Yes, Dutch people are known to be weird. Or maybe we think about ourselves that way? We’re Dutch so to find out what’s so weird about us, we had to do some research about our own people coming from The Netherlands.
We lived in the Hague for many years, where a lot of expats live and work so we’ve learned a lot of weird things about Dutch people through them.
And during our travels around the world, we always ask people who have traveled to the Netherlands what they think about our country and what they think about Dutch people. I don’t know why we as Dutch people love to ask others about our own country? Are we looking for compliments?
I also worked abroad in South Africa, the USA, Kenya and Spain so that’s a very quick way to find out what’s weird about Dutch people compared to other nations.
Anyway….. Are you ready? Let’s find out what’s so weird about us!
#1. Dutch people are direct!
No, we are not rude. We tell you what we think and say what we really mean. Being honest is very important for Dutch people. We don’t want to offend you, we just respect you enough to tell you the truth. So if you have something stuck in your teeth, Dutch people will tell you. When you offer a piece of cake and we don’t feel like eating it. Dutch people say no without any hesitation. If you’re coming to our birthday party with a present we already got? Dutch people will tell you immediately.
It’s so much easier, to tell the truth. Isn’t it? A little Dutch Directness makes things so much easier. Don’t you think?
#2. Dutch people are known for having boring birthday parties!
Okay. It depends on which generation. Student parties are wilder than the normal average Dutch birthday party but still. At the average Dutch birthday party, people sit in a circle and chat with each other. Food and drinks in the middle and there is no loud music.
From expats, we’ve heard that you don’t get a lot of food at a birthday party. Does this mean that Dutch people are cheap? Like we are worldwide known for? I come back to that later in this blog.
Also, don’t forget the unwritten rules Dutch people have when it comes to the order of food entering the party. First, it’s a piece of pie or cake with coffee/ tea and after that comes the alcoholic drinks like wine and beer. Maybe a local gin-like ‘Jonge Jenever’ for the older people. As for typical Dutch snacks, we eat pieces of cheese cubes, pieces of rolled meat and filled boiled eggs. When it’s getting late and the beers are starting to kick in we like to fry snacks like ‘Bitterballen’ and dip it in mustard.
For foreigners, its weird that when someone enters the room he will congratulate everyone at the party by shaking your hand and giving you 3 kisses on the cheek. Even though people don’t know each other. Dutch people teach their children from a young age to give everyone a hand and congratulate them when they enter a birthday party.
Dutch people don’t like to forget other peoples birthday so we hang up a calendar on our toilet wall with all the names of our family and friends with the correct dates to remind ourselves. It’s birthdays, people’s marriage anniversary, the date someone passed away. Almost everything. So if your name is on a calendar of Dutch people that means you have done something very good 😉 Or you just add your name to the calendar. That’s what Dutch people also do when they get a little tipsy.
#3. Dutch people like to party when it’s the Kings Birthday!
Although we have boring birthday parties. We do know how to party! Especially when its Kingsday. The 27th of April. The whole country is free from work and dresses up in orange weird outfits. Big free festivals and parties in the streets, clubs and bars start the evening before as ‘Koningsnach’ = Kings night. Kingsday in Amsterdam can be very crowded because Dutch people like to travel to the capital to celebrate Kingsday. And the most popular thing Dutch people do is renting a boat and explore the canals while drinking beer, dancing to loud Dutch music and go crazy. You’re lucky if you don’t hit other boats during this day.
It’s also the only day in the year that Dutch people can sell their ‘crap’ on the streets. It’s one big garage sale on squares and in the streets of all the cities and little villages in the Netherlands. From grownups to little kids everyone is selling their stuff in the streets.
If you want to travel to the Netherlands than Kingsday is the best day to visit the Netherlands. It’s the most unique and authentic Dutch festival you can experience. It’s springtime so also at this time of the year all the tulip fields are in full bloom. So it’s great to spend a couple of days to experience the most colourful time of the year in the Netherlands.
