10 ways to be polite to Dutch people

The Dutch have a reputation for being blunt and direct to the point of rudeness. But there is such a thing as Dutch etiquette. Here are the main things to look out for.

1. Shaking hands
Shaking hands is a Dutch obsession and one of those norms and values all foreigners have to adopt in order to be truly integrated. The Dutch shake hands all the time. You walk into a party full of strangers and you are expected to introduce yourself and shake hands with everyone there. When you come back from holiday, you shake hands with your office colleagues.

That is not how you do it, boys

That is not how you do it, boys

You will shake hands with your doctor, germs and all, with your children’s teachers, with the man who sells you a second-hand car and, well, with just about anyone. If you don’t automatically shake hands with all and sundry you will be marked as a foreigner, and probably a fundamentalist Muslim.

2. Tutoyeren
If you come from a country which does not have a polite form of the you word, you will never get this right.  To keep it simple, everyone apart from children and your friends should be addressed as U.   If they don’t like it, they will say zeg maar “jij”, hoor! Over-emphasis of the word U plus lots of mijnheer or mevrouw is particularly useful if you want to flatter someone into doing you a favour (like a grumpy council official).

3. Kissing
Of course, if you are female, expect to do a lot of kissing (three times). If you don’t like kissing your male colleagues, avoid the workplace in the days after New Year and on your birthday. According to Dutch etiquette expert Beatrijs Ritsema, cheek to cheek contact is perfectly adequate.

4. Hugging
Dutch men don’t hug – unless they’ve got that old university frat house thing going – and if they do there is usually enough space between the hugger and the huggee to drive a coach through. These semi-hugs are usually accompanied by embarrassed pats on the back. Dutch women hug but not at the drop of a hat. Don’t attempt a hug if you’re not sure.

5. Tea and coffee
Always offer no matter what time of day or night it is. You must have several varieties of herbal tea on offer, including Moroccan Mint.

They did not forget the biscuit

They did not forget the biscuit

Extra points if you’ve got your own mint plantation and can shove a few sprigs in a glass of hot water. A good plumber will refuse a coffee break with you because it will add at least €50 to the bill.

6. Offer lots of biscuits
There is a myth out there about the Dutch only offering one biscuit. This is not true. You may not get a biscuit at all. We like to think the one biscuit story comes from the way most cafes give you a little cookie along with your coffee. Which you didn’t order.

7. Alsjeblieft
Dutch people are often considered rude because they don’t say please or alsjeblieft all the time. They don’t, but that’s just the way the language works. Beatrijs Ritsema once answered a problem on her etiquette page from a man whose girlfriend wanted him to say alsjeblieft all the time as this: if you are begging, as in ‘pleeeeeeese stop being unfaithful’,  then it is okay. But asking for the salt is simply mag ik het zout?.

However,  if you want to impress your Dutch friends with how polite you are, liberally sprinkling your conversation with ‘please’ can work wonders.

8. Appointments
Don’t turn up unannounced at a friend’s and expect to be welcomed in with open arms. The Dutch like to make appointments at least three weeks in advance. And if you are invited to a friend’s home, and they start washing up and making tomorrow’s lunch sandwiches, you should realise it is time to go home yourself. If invited for dinner, check what time you are expected. The Dutch joke about eating promptly at 18.00 hours but lots of them do. We have got it wrong several times.

9. Shall I bring something?
If you do get an invite to a meal or picnic, you can be polite and offer to bring something. Do not be surprised if this generous offer is accepted. We have heard of people being asked to bring the meat. It is also customary in the Netherlands to take flowers or chocolates for your hostess, rather two bottles of prosecco to cover up the fact you are a bit of an alcoholic. And you won’t get to drink it anyway.

10. Special occasions
Birthdays are so complicated they have their own rules. Here are five of them.


122 thoughts on “10 ways to be polite to Dutch people

  1. Jeff Bulte

    This is not very sophisticated. Why adding the comment “”If you don’t automatically shake hands with all and sundry you will be marked as a foreigner, and probably a fundamentalist Muslim” ? What..?!

    1. mark

      I’m guessing you don’t live in NL? There has been some quite bit controversy in the news several times about prominent muslims and muslim police officers refusing to shake hands with women, including female ministers, as well as muslim women refusing to shake hands with men. Since handshakes are a sign of common courtesy in NL as explained, and equality is valued very much, this is seen as great disrespect and unacceptable. Due to the aforementioned cases this refusal is associated with being muslim.

