The Netherlands history and culture define the modern Dutch mentality in a way that cannot be said of all nationalities. This country was at the centre of the reformation and, in some ways, the puritanism of early Protestantism has left considerable marks on the society. An unrivaled respect for privacy and personal space, as well as an ambiguous attitude to competitive personalities, are just two of the many ways that the austerity of Dutch Protestantism can still be seen today.
Oddly enough, despite the well established respect for privacy, it is very common for Dutch households to leave their curtains (if they even have them) wide open. The popularly accepted explanation is that it is a signal to the rest of the world that the inhabitants have nothing to hide.
Dutch people do not stand on ceremony when it comes to introductions; people will greet you with a warm handshake and, often, will mention their first and last names. It can be difficult for outsiders to grasp the formalities of the Netherlands: for such a laid back country business encounters, staff meetings, and even student life can occasionally turn quite formal in both language and manner in surprising ways.
If you have been in the Netherlands for more than a month and have not heard the word gezellig then you need to spend more time with Dutch people. Though often accused of being reserved, the Dutch love a good time as much as anyone else. The word gezellig defines the national sense of fun; good times, in cosy, relaxed, familiar company is a top aspiration. The quest for gezelligheid dictates the way that the Dutch celebrate national holidays, local customs and many of the major annual events.
The good news is that national traditions are always approached with a touch of self deprecating good humour making living and working with the locals easily accessible for expats.