#4. Dutch people are very down-to-earth
Dutch people have a national motto “Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg”. Literally, this means “Just behave normally, that’s crazy enough”. This Calvinist attitude Dutch people have is all about modesty and being down-to-earth.
We don’t like arrogance. In talent shows, the much-too-arrogant candidate will never make it to the next round. Talent or no talent, Dutch people will always send him/ her home. We just don’t like arrogance from our own people. We do like self confidence though!
#5. Dutch people go crazy when the National Soccer Team ‘Oranje’ plays in the European or World Cup
Dutch people are big soccer fans. We call ourselves the orange legion and as much down-to-earth we are on a daily basis we are not as it comes to supporting our national soccer team.
We are always looking forward to the next European or World Cup that is organized every two years during summertime. A couple of weeks before the tournament begins, Dutch people start decorating everything in the orange colour; houses, streets, cars, buildings, offices etc. Everything to show support to the team ‘Oranje’ = Orange.
And when the game is on Dutch people dress up in crazy orange outfits. From orange lions, clowns, weird hats, painted faces we go all out.
Actually, Dutch people started the ‘crazy’ outfits as soccer supporters. After a couple of years, other countries followed our lead and now almost every crazy-for-soccer-nation dresses up in weird outfits.
When the game is on we like to watch on big screens in the streets, bars, public squares or with the whole neighbourhood in someone’s backyard. With lots of drinks, food and the BBQ fired up. Don’t be surprised to get invited to a watching party of the Orange Team with Dutch people. We like to share this experience and are very proud of our team. Well, most of the time… Before every big tournament, we are very critical of our national team like every other nation, right? But when the tournament starts Dutch people go full orange beast mode. And have the firm believe they are in it to win it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
We’ve only won 1 European Cup back in 1988. But in 2010 we were very close to winning the World Cup in South Africa. Only 1 tiny toe of a Spanish goalkeeper in the final was between us and the Cup. Yes, to this day Dutch people are still angry and frustrated about it. A lot of Dutch people aren’t able to rewatch this moment again. So if you want to get back at us, just remind Dutch people of this exact moment and are mood swings 180 degrees. When that doesn’t happen. You’re not talking to a soccer fan. Also, these Dutch people exist as well.
Both times in 1988 and in 2010 Dutch people celebrated the homecoming of the Orange team in a big way. The soccer team sails through the Amsterdam canals and all the supporters are on the side to cheer them on. In 1988 things went out of control. Dutch people stood on houseboats while the national team passed by on a boat. Because of the weight of too many crazy soccer fans, who wanted to get as close as possible to the team, a lot of houseboats sunk that day. Oops……
#6. Why Dutch people dress up in orange when the flag is red, white and blue?
The dominance of the colour orange dates back to the days of William of Orange. He was one of the main leaders of the Dutch revolt during the Eighty Years’ War against Spain in the 16th century. The ‘Geuzen’ (the rebels) changed the colour red in the unofficial national flag to orange to honour their chief. Although the colours of the Dutch flag have since been reverted back to red, white and blue again. Orange still remains the colour national colour for the Dutch people, the royal house and all national sports teams.
#7. Dutch people love ice skating even though Dutch winters aren’t very cold
Although the winters aren’t so cold any more. Dutch people do hope every year that it freezes enough to ice skate on the canals and lakes. We have a very traditional and legendary competition in the north of the Netherlands that’s called ‘Elfstedentocht’ = Eleven city tour. It is over 200 kilometres and is the most legendary ice skate challenge on natural ice for Dutch people to attend. The last one was in 1997, but every year when it starts to freeze or getting a little colder a lot of Dutch people get the ‘Elfstedentocht’ fever. Hoping the ‘Elfstedentocht’ is ON.
