I have now worked in a great many offices in the Netherlands, many where I was the only non-Dutch person on staff. And you get used to the quirks. The lunches. The strict coffee drinking schedule. The revolving door of blue suits.
But one thing I cannot get used to is the tea and coffee acquisition.
If you get up to get yourself a beverage, you have to also offer to get everyone in the surrounding vicinity something. This normal is so enforced that many coffee places or coffee machines include a plastic tray, with holes, so you can carry the assortment of beverage orders.
The Dutch do this at bars too which creates its own weird problems. I have a solution for this, which perhaps I’ll discuss in a future blog post.
Here’s the thing. I’m not an expert in drink orders. I don’t drink coffee so I have zero idea what the difference is between a cappuccino and an espresso. And, frankly, I don’t care to learn. I am also not an expert in carrying large numbers of scalding hot beverages around on a flimsy plastic tray. By all definitions, I am extremely klutzy and this is a terrible idea for both my safety and the safety of anyone within a ten metre radius.
Moreover, I can’t seem to doe normaal and want to consume my tea in sync with everyone else. The Dutch coffee/tea schedule is a thing. All of my Dutch colleagues appear to have some ingrained DNA wherein they all crave a warm beverage at exactly the same time. Meanwhile, anytime someone pops into my office to ask me if I want something, I’m sitting there with a half full mug.
And really, sometimes I just want to get up and get a cup of tea to clear my head. Be away from my colleagues. Not have to engage with social interaction with fifteen people while memorising their drink orders.
I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms. Waiting until my office is empty to get tea. Taking a fake phone call. Going to the bathroom first and then returning. Distracting them with a bowl of drop and the promise of a full Albert Heijn zegelskaart.
But I don’t understand why. Is it for the gezelligheid? Habit? Something something Calvinism? Anyone have an explanation?