Do you know how you get Dutch people to be mad at you? I succeeded.
I made this terrible mistake this week and got punished for it :-), not only with this extra blog post from my boss, but also with disapproving looks and comments from the (quite big!) Dutch INTERNeX community. I openly declared someone being from Holland. That is wrong. The Dutch are from The Netherlands! I now remember that every time Germany and The Netherlands/Holland engaged in their usual soccer rivalries I was wondering why this country seems to have two names. I learned now that Holland is just a region in The Netherlands. So it’s The Netherlands. Never will make this mistake again.
Thinking about this faux pas of mine, similar issues from my own and other countries came to my mind. The world likes to think of Germans as leather pants-wearing and beer-drinking Bavarians. Just to make it clear: Germany is not Bavaria and people usually don’t dress like that (the beer thing might be true, though).
Another thing I learned recently: you better don’t assume that somebody is from Australia just because they speak Aussie English. Apparently, New Zealanders in hostels all over Canada constantly have to listen to people who label them Australians. By the time they cross Canada, they might get slightly mad at anybody who calls them that!
And of course, Canadians are not American! I lived with this very committed and proud Quebecois-Canadian lady once. The first thing she told me was that Canadians are different from their southern neighbors. Even more important, people from the French-speaking province of Quebec are not like the rest of Canada. So, should you ever encounter a person from this eastern province, remember: Quebecers are kind of ok with being Canadian, they are not in the least American, and they are certainly not French, they just speak it!
Cultural lessons like this are exactly the reason why I love being abroad and meeting so many different people. Staying in my familiar comforts at home I probably wouldn’t have learned that Holland is not the same as The Netherlands or that you never never ever should refer to Quebecers as French.
Have you ever experienced something similar? Do you have more examples? Please let me know!