Hoe gaat het?

Sometimes I hear people talk about typical Dutch things like potatoes and dinner at six or seven P.M. sharp. Usually I find it amusing because stereotypes and typicalities are based on actual experiences and descriptions. People, their culture and their habits are always a source of interesting observations and jokes. Think of the Dutch “koekje erbij?”, in English “would you like a biscuit?”

Today the subject of Dutch hospitality also passed by. In short initially Dutch people are not that hospitable or open to others or strangers. Some Dutch people can indeed be very reserved. The particular example used was simple. You greet or knock on someone’s door and greet. Basically the spontaneous act of saying “hello!”.

Apparently the person who brought up the example was disappointed that just saying “hello!” was not enough for hanging out a bit. Well of course not and it is quite obvious why. Any given human on this planet can say “hi!” to me but it means little to nothing. It only confirms you want to greet me for one reason or another. Why should I care at all?

Unless you follow your greeting with a question or announcement of interest, I do not feel invited to have a conversation. When you say “hi, how are you doing?” I have a reason to genuinely answer and show interest, if only out of politeness. That brings me to one of the most important sentences in the Dutch language and every other language if you ask me. The sentence, “hoe gaat het?”

Dutch: “hoe gaat het (met jou)?” & “hoe gaat het met u?”

German: “wie geht es dir?” & “wie geht es Ihnen?”

English: “how are you (doing)?”

French: “comment ca-va?” & “comment allez vous?”

Spanish: “qué tal?” & “cómo está usted?”

These are just some examples I have learned at school. Without these simple sentences there is no point in having money, looking good, looking professional, being the best or simply being popular. When you ask someone “how are you?” you connect to that person thus inviting that person to engage in conversation, be it short or long.

When I hear people talk about “well I greeted and I was not invited and etcetera…” I only have one question to ask. That question is simple and in Dutch that question is confirmed by whether you did or did not ask “hoe gaat het?”