I've split this post into 2 parts - it's just too long for one sitting. I'd love to hear experiences of other travelers, expats or Californians. Don't hesitate to comment or email me.
1) What's discretion?
Are you familiar with "Dutch Bluntness?" I wasn't until I met my boyfriend. On our first date he examined my face, then asserted I would be more beautiful if I didn't pencil in my eyebrows (simultaneous "ewww!" and "awww").
While I can't speak for every Dutchie, in my experience - people speak the truth without much concern of the negative implications. Do your jeans make your ass look fat? Does your haircut look like a 3 year old had a field day with some plastic crafting scissors? Is your taste in music rudimentary? Most people won't mind telling you. This is a stark juxtaposition from Los Angeles where your jeans are "supes cute" and haircut is "gorge" and your favorite band's early stuff was "alright".
On a humorous and coincidental note, when meeting JP's friends for the first time, I regularly hear some rendition of:
"Oh, I heard you were from LA and expected someone very thin and glamorous. You don't look like your'e from LA"
Luckily, I understand the Dutch value modesty (see my next point) and this in not meant to be an insult. However, at the same time I'm thinking "I just biked 10 kilometers in the rain to be here, sorry for not looking like Beyonce." Pinched feelings aside, it's refreshing to know where you stand, that compliments are not obligatory and they actually hold some weight.
2) Act "Normal"/"Modest"
The Dutch have a saying "doe maar gewoon" - just be normal (ie, don't stand out/show off) and people tend to keep their public image on the down low. In fact, extravagances will likely work against you. The houses are smaller. The cars are older. Clothes are generally modest. I rarely see a woman with full-on hair and makeup or a designer bag.
Anyone remember what happens in LA when Obama visits?
Egalitarian principals are popular in the Netherlands and I am happy to embrace this progression.