How to Change a Negative Attitude (and Love the Dutch)

by Josh

I am currently engaged in The Landmark Wisdom Course, a course based on the assumption, that “who we are is a network of conversations”. Today I would like to share one on the conversations in my life that have transformed through participating in this course.

For almost one and a half years now, I’ve been living in a small town in the Netherlands, where I study communication science.
Sometime between spring and summer 2012 I had reached a low point in my appreciation for the Dutch.
To be more precise – they annoyed the shit out of me.

In my mind, they were a bunch of people with egos way too big for their even bigger bodies, with ridiculous eating habits, emotionally closed off, watching tv all the time (gezellig), and only coming out of their shell when intoxicated (a favourite pastime), bragging about it next day at uni and all of them with ridiculous amounts of gel in their hair.
I was especially frustrated because I had developed a venerable “all Dutch people are awesome” attitude when I was growing up. Encounters with “the tallest people in the world” had usually been very friendly, funny and spiced with amusing attempts of them speaking German or me trying to imitate their guttural language.
I was basically really confronted with reality, another way of saying: disappointed.

I shared about this in the course this summer, getting hearty laughs from the many Dutch participants in the room.
When I stood there in front of the room talking about my frustrations, I thought, “Okay dude it’s time to change the tape!”.

And that’s what I did. From that point on, whenever I got the chance, I tried to praise and acknowledge the people of my home away from home, rather than niggleing about their shortcomings (which lie, of course in my own perception and are far from true, there is no such thing as homogenous groups).

I started with architecture.
Now this is somehing I had marveled at ever since I came here. Due to the confined space they live in, they don’t just build anything, modern architecture seems to be some kind of competition here. All bigger buildings have at least some elements that range between eye-catching and jaw-dropping.
And, as usual, it was most fun talking about this to the Dutch themselves.
I can’t stress this enough…. people LOVE acknowledgement, they really listen to you and you can show your appreciation.

Since I started doing this, a lot more topics popped up where I think the Dutch are a mighty fine bunch. For example:
Comedy: Simply amazing, I am laughing my ass off, Germany’s still a developing country in this field.
Integration: I am very impressed how many perfectly integrated people with all sorts of ethnic backgrounds I encounter, in literally all walks of life.
Friendliness: They are indeed a superfriendly bunch, you can greet any stranger on the street and 90% they will greet you back.
Wageningen: Awesome city, marvelous University facilities ,more sports than anyone can do in a lifetime and a truly weird mixture of nationalities.

What can I say. This has worked a charm. I feel almost like my friend Bula who loves the Netherlands so much that he could frequently be seen in bright orange attire at German public viewings.
I do. It’s not like I am putting up a facade here.
Doing this has changed my attitude completely.
I wonder what other negative attitudes I could change like this?

                                                                 …and they do have pretty good food too