This fever is one of the reasons why Dutch people rock in speed skating. During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Dutch athletes won 24 medals, of which 8 were gold. And four times the whole podium was completely orange because the Dutch athletes won bronze, silver and gold! In 2018 we did almost as good with 20 speedskating medals. Yes, when it comes to speed skating we know what to do. Weirdly enough that doesn’t apply to ice-hockey which is a very small sport in the Netherlands.
#8. Dutch people are known to be cheap! But are we really?
Yes, we know that this is our image. Going Dutch, splitting the check, is very common and known worldwide. Dutch people even split large restaurant/ bar bills with big groups. In a lot of Dutch restaurants, you will see rules on the menu that the restaurant doesn’t allow paying 1 bill with 10 people or so. There are apps specially developed to solve this problem for Dutch people. But are we really cheap?
Did you know that the Netherlands is ranked in the top 10 in the World Giving Index of most charitable governments in the world?? And did we mention we are a very tiny country! So, who is cheap now!!? 😜
#9. When it comes to cycling… we nail it! But we don’t wear helmets.
We have more bikes in the Netherlands than Dutch people. We have a vast network of cycle paths everywhere. And in traffic, the rule is; the bike is always right.
Because we live in a flat country it’s easy to cycle around. And because our city centres are old with narrow streets and often a car-free zone it is way quicker to cycle through the city than drive through or around it by car. So Dutch people go everywhere on the bike; to work, to school, to the supermarket, to friends/ family, to college, to our sports clubs at the weekends and to restaurants and bars. Dutch people take their kids ‘achterop’ = backseat or in the ‘bakfiets’ at the front. As Dutch kids, after we learn how to walk, we learn how to cycle. And in primary school, Dutch kids have to pass a cycling test to learn how to cycle safely to and from school.
Cycling is so common in the Netherlands, Dutch people don’t consider themselves as cyclists. “We aren’t cyclists, we’re just Dutch,”. The bike is an integral part of our everyday life. And that is probably the reason why Dutch people don’t wear helmets. It’s getting more popular to wear helmets because of safety reasons but you don’t see it a lot. Mostly with kids or real cyclist that actually do cycling as a sport.
Also, Dutch people are not concerned at all to have the latest model or hi-tech gadgets on our bike. How older the bike, the better it is. We call the ‘grandma bike’ our favourite one. It’s such an oldfashioned model that there is less risk anything will break or get damaged. Those bikes are the best. We can park it anywhere without having to worry that it will get stolen. That’s also very common; stolen bikes. And a lot of (stolen) bikes end up in the canals of Amsterdam. Every year the city fishes up between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles. Wow even for me as a Dutchie that’s shocking!
#10. No other nation likes liquorice. But Dutch people do!
You know those black sweets we call ‘Drop’. You can find ‘Drop’ everywhere in the Netherlands and we have ‘Drop’ in every taste from sweet to salty, hard to soft and in many shapes and sizes.
The Netherlands boasts the highest consumption of liquorice per person in the world, with each person eating more than 4 pounds (2000 grams) per year! Wow, that is a lot. Along with Dutch cheese and ‘Hagelslag’ (Dutch sprinkles Dutch people put on our sandwiches) is liquorice one of the items we don’t leave at home when we are going on a holiday. When we drive to France, Spain or Italy to go camping during the summer every Dutch family will have ‘Hagelslag’ packed in the car or caravan. Dutch people can’t live without ‘Hagelslag’.
Did you know that ‘Drop’ is used as a medicine? It’s good to suck on ‘Drop’ if you have a sore throat or if you cough a lot. Don’t be weirded out if Dutch people offer you ‘Drop’ when you seem sick.
#11. The Dutch put Mayonaise on almost everything!
Don’t come between mayonnaise and Dutch people. A good mayonnaise is something we don’t take lightly. We don’t like the French mayonnaise, that’s to sour. We do like our own creamy mayonnaise from brands like Remia or Calvé.
