I have just moved into a new country (Netherlands) where things are a little bit different than my home country. Now, I happen to get to meet a couple of people at my time here and naturally I bump into them while walking down town. How do I find out whether these people actually want to chat/catch up or just a simple hi would be enough?

I do not want to be rude by not talking to them or pushy/weird if I start talking to them.

  • I'm confused by your wording in the title and question - how exactly do you interact with them currently? Do you just pass on the street or do they communicate with you in some way? Apr 1, 2018 at 18:31
  • 1
    Are you talking about people who you know or random passerby?
    – Catija
    Apr 2, 2018 at 14:59
  • Have you tried anything already? are you looking for general etiquette or is your goal to form some basic interpersonal relationships with the people around you?
    – Jesse
    Apr 6, 2018 at 6:50

5 Answers 5


Hi and welcome to the Netherlands! (I'm Dutch myself)

Usually when someone greets you with a simple "hi" (or a similarly short greeting) it means that they're just being friendly, but are not looking to start a conversation.

When the greeting has a follow up (usually a question) it often indicates that this person is interested in a conversation. For example something like:

Hey, how are you doing?

The same applies when you want to start a conversation yourself. When someone replies to your question with just a short answer, it usually means they're not interested in a conversation. Otherwise they'll just tell you they're not interested (don't have time).

And like WordsandNumbers said, don't be afraid to ask. Especially your friends/acquaintances, they'll probably understand.

Also, please note that Dutch people can be quite direct when talking to you. It might come across as rude, but it's just the way we are.

Good luck!


I think a simple Hello is good, and they can respond with more, if they want to. [I've been to the Netherlands and am an American [US] with northern European heritage.] That signals that you're friendly but doesn't put them in a position of needing to make conversation if you don't want to. [By 'Hello', I mean, whatever is the typical greeting where you are. I'm remembering that a guy from India told me, long ago, that 'Hi' wasn't a good thing to say in India.]

  • Hi, Jesse - I edited my answer in response to your question, because I wasn't allowed to Comment, yet, recently.. Thanks for your interest.
    – Helen
    Apr 7, 2018 at 17:15


First: Are you interested in talk to them/be friends? If not a "Hi" is enough.

If you want to talk to them you can alternate "Hi!" days and "Hi, so cold today!" (example) and you can talk until the conversation allows you, somedays that conversation can be interesting and somedays not. When not, the conversation probably will be short, but it's natural!

All the best!


I hail from the US's Midwest region where there's a stereotype of everyone being rather polite. It's generally considered good practice to acknowledge a person you know with a "Hi" or "How's it going?" if you pass them in the street or another public area. Generally, a quick "Hi" or "Good, you?" in return is perfectly acceptable, even while neither party breaks their stride. If somebody actually has something to talk about, they'll stop walking or signal it with a pretty clear action such as asking if you have a moment to talk.

I'm willing to bet the protocol is similar (or even more relaxed) in the Netherlands but if you're truly concerned, ask a local you trust and explain that it's different where you're from. Honestly asking is a strategy that many people tend to overlook.


This question is very relevant for me. Generally it's good to communicate with another human being. If your desires are noble being pushy is good.

It doesn't hurt to be pushy until you notice the other person uncomfortable or reluctant. In that case adapt, if uncomfortable (they are likely sensitive) backup and appeal to 'maybe another time'. If reluctant maybe see why (it might be possible to persuade them).

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