Four weird things about Dutch houses

No matter what sort of Dutch house you live in or visit, there are some things they always have in common.

All in one room

All in one room

Open kitchens
The L-shape room with the kitchen at one end is part of the Dutch drive for gezelligheid. But who wants to view the piles of washing up over dinner or smell the burned potatoes? When some houses in Amsterdam were given big separate kitchens, they were branded ‘halal woningen’ because, it seems, only Muslims like a door between the kitchen and the civilised world.

Downstairs loos with no hot water
We’ve never understood why all downstairs loos, our own included, have a small sink with one tap. They also usually have a squishy bottle of Albert Heijn hand soap. Perhaps this odd approach to hygiene helps explain why the Dutch like to curse people by wishing them deadly diseases.

Birthday calendars
These usually hang in downstairs loos so you get reminded to send a card. As a foreigner, the birthday calendar is also a convenient way of reminding yourself to have something else important to do so you can avoid the compulsory family visit.  See birthday rules.

Note: There is never a pen handy so you can add in your own.

We got some very funny looks taking this picture

Two for the price of one

Two things in the window
Next time you are outside, check the windows in the houses along your street. Nearly all of them will have matching things in the window. This will often be two white plant pots with an orchid or spiky cactus thing in them. Or two metal lanterns with big white candles. The popularity of ‘two for the price of one’ bargains in garden centres could be responsible for this.


9 thoughts on “Four weird things about Dutch houses

  1. Paul

    Not all dutch houses (not occupied by muslims) have a closed kitchen. I have lived in many houses with a closed kitchen. Even in the so called ‘rijtjeswoningen’ there are closed kitchend. When you live in an appartment or a newly build standard house, chances are you have an open kitchen (and feel the need to clean after you ate).

    There is a reason for the no hot water in the toilet downstairs. As it seems the only thing you do there is wash you hands, and washing hands goes relatively quickly… they do not put warm water there, because it takes a while before you notice the hot water coming out of the faucet, at that time you already finished washing your hands and put the water off. Plus it is cheaper to only put cold water there.

  2. Kirsten

    What about the typical ‘doorzonwoning’? According to Wikipedia the name for this type of house is derived from the fact that the living room extends to the entire depth of the house: the living room has therefore 2 windows on either side (front and back of the house), so that the sun can shine through the entire room and makes it ‘gezellig’, light and warm. This type of house is so common that even the average Dutch family are nicknamed ‘de familie Doorzon’ (also the name of a Dutch comic strip)

  3. Anglea

    The one thing that stands out for me is the cold water for handwashing. Warm water is not needed for effective hand washing, what is needed is 30 seconds of washing to get rid of germs…but it is very uncomfortable.

  4. Edy

    You haven’t mentioned the national habit of leaving the curtains open at night with the lights on, so people passing by can have a look inside without being invited.

  5. Ellen

    Erm… My house has a closed kitchen, as does pretty much every house in this neighbourhood. And the cold water in the downstairs loos, come on, don’t be a pussy 😉

  6. Catinka

    I never noticed the “alway two” rule in the window. I actually started to notice it after this list! hahahah!

  7. Lm

    Always ‘two’ in a widow is not inspired by ‘two for one’ but more or less by fashion as dictated by interior decorators on tv. Symmetry is a rule we all seem to obey


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