      1. Mrs. v.

        Why couldn’t you make room in your culture for someone’s religious beliefs? Doesn’t that carry more importance than a cultural tradition about hand-shaking? I am not muslim, but I suspect that this hand-shaking thing is deeply distressing to someone who is trying to maintain their modesty as a matter or religious practice. Sometimes I wonder about Dutch people and their intolerance. I’m married to a Dutchman, we have a daughter who is bilingual, but I worry about her moving to the NL and hearing such things, and that they go unchallenged as intolerant and actually possibly bigoted. There, I said it. I am a blunt Dutch-American. 🙂

      2. Michel

        Actually Mrs. v. Don’t worry too much, I think a Dutch adventure is good for any American. After your daughters return she will…

        1. find 1000 square feet rather big for a house
        2. not accept more living-rooms than one
        3. ask you ‘why do we have a formal dining room’?
        4. find a Honda CRV a big car
        5. she will be extremely tolerant*

        * the Dutch are not intolerant, they are extremely tolerant. As the matter of fact, they are so tolerant that they are intolerant to intolerance. Try to repeat that one a couple of times and apply it to every intolerant situation you come across : o)

        If an imam refuses to shake the hands with a female Dutch minister (which is the example used by , we consider that as intolerant behavior to women. So we become intolerant of intolerance.

        Living here in America for the last year I actually realized how tolerant the Dutch are and how intolerant the Americans can be, or I should how much things are ‘frowned upon’.
        Well, that could be a new blogpost in and of itself.

      3. Mrs. v.

        Hi Mark,

        Thanks for your thoughtful and entertaining response. I’ve actually lived in the NL, although when I was a child. I even went to school and was fluent in Dutch, although by the time I was an adult the only things I could remember were: kaas, pindakaas, Sinterklaas, and appelsap!

        I don’t disagree that Americans are more than intolerant. We are in fact *racist.* Every human being is–it’s a fact of existence that we have to rise above. Whether we want to admit it, or not. That said…

        I have a muslim friend, who was unable to shake the hand of my Dutch husband, due to her religious beliefs. He was not in the least bit offended. In fact, he was probably a little embarrassed that he’d put her in the position of needing to politely decline the offer of a hand. Frankly, I’d rather not kiss every dutchman I meet. It seems a bit too intimate. But since that’s the custom, I do it and I don’t criticize. But if I had a religious objection to this custom, I would certainly expect that people would respect my conviction. You don’t force jews to eat pork, you don’t force buddhists to eat meat, and in a similar sense, you don’t force Muslim people who are very observant to touch people they don’t feel comfortable touching! Simple! If a person is offended because I don’t want to touch them, well it’s my body, and I’ll do what i want with it.

    2. Kenny van Essen

      Whoever wrote this was being a smart ass. Some time ago, some Muslim fundamentalist refused to shake hands with women. In a setting mind you, where it considered rude not to in the entire western world. Yes that spawned a public debate. Why? No offence, but we have a culture here of our own. As do all countries. Not comfortable with that? Than move elsewhere where yo do like the culture. We (Dutch people) are not as obsessed with shaking hands though. But refusing something based on gender, is considered discrimination. Here, and in the rest of the western world. Right? So yeah, nobody here says you’re a foreigner or worse if you don’t shake hands…

  2. bohemiandreams.nl

    Haha, I think it’s a funny blogpost. I hate to introduce myself to everybody on birthdays. I hate shaking hands with everybody. Why?! And actually, I like meeting spontaneously the best.

    1. EIDH

      As a Dutch girl I can say most of these points are absolutley true. I had tears in my eyes form laughter after reading No. 5. The only thing you missed is telephone manners. The Dutch always introduce themselves whether they are the caller or being called. I have lived and worked in the UK (and the US and China) and could never get used to the rudeness of the Brits who just say “hullo” and never even introduce themselevs when they call me

      1. Ronnie Valkman

        exact; that’s so strange to hear for dutch people ; someone to pick the phone up and just say :hello!…. my first thought would be; is he/she angry? or kidnapped and someone is holding a gun against his head?…. i think i would call 112 (dutch911) imediately to safe my caller from his deamons :p

      2. ange

        The thing is, Americans and Brits are not being rude, they expect you to introduce yourself since you are calling them. If you call someone you say hi, hello this is so and so and is xyz there. That is custom. If you are a frequent friend, family etc it is not unsual just say hello. So is not rude per say but different. Just as the Dutch are not rude per say. I read once the Dutch greet met Joop for example because back in the day, the telephone company IE goverment told you to do so when explaing how to make a call.

