On Pretending to be Dutch #3: Strangers

There’s something rather alarming going on up and down the Netherlands, each and every day. And that is…

Strangers acknowledge each other’s existence.

Sadly, I’m not even kidding. Say I walk into the doctor’s office. Inside will be a waiting room with – get this – a coat rack. So you can actually take off your coat and hang it up. What’s going on there? All a reasonable person wants from life is to sit uncomfortably in our coats and hats and scarves, slowly growing warmer and pinker as we wait – lengthily – for our turn in the consulting room. Is that so much to ask?

Worse still, there will probably be people in there and – get this – they tend to say things to each other. Civilised things, like goede morgen.

They even make eye contact with each other.

What is a poor, confused British girl to do? All I want is to be able to act like normal: that is, avoid everyone’s eye (knowing that everyone else will likewise obligingly avoid mine), sit in a comfortable daydream until my turn comes up and then go get on with it. All this taking-off-of-coats and nodding-to-people and saying goede morgen is totally unacceptable. It’s almost as though I’m expected to be sociable.

With strangers.

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