Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Tulips. Clogs. Windmills. Giant wheels of Gouda cheese. Tulip farmers in clogs holding giant wheels of Gouda cheese posing in front of windmills! These are the images of “the Netherlands” that many people conjure up before moving here. What most people don’t know is that these are only the iconic symbols the Netherlands shows the world. True Dutch culture lurks just beyond the typical tourist zones, which Chantal Markham from Regina Coeli explores in this article.

First off, let me address the elephant in the room: Dutch weather. Most days it’s a battle against the rain, wind, my hair and endless greyness. My girlfriend once claimed this is the reason that Dutch people are so tall: “We need to get closer to the sun”.

As an Australian who’s traded in the sun, surf and sunscreen to be here, the first question I’m asked, without fail, is “Why?”. Love, I say. But romance aside, the summers are beautiful, with lovely, long evenings. Aside from the weather, here are some other essential components of Dutch culture:

1. Dutch directness

Ever heard a Dutch person speak English? It can also be shockingly direct. The Dutch value efficiency, honesty and a tell-it-like-it-is approach, so don’t be taken aback when you’re asked about your relationship status or political stance right off the bat!

While the Dutch language can be blunt, it also has some downright fun words to say! I remember feeling giddy pushing the winkelwagen (shopping cart) round the supermarket. Other words are simply perfect and cannot be translated into English. “Wat gezellig!” you might hear when feeling that warm, convivial feeling in good company, and, if you’re anything like me, you’re a levensgenieter (life-enjoyer) – someone who finds joy in simple, everyday pleasures.

2. Dutch food

That brings me to food. Gouda cheese is delicious. But what else constitutes Dutch cuisine? Well, there’s bitterballen, deep-fried goulash balls, lashings of mayonnaise, chocolate sprinkles hailed as a bread topping, delicious caramel syrup waffles, salty liquorice and raw herring eaten whole. But there’s one thing that really caught my attention: stamppot.

Món Stamppot - Món ăn hấp dẫn của người Hà Lan - Travel News 24h

Roughly translated as “mashed dish”, stamppot involves cooked potatoes and vegetables, mashing them all together into one dish and serving it with a smoked sausage or meatballs on top. It was only after I saw my father-in-law mashing his rice and chilli con carne together that I realised how deeply ingrained stamppot is in Dutch cuisine. And once you get past the fact that you’re pretty much eating baby food, it’s actually quite tasty!

3. Everything is in cycling distance

Apart from its weird and wonderful people, the distances in the Netherlands are tiny. Living on a little farm in a tiny town that nobody knows the name of, I love that I can be in a relatively large city in just 15 minutes by car or public transport, or 40 minutes by bike, which is the preferred way of getting around. In fact, 20 million bicycles outnumber the country’s 17 million inhabitants!

Cycling in the Netherlands - Everything You Need to Know - Around The World  With Me

4. Alcohol

Like many of its European neighbours, people in the Netherlands enjoy their alcoholic beverages. Many studies on alcohol consumption around the world have shown that the Dutch drink alcohol fairly regularly, a little bit above the average rate for European countries. And it’s no wonder since the country is home to Heineken, Jenever (Dutch gin) and Oranjebitter liqueur, as well as hundreds of other Dutch beers – which just hit the spot!

10 Best Alcoholic Beverages in the Netherlands - TasteAtlas

However, while the Dutch partake in drinking quite regularly, most of them don’t make a habit of binge-drinking. They usually drink as a way to relax and have a good time with their friends – Proost!

5. Punctuality

If there’s one thing that Dutch people appreciate it’s punctuality and being organised. Want to meet up with a friend for coffee? Make sure to get out your agenda (planner) and make an afspraak (appointment). Most people in the Netherlands like to plan things well ahead of time – this means no randomly dropping by someone’s house or office without agreeing on a specific date and time.

Netherlands Business Etiquette: 9 Key Culture Elements

While this habit may not seem exciting or spontaneous, the bright side is that you can usually count on Dutch people to show up on time or even a bit early! So now you don’t have to wait around for 30 minutes to an hour for your friend to show up.

Much to love about the Netherlands

I could babbelen – or chat – all day about my strange encounters with Dutch culture, as there is so much to love about this little country. So hop on your bicycle, buy an agenda, enjoy some fried appetisers and go Dutch!

Do you want to integrate into your surroundings and finally feel at home in the Netherlands? The famous Regina Coeli Language Institute offers Dutch courses using a unique and innovative approach. Go Dutch with Regina Coeli!


By Lala