I had a Dutch moment the day after reading about how to acclimate to unwritten rules of the road in The Netherlands.
…sound your horn violently in tribute while you visually scold the violator….Move along side him and pound your head with your right hand (alternatives: tap forehead repeatedly with your index finger or demonstrate your internationalism by raising your middle finger). Appropriate angry facial expressions, bouncing up and down on your seat. Yelling idioot, godverdomme, and klootzak (scrotum)….Never mind…you are more of a traffic hazard than he was as you accelerate, slow down and wander across the fast lane, while concentrating on your gesticulating. (The UnDutchables by Colin White & Laurie Boucke)
The highway near our town has sections of limited access where the speed limit is 120 kph (75 mph). Yet the same highway leads straight into The Hague turning into a road with 70 kph (43 mph) stretches on the outskirts and then 50 kph (30 mph) with stop lights and turning lanes spritzed about these two speed zones until you reach the blocks punctuated by lights for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and tramlines.
In the 70 klicks area, I slipped as far into the left turn line as I could due to traffic. My car was almost two feet left in the gradually widening from nothing turning lane. A couple cars were queuing up behind me when the Dutchman came. Cruising by in the fast lane with breaks applied so he could express his disgust. Head waggling like a dashboard ornament, whole body moving in his seat and visible jabbering of the mouth, he flipped the whole line of cars the bird which flapped about with the energetic motion of his connected body.
I had to laugh.
So different was this from my first experience of being flipped off as a child that a cultural difference glared. Heading to recess in primary (elementary) school, a boy I liked gave me the single finger salute from which I turned and cried. The manner of delivery really was a salute, drawing focus on the gesture with the still seriousness of the person behind it.
Are Americans more likely to roll out that one finger slowly? Get someone’s attention and tell them to “read between the lines?” Or thrust it forward like a punch to add emphasis from a dead calm stance? One friend I mentioned this incident to got back to me about a flippin’ Brit who favored the two-fingered, two-handed gesture pumped up and up for emphasis.
Could you guess someone’s background based on their crude gesticulations? She’s a flippin’ American. He’s a flippin’ Dutchman. Add this to the stack of questions generated when you live in another flippin’ culture.
Kristin King is an expat, author, speaker, army wife, mom etc. who runs a nonprofit. She encourages everyone who shops on Amazon to use the smile.amazon.com webpage so that a portion of your every purchase goes to charity. Consider supporting Future Hope Africa while shopping in the coming season. Thank you!