In the Netherlands, you have snack bars. They are small takeaway restaurants that fry almost anything and are well visited on Sundays when Dutch people have a hangover. Your order fries with a snack like ‘kroket’, ‘frikandel’ or ‘kaassoufle’. And Dutch people dip their fries in mayonnaise. Or a combination of sauces with mayonnaise.
Your Dutch order can be:
‘Patat met’ = means ‘fries with’ and that is always fries with mayonnaise
‘Patatje speciaal’ = means ‘fries special’ and that is fries with curry sauce/ ketchup and onions
‘Patatje Oorlog’ = means ‘fries war’ and that is fries with mayonnaise, warm peanut sauce and onions
And the list goes on and on!
#12. A layer (two fingers) of beer foam is how Dutch people like their beer
We like our beer with a layer of foam. Not the English version with almost no foam. Just a decent amount of foam which we measure with our own two fingers.
When you put your two fingers horizontal to the top part of the beer glass the foam as to be as thick as your two fingers. That’s how Dutch people like their beer.
It has a reason. It protects the beer from getting oxygen. With a layer of foam, the gas in the beer doesn’t fade. Oxygen from the air also affects the taste of the beer and that’s not what we want. When the foam is gone, Dutch people will say that the ‘beer is dead’. It doesn’t taste as fresh anymore. So to make sure our beers don’t die on us we serve Dutch beer in small glasses. So you have finished it without even knowing it.
#13. We eat raw herring
In the Netherlands eating raw herring has been a tradition for almost 600 years. Especially Dutch people living in the west part of the Netherlands it’s very popular to eat herring due to the closeby seashore of the Northsea. That’s the sea where all the herring is coming from. Technically the herring isn’t raw. It gets frozen and then laid in salt for a couple of days to ripen the fish.
Eating herring in the old day was mostly practical. Herring is fat and rich in nutrients. They kept it in a barrel of salt so Dutch people could eat herring all year round.
The Dutch people even have a name for new fresh herring coming in every year that’s called ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’. Fishermen can only fish for herring from May to mid-July. That’s when the herring is the fattest. So when the first fishermen arrive in the harbours with the herring, the Dutch people will go to the many restaurants to try to eat the new herring of the year. The fresh catch can differ in fatness and tastiness from year to year.
The way Dutch people eat herring is grabbing the tail and lifting it above their heads and putting in their mouths. With almost one bite they eat the entire herring and leave the tail on the plate. Most times the herring is eaten with onions and/ or gherkins.
#14. As a New Years resolution, thousands of Dutch people dip into the freezing North Sea on January 1st each year
Swimming in ice-cold water is also known as ‘winter swimming’. The phenomenon is particularly popular in northern Europe and in North America. There are even special associations of winter swimmers who organize competitions exclusively in cold temperatures. In the United States and Canada, these kinds of clubs are called ‘polar bear clubs’ and they regularly organize ‘polar bear plunges’, where they dive for a short time in ice-cold water, usually to raise money for charity.
In 1920, the Canadian Peter Pantages decided to organize such a polar bear plunge to celebrate the new year. Only five swimmers participated in the first edition of the Canadian ‘New Year’s Dip’, but nonetheless the event grew into an annual tradition.
Forty years after the first Canadian dive, the phenomenon also spread to the Netherlands. In Zandvoort, a popular beach destination on the coast of the North Sea, Ok van Batenburg organized the first Dutch New Year’s dive in 1960. Only five years later, an annual dive started in Scheveningen. It started here with a small group of only seven swimmers, but now the dive in Scheveningen has grown into an event with around 10,000 participants each year. A Dutch brand Unox has attached their name to it and hands out orange hats to all the Dutch people who are participating in the New Years Dive. In the last couple of years, the dive spread out to not only the seaside of the Netherlands but also other parts of Holland where Dutch people dive in lakes, ditches or other waters.
On the Dutch Caribbean Island Curacao, it also a phenomenon but that is a little bit of cheating. Diving into the warm, clear and beautiful waters of the Caribbean. Everyone can do that!