Last year at this time, I was volunteering at two places: the nursing home and the homeless drop-in center. When January 2 came around, I was astounded by the number of handshakes I got when I walked in. Apparently, it's the thing to do the first time you see someone after the New Year. "Best wishes for 2006," or something like that. It's one of those quaint things that the Dutch do that don't standout as much as, say, their straightforward way of telling you what they think.
A good example of the straightforward thing is a woman in my choir who looked at me a few weeks ago and said, "You're eyes are very puffy. You look very tired."
I laughed and said, "Oh my God. That is so Dutch!"
A week later, I heard her say to another guy, "You must not be sleeping. You're eyes are bloodshot and you have dark circles under your eyes."
She told me that she would also be the first to tell me when I look really great. I'm still waiting.
I think a lot of people would say, "I shake people's hands. That's no so Dutch." But it's the way they do it, with such verve, like not doing it is a social misstep. It's the same way that no one really immitates the Dutch accent, although they have a clear accent. It's just a slippery little thing about them that's hard to pin down. It's intriguing.
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