I’ve always been curious about what Dutch people think of Americans. These are some of the stereotypes I’ve heard while living in the Netherlands. Please note that these are generalizations and solely based on what I’ve heard or experienced during my time residing here.
We are louder than average
Apparently, we scream, we shout or when having a ‘normal’ conversation tend to be louder than any other nationality. No matter the public space, you may overhear an American’s conversation more than anyone else. I was on a train heading to Utrecht from Amsterdam and there were two American girls sounding like they had a public service announcement for all of us. I sat there listening to the amazing weed they smoked and the hot guys they met at their hostel. Some of the passengers had enough and made a beeline to the next coach.
Perhaps it has to do with the characteristics of the English language or intonation. Also, American culture may be more extroverted and expressive when it comes to thoughts, opinions and gestures than some cultures. I mean have you been to the stadium of an American college football game, an overcrowded bar in LA or two friends discussing the latest season of Tiger King? It can get pretty loud. Obviously, louder Americans will be more noticeable than the quieter ones. However, American tourists abroad need to do a better job of ceasing to perpetuate this stereotype.
To be frank, the Dutch also have a stereotype for being loud. I refused to believe it but going on a crowded train and hearing people scream into their phone, our neighbors tell people their life story on the street. Not sure if the Dutch would say they are louder than Americans…
Americans are Fat & Love Mcdonalds
One of my European friends thinks every American loves Mcdonald’s and likes to argue about it regularly. Although I would do almost anything for an Oreo Mcflurry, this really goes beyond the point. It’s not just the Dutch but many countries see the US as fat and overweight, and I can totally see why! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of Americans are obese. Compared to other cultures we have bigger food servings, double the portions, more sugar, oil, and processed foods! No wonder obesity is a public health crisis, with rates currently topping nearly 40%.
We have easy access to fast food and depend on cars to get us everywhere. Despite this, there is a growing fitness movement and many cities promote healthy lifestyles. For instance, back home in Los Angeles, the fitness culture is quite big and an active lifestyle is promoted. Hiking on the weekend with friends, attending a yoga class and hitting the gym regularly is the norm. Everyone seemed to be making an effort to stay in shape. Overall, being overweight is not something we can deny as a nation but there are many possibilities to a healthier population.
We don’t travel or get around much
Only about 40% of Americans hold passports and actually use them. That’s a pretty low number so I could imagine why some the rest of the world does not think we get out often. I do know that after 9/11 airline travel fell drastically as most Americans feared encountering terrorists. However, since then American passenger numbers have gone up, with the most popular destinations being within the US – California, New York, Hawaii, and Florida. I can’t speak for everyone else but my first time out of the country was at 2 years old. I’ve lived in 3 different countries and took my first solo international flight at the age of 18.
We are horrible at Geography
As in the Dutch seriously believe we cannot pinpoint the Netherlands on a map. Frankly, I do think the amount of geography we learn in school is questionable. Sadly I hear that some US schools no longer teach this or when they do it is underserved. Perhaps it’s because there is the exclusion of international geography in public schools? Or most of the media coverage we get covers things domestically? I’m not entirely sure but from my perspective and experience; geography doesn’t seem to be prioritized or emphasized in early education. It wasn’t until I had World Geography in high school where I had to memorize where Benin, Madagascar and what the capital of Fiji was.
All of us are Workaholics
I really do think there is truth to this because our cultural values are an integral part of our identity. One of the first questions you’ll hear when in the states is: ‘What do you do’? The general idea is that if you work long and hard enough, you will get what you want and achieve success. In fact, we also have one of the average longest work weeks with just over 40+ hours. I personally think that you can’t be most productive or do your work effectively when working 8+ hours. It compromises your health, well-being and mental state. Sadly enough, I think companies back home are moving at a slow rate or none at all to promote a healthy work-life balance.
I am not afraid to admit that we have a workaholic culture! I myself am a workaholic and have found myself burned out twice in my twenties. We also work the most hours and use less vacation. I always found it strange how Americans receive 15 days of paid vacation but after working and living in Europe you can get close to four weeks. So I’d have to agree with the Dutch that Americans overwork.
We are Fake
Dutch people have the impression that Americans are fake and superficial. A good example of this is when an American asks “How are you”? Dutch people question me about this because to them they have genuine interest and will give an honest response. In the states “How are you”? is sort of like a greeting of friendliness or just courtesy if you will. Believe me, I have no problem ignoring someone I see and am not particularly fond of. But I can understand that a Dutch person would only see doing this if there is a genuine intention when compared to Americans.
However, my perspective is that this clashes with the so-called Dutch Directness. I think this stereotype also goes along with the ‘Americans smile too much, as in we do it all the time and not when we mean it. There is no doubt that is fake Americans (and working on set in LA seriously convinced me further). However, I really do think it has to with our optimistic, positive culture which may be different to other cultures.