The chronically late

The Netherlands being such a small country, the fact that Dutch people are meticulously punctual is probably not that well known. But they most certainly are. It's like it's something that is ingrained into each and every one of them. If you turn up a mere one minute late, they will notice, and look slightly agitated, or even appear to have been looking out for your arrival. But five minutes late will result in them telling you! I know lateness is frowned upon by most, but Dutch people seem to take pride in their punctuality, and get truly annoyed if you don't do the same. I found it quite a surprise when I first moved here, especially after having lived in France. In comparison, punctuality in France is almost non existent. You can expect people to be half an hour (or more) late! It's the norm! Not only is it the norm, but if you give your excuse as anything related to food/dining/eating/birthday celebration, they'll actually go one step further than to just shrug off your lateness, but to laugh and say you could have taken longer and that they hoped you enjoyed whatever the event was! English people pride themselves on their punctuality too, I might add, but nowhere near the level Dutchies do. So moving to the Netherlands was a huge culture shock in this department. What a stark contrast!


gold pocket watch

So, fast forward nine years, and how have I learnt to better manage my timekeeping? In a nutshell, I haven't!

I had ordered a basic wardrobe from Ikea, and had a specific collection slot in which to pick it up. I didn't for one minute think we HAD to arrive within that time slot. At one point, with Covid and shops being closed, that was the case, but not any more. I truly believed our item would be ready for collection between 10 and 11am or any time thereafter today. Wrong! They really meant between 10 and 11, and not 11.20am - the time we turned up to collect it. They quite abruptly told us we were late - my jaw dropped to the floor at this point. We had to ask them if we could still collect it. It wasn't busy in the Click and Collect area, but the staff were really not happy about it! They did get our wardrobe for us. It was still in their collection area, but it felt like we had asked the impossible from them!


sand timer

On a previous occasion, we were going out to a big family Birthday meal. The restaurant was booked for 6pm, and there were about 20 of us in total. This was a few years ago. While I was getting ready, hubby was moaning and trying to rush me (you know what they're like!). The more you get rushed, the more things go wrong, and the later you become. At least, that's how it feels. It isn't intentional either. As far as the meal goes, I considered 6pm the time to gather and get drinks etc. No! That was the absolute latest time to be sat at the table. We arrived about 10 minutes late, at ten past six. No word of a lie, everyone was already seated. They all had their drinks, and they were all expecting us to simply not show up? Seriously, not show up without so much as even a text or phone call to say so?! Now that is rude! Well, I still had wet hair from my shower, but hubby didn't. So seeing the disapproving looks on pretty much all their faces, I said the only thing I could at the time, to try to make light of the situation. Hubby had already formally apologised, but that was NOT cutting it! So, I said (in English, for added oomph!), 'sorry we're so late, Theo was washing his hair'. I expected it to create a few laughs and lighten the mood, but it didn't! I think they actually believed me despite my own hair still practically dripping (not quite, but definitely obviously wet!).


Add to these things, my habitual couple of minutes late to pretty much everything, and I'm sure you can imagine I leave a lasting impression on everyone I meet here! I've given up stressing over it, and actually think its kind of funny. Yes, I know being late is rude, but they really are extreme about it here. Unfortunately, the French way of life rubbed off a bit too much on me, and I've been a little corrupted ever since. So I tend to be anything from a few minutes late to a whopping 15 minutes. But it doesn't keep me awake at night, so all is good.

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