I am from one of these countries that have a very bad reputation regarding human rights, women rights. (But differently not me)

I got a job in the Netherlands

I am in my 5th week

Employees try to avoid me (This is true, here is not the correct place to prove it, but it is true as most of you can predict)

I want to socialise with the employees, at least talk with them in the work, have some fun, maybe a drink outside ..... just normal stuff

Any recommendations please?

  • 4
    Can you explain more? Do employees try to avoid you because you are from a different country? A specific country? Because of the way you act or interact (or don't) with people? It's not clear from your description why people avoid you.
    – mcknz
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 0:29
  • 4
    Have you actually tried to talk to someone? If so, what happened?
    – PM 77-1
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 0:53
  • 1
    Until we have details of how they are or seem to be avoiding you, we can't offer many suggestions. How fluent are you and they in a shared language? How much trouble are you having with each other's accents? Have you tried asking them whether there is something you are doing, or not doing, that makes them uncomfortable?
    – keshlam
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 2:21
  • 17
    Stop assuming that it is because you are from a country with a bad reputation. Until you know this is the case, basing your actions on incorrect assumptions will lead nowhere.
    – user8036
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 9:15
  • 4
    "Employees try to avoid me - This is true" Then there's nothing you can do. But I seriously doubt this is the case, especially in the Netherlands, especially in a Dutch company that apparently doesn't have any issue with hiring a minority or English-speaking foreigner (not sure which you are).
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 11:06

5 Answers 5


Of course I don't know the details of your specific work, but I am Dutch and working in an industrial environment, where we occasionally have foreigners around.

First tip: Learn the language (I am assuming here that you are not (yet) fluent in Dutch). Especially if the majority of the people is Dutch. If you are alone with Dutch colleagues, you will experience that they switch to Dutch. The only reason is that it is much easier for most of them. Not because they don't like, or intentionally want to exclude you. If you start learning Dutch, you always have an opening for a social conversation. Also ask them to correct them when you make a mistake. They are most likely willing to help, but will not correct you if you do not ask for it.

Second tip: Coffee-machine conventions. Dutch have a habit on gathering around the coffee machine. This is an important social aspect, where either non-important topics can be discussed, or work-related items. It may be the first source of company-related news, before it is official. This is also a reason to jump in.

Third tip: Don't hide where you come from. Of course you don't need to bring it up yourself, but if people will ask question, just be honest about what is going on, and what you think about it (especially since I have the impression that your views are in line with mainstream Dutch views).

  • 6
    I did my post-doc at an institute in the Netherlands. All science was done in English, all coffee was done in Dutch. So, I took a two-week intensive Dutch course, then several night courses. The lab director went from wondering why I wanted to learn Dutch to being proud of doing meetings in Dutch. You will meet other people through the course, and start feeling more at home.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 15:47
  • @JonCuster Good to see my experience confirmed from the 'opposite' side. The first point is probably for most non-English European countries.
    – Bernhard
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 5:16

Just be friendly, you've only been there 5 weeks, it takes time for people to be comfortable around some new employees even if they're locals. Avoid any discussions on politics or religion or treating females badly.

Eventually you'll just be another team member and integrate into the social scene more.

I've been an outsider everywhere I have worked, my policy was always to just concentrate on excelling at the work and let the rest take care of itself. Sometimes I made a lot of good friends, other times none at all, but I'm there to work, not socialise, so I didn't let it worry me, so long as I'm respected for my professional abilities.

One thing I want to point out. As an outsider you really need to be careful, people are watching you pretty closely and they're much less tolerant of you than of each other. So while I would drink with colleagues, I would never get drunk with them, nor would I hang around while they get drunk. It's actually best to let loose away from the work environment and people.


This answer is not politically correct, it's biased and it's based only on personal experience. But it might help you so here it goes.

From my two-year experience with Dutch and Belgian people, they come off as cold at start. Not as cold as zee Germans, which they love to taunt, but not as warm as French, Spanish or Italians. But that's just because you haven't gotten to know them.

