percent tip on top of the meal.

This tip is how many restaurant employees make up a lot of their overall income. Most services, from a taxi ride to a hair cut, also include tips of this scale.


Put Your knives away

Meal

Unless a piece of food is difficult to cut, such as a steak, Americans will rely purely on their forks to eat a meal.

A butter knife is usually just used to spread butter, not break apart your salads or pasta.

And thinking of exercising a knife on that giant burrito? Calmly put it down, and eat it with your hands like your fellow compatriots.


Go take a bike

Bikes

In the U.S., many people still see biking as a children’s activity, or put their bikes on their cars to get somewhere “bikeable” rather than from point A to B.

Yet not all hope is lost in this car country: many larger cities are expanding their bike lanes and biking culture.

While you may not be used to wearing a clunky helmut, be sure to wear one in the States. Drivers aren't as accustomed to sharing the lanes with their two-wheeled friends.


No, I’m not German

Amsterdam

There are a few things the Dutch share in common with Germans, such as being direct, punctual, and loving cheese.

But be prepared for many Americans not to be familiar with the difference.

Willem, an expat in California, observed:

“When someone asked me if I come from Germany, I said Holland, and they asked ‘Holland, Maryland?’”


Opening a bank account - and finding out about the fees

Bank

The U.S. is strict about many aspects of life for foreigners, but generally opening a basic bank account is not one of them. Many banks will allow you to open an account, even remotely, without a social security number, or just with a U.S. tax ID number.

And be prepared for a $1.50-3.00 fee on all ATM withdrawals. And then there's that check book - at $25.00...


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