Clashing Cultures

Clashing Cultures

You can quite literally clash with someone from another country when you greet one another. Oh the awkwardness! This kind of thing seems to keep happening to me! So, what on earth am I talking about?

This…this is what I am talking about.


Moving into another culture has its own challenges, and we have come up with ways on how to get the feel of a place, but what about getting to know the culture itself?

So, in the Netherlands once you are friends with someone, or even an acquaintance, you do the kiss-kiss-kiss thing. This goes for males to females, and females to females. Males to males still do the handshake.

Let me explain

I actually had to be taught this from a friend. You say “hello” in whatever way you say it, then you do three cheek kisses. First you start with your right cheek to their right cheek, then left to left, then right to right. You might be saying and answering “how are you?” during this exchange. This custom in itself is not awkward, it turns awkward when you get it wrong or they assume you don’t know the greeting.

Actual personal exchanges

  • I go in for a hug, then pull away. They thought I was going for three kisses. I didn’t initially know a woman does this with a man.
  • I went for three kisses and they went for a hug. They assumed I didn’t know the custom since I was new.
  • I go for a handshake and they go for a hug. Not really sure what happened here.

This happens over and over with different people. Why is this hard to get used to? Well, most do their Dutch customs and I just learn and follow along. So, now I do the three kisses most of the time. I’m so thankful to one friend in particular who shows me the way and corrects me. It’s better to hear it from a friend than get a weird look from an acquaintance. At least that’s my opinion. The big “but” here is that some treat me like an American and assume I don’t know the custom and give me a hug. Ohhh the awkward feeling. It’s all fine though, because this is all what I’m going to call “transitional pains”.

How do you deal with it?

I figure less is more. Go for the hug and let the other person guide you. I find that most people will just say “this is how we do it here”. And that works, because it’s all a learning experience anyway, right?

So there you go. A little lesson in Dutch culture and a look into the awkwardness we experience. What’s the most awkward thing that has happened to you in your travels? Please share in the comments! We all love a laugh!


Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.

Travel with us - Tuscany October 2022