Spend time around the coffee machine. Eat sandwiches and soup with them (that seems to be the only thing they eat at lunchtime) try to learn the language (dutch is a bit difficult, but a few words here and there go a long way), those are all great advice.

Most important thing I discovered, is being yourself is key. Ask things from genuine curiosity, not just to be nice. Don't try to connect on a personal level until they are part of the group, that will come in time, keep conversations neutral at first and soon you'll be talking about kids and families, but start off with weather and soccer and beer. Beer is always a great subject for neutral talk, just don't mention any Belgian beers as being better unless you want your head chewed off.

Also if you come from a country with a stigma, own that shit. Don't try to hide it, acknowledge it. If it ever comes up, I usually turned it into subject for jokes. It's easier when your country's stigma is gipsies stealing wallets not people's basic rights violations, but you get the idea. You are not responsible for the place you are born in, and you left it to make a brighter tomorrow for yourself. Own that nasty thing, if you want to, turn it into a subject of conversation. I spent days and days discussing the horrors that the communist regime put my family through with one of my Belgian friends from work.

Most Dutch people I met were nice, but not all of them. Some were racist asshats that wouldn't stop being mean despite all other people's attempts at defusing them. Nothing you can do about those, assholes are everywhere. I learned to avoid them and just stick with the people I liked and that liked me. It's the same everywhere, not everyone will like you, especially if you come from a different country with a completely different culture and tone of skin.

  • Good answer. Don't hide who you truly are. However, is the advice on owning the less savory aspects of his home country incompatible with he is not responsible fro where he was born? As in he does not represent what is wrong in his motherland?
    – Anthony
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 17:29
  • You may not be responsible for them. But if people want to tack blame on to you, better try and make the best of a bad thing than wallow in misery or hate those who use it to make fun of/taunt you.
    – BoboDarph
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 7:11

I spent 2 semesters of study abroad at Amsterdam in my undergrad days so I can answer somewhat from experience.

I deduce from your tone that you are somewhat blaming your social isolation on the poor human rights record of your country (apparently vs the Dutch history of progressiveness in this area). While it's good you recognize the cultural and historical differences between your homeland and the Netherlands, realize your own insecurity and bias may be working against you. It usually takes time to get used to a new environment, especially one that is culturally different from your own. Don't be ashamed where you come from and attribute your misery to your background

From my 6 months time in the Netherlands, I found Dutch folks to be friendly once you get to know them. The culture is open and welcoming so I would consider judgement and exclusion based on your background / nationality to be somewhat unusual. Usually relationships in the Netherlands are "deeper" and less superficial so the fact that your Dutch colleagues don't know you could be another reason for the observed behavior.

I would not hide where you come from, but also don't be apologetic about the less savory aspects of your country, as such information could be off putting and only serve to highlight what you want to hide. You are an individual, and don't represent the monolithic culture of your motherland


I can give you the View of a white male who honestly is still way to biased.

When I see someone who looks like he is from the middle east I immediately associate that person with a lot of bad things.

First of all because I grew up in a particular bad neighborhood with many middle eastern people and I got robbed a couple of times.

Second because of all the stuff you hear in the news and from other people.

I still have many middle eastern friends, because they showed me they are not like those people. They were kind, funny and honestly really intelligent. Maybe try inviting them, if possible? Maybe get lunch for everyone. Try to start a conversation so they can get to know you as a person and not you as your nation, if that makes sense.

Of course it is easier when you are a good coworker and do a great job, as opposed to being a "bad" employee and confirming their thinking.

It also depends on how deeply those thought are. I know way to many white people who wont like a middle eastern looking person no matter how great they are.

You should also know that in west europe it is rather normal to take A LOT of time to warm up. I have worked at a place for over a year because my coworkers socialised with me. And it took another year before we went out together/I got invited to stuff.

If possible request some team building events. That really helps.

Good Luck to you, hopefully you will warm up.

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