Today I had something shocking happen to me. I was at my local shopping center in Gestel. Walking through the crowds of people I looked up to see a man coming directly toward me. On a normal day I would dodge out of the way because for some reason since moving to The Netherlands I’ve become invisible in such situations. Usually people just plow right into me. There’s no “I’m sorry or Pardon me”, they just run right into me. I’m constantly saying “I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry”. But today as I dodged to one side of him, he made a similar move. We both danced back and forth trying to figure out which way each person was trying to go. The man finally gallantly stepped back and gestured with a long bow allowing me to pass by. I went past and said “Thank you kind Sir”.
What is shocking about this behavior was not that it was done but that it was the first time it’s been done to me since moving to The Netherlands.
I come from a southern state in the United States of America. In the south, Gentlemen and Ladies always use good manners when around someone of the opposite sex. People here laugh at me when I call them Sir or Madam. I really don’t know any other way. It’s not saying the person is old it’s saying that you respect that person. I would use this language with a child and expect that they use it with me. My own children when speaking to me or another adult most often will say “Yes, Ma’am or No Sir”.
I was with some Dutch teenagers the other day. I had been helping them with their English skills helping prepare them for their Cambridge exam. The boys and I were walking out of the classroom and my hands were full. As we got to the door, they looked at me and knew what was happening. One boy reached ahead of me and grabbed the door pulling it open for all of us to follow through. I looked at him with surprise.. as did he..He said… “I’ve never held the door open for another person before.” I was shocked! “How was that possible?” He said he didn’t know and I told him that in America, it was very common to hold the door for a lady. I told them that my husband always held the door for me and that I appreciated it and was kind to him in other ways.
Here’s another example of being kind to one another. I biked to the market the other day to get milk and pick up Todd’s shirts. After walking out to go put my milk in the saddlebags (I got 2 so I wouldn't tip over) I looked at my husband’s neatly pressed shirts. They had a nice plastic covering and were all on hangers. hmmmm So as I backed up my bike I realized this probably wasn't the best idea for getting his shirts home without messing them up... when all of a sudden out runs Nico. "Lisa Lisa.. you are by bike? I will bag up your shirts to make it easier." No, he couldn't see me from a window... His wife Marie had reminded him that we were just talking about me riding my bike and they wanted to make sure I was ok. KINDNESS.... IT'S A GOOD THING!