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Steve Edwards' website

Small-talk in Ireland and The Netherlands


Small-talk is not necessary in Holland. You don't have to say anything just to make somebody comfortable.

In Holland, small-talk makes people less comfortable....

In Ireland, you do.

Small-talk in Ireland is an important part of most normal interactions. That doesn't mean you always have to engage in conversation, but in most situations extraneous talk helps to create an atmosphere of congeniality.

I lived in Ireland for a total of about 8 ½ years; in The Netherlands for about two.

I was in the European Union for 11 years and one week.

In Holland, this is not true. The Dutch are entirely comfortable making a normal transaction with little or no verbal exchange. Sure, you'd usually say something; but it may be no more than the hyperpolite and efficient "alstublieft."

Sometimes Holland is great, out in public with no need to talk. Sometimes Ireland is great, when you're in the mood to run some errands and have a friendly chat.

A Dutch café is a superlative experience. A cup of coffee, a newspaper, a notebook, and you don't have to speak with anybody.

In Ireland, it is easy to talk to people. You need only say something about the weather. Yes, the weather — quintessential small-talk of long tradition. But with only this, you will begin a conversation.

Ending it is not so easy. Saying goodbye is not so much the end of a conversation as the beginning of the end-section of a conversation, in Ireland.

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