Dating advice, Dutchies & the selfishness-dilemma

Ask /SLASH/. ‘Cause bright people have problems too

"I’m dating a good friend of my best friend, who I got to know through her (parties). I feel like it’s bugging her, but when I asked her she said it’s not. What should I do??"

Stop overthinking. As a friend, you have a duty to your best friend. Your duty was fulfilled when you asked her about it. Let her know once more that if she has any problem at any time (about anything) she can speak to you, but besides that, there is nothing more you can do now. We all get paranoid sometimes and start overthinking things that are not true, and your paranoia should not be a reason for you to stop dating the guy (or gal)  if he (or she) makes you happy. It’s your responsibility to be a good friend; it’s not your responsibility to be a mind-reader.


“Everyone is selfish even when they are being nice to others they are doing it for their own happiness! Is this an issue? How do you trick yourself into believing this isn't the case?”

Hey you. What you’ve just asked us is basically a philosophical and psychological debate that goes waaaay back. It is an essential question about human nature: are we naturally altruistic or egoistic? There has been a back and forth discussion between psychologists Robert Cialdini and Daniel Batson in the past century, so if you are truly interested, I recommend you look up their debate and arguments. In conclusion, Cialdini argues that every good act is self-serving, to avoid feeling guilty or to elevate one’s own mood. Batson claims that there is true altruism, originating from the selfless desire to benefit other people. There is no one answer because we don’t understand enough about the human brain yet, so all I can do is speculate. 

What is proven nonetheless is that prosocial behavior has positive implications for physical health. For example, hormones such as oxytocin trigger helping behavior, but also reduce stress hormone cortisol and are involved in cell growth. People in close social relations live longer than people in isolation. These benefits come from giving social support, rather than from receiving it. In other words: when you help people you live longer and are happier.

Before dying, Chris McCandless (a guy who spent many years escaping society and searching solitude- watch the movie ‘Into the Wild’ if you haven’t already) wrote into his notebook: “Happiness only real when shared”. Humans are social animals and we thrive in communities. Life is just so much better when you have people to share it with, giving and receiving is just part of that, and not out of selfish intentions. 


I honestly think you shouldn’t overthink it too much. It is easy to fall into an existential crisis with questions like this. Being nice gets you through life and is mutually beneficial. Selfishness is important to some extent, and it guards you against letting people take advantage of your kindness. Enjoy the good moments together with other people, cause if you’re both/all having fun, I don’t see an issue. 


"Why don’t dutchies understand that speaking dutch with internationals around is isolating and rude?"

Because they are in their home country, among people who speak their mother tongue. They grew up all their life speaking Dutch and it’s just much easier for them. It is simply a bad habit to fall back into old behavior patterns, but you honestly can’t blame them; everyone does it when they are at home. Just politely remind them of your presence. Or start speaking German/Spanish/Chinese/*insert your mother tongue here* with someone of your own country to annoy them. Or learn a secret code language with your friends to piss them off even more. The last option would be to actually take the initiative and learn the language of your host country. After all, you are a guest in the Netherlands, and you can’t automatically expect everyone to speak English. Apps like Duolingo, or the free Dutch courses at the RUG are very helpful tools.

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