    2. notimportant

      he he finally who says it as it IS.. what a nonsense… I have never read nonesense like this. I am dutch too and live in Canada and practice the same here and am considered very polite.. says something about customs in other countries.

      when I still lived in the Nls. i had people dropping in all the time and were made welcome and visa versa…

    3. Kenny van Essen

      I agree… A little too much… Everyone is welcome in my house, without appointment >.< don't expect cookies, I don't have them. Mint in tea? Most would find that disgusting… Hahahshaha

      1. Edward

        but you are the one that wrote ‘if your culture/religion does not allow to shake hands, then go and live somewhere else…”. Why would somebody come to your house and wait to get nothing and having to feel welcome?

  3. Sandy Bridge

    Number 4 was ok but the rest is blatently off.
    This is a writeup of a single experience and got nothing to do with “Dutch”

    1. ange

      I beg to differ, in fact it is spot on. It is a generalization, and to genralize does not imply everyone however it is the norm.

  4. kimroest

    Genious! As a Dutchie I recognize everything, especially the hand shaking and hugging 🙂 I’m just not sure about the tutoyeren. The Dutch people are quite informal, and the difference between u and je is just weird if you are an English speaker. Great that you’ve included a separate post on birthdays, even I struggle with it 🙂

    1. Christine

      Tutoyeren really is confusing for some people.. And we don’t notice the behavior ourselves! In the dutch ‘Staatsexamen NT2’ it is an important part for foreigners to understand and correctly use the ‘u’ or ‘jij’. Lot’s of recognizable (and a little bit embarrassing) things, coming from a real ‘dutchie’!

    1. Julia

      Do you? I am Dutch and studied in Belgium for a few month, but I couldn’t cope with the culture swift…

  5. Patrick

    This post made me laugh, because most of it IS true in some way. And I for one think that this post is not to be taken too seriously as I think it was not written with that intention.
    I would like to try and explain, as a Dutchman myself, why onannounced visits are kind of a problem. That’s just simply because the Dutch have a very buisy schedule. And part of trying to make people feel at home when they visit you, is presenting them a nice clean environment. So every Dutch person will try to tidy up before someone comes over. I remember my mom doing that all the time 🙂 I myself have no problems whatsoever with spontanious visits. I often have friends coming over without any messages in advance. They’re always welcome. Family does call mostly. Maybe it’s a family thing? 😉

  6. Emanuel Beunder

    I’m Dutch and I don’t understand the comment about this being exaggerated because this is so true. I myself have run in some akward situations were foreigners where invited to a birthday and didn’t know about these unwritten rules. But we Dutch are also very afraid of being not ‘normal’, special or in some way different’. So we don’t like the notion that we might have some special rules ourselves compared to others..

  7. Simone

    Great article! Reflects my experience to the point. Especially #3 “f you don’t like kissing your male colleagues, avoid the workplace in the days after New Year and on your birthday.” made me laugh a lot. That is exactly how i felt in my first year of working in a very dutch company!

  8. Kareltt

    Luckily my friends and family are welcome whenever they wish. But indeed, there’s always coffee and cookies ready along with the customary handshake and kisses for those who like it 😉

  9. Susan

    The biscuit thing is not a myth. The biscuit tin is handed round when you get your drink. Take one and pass it on. Then the lid goes back on and it goes back in the cupboard.

    1. liv

      ”The biscuit thing is not a myth. The biscuit tin is handed round when you get your drink. Take one and pass it on. Then the lid goes back on and it goes back in the cupboard” So true! 🙂

  10. Amiche

    I recognise it from way back when and then only in certain circles. It’s silly to generalise these things! All these lists sound to me like they were compiled 40-50 years ago, dusted off and presented now as forever going.
    If the Dutch were so inflexible how come they are so easily transplanted all over the world?
    Any major TV or radio event (like the day Willem-Alexander became King) that has an opportunity to leave a message and fill in where you live will show they are absolutely everywhere and they are the best integrated most of the time as well!

  11. Jenn Besonia

    This is so interesting. I’ll ask my Dutch friends about this.

    By the way in this phrase: “cheek to check”

    Do you mean “cheek to cheek”?

    Because some Filipinos do it too.

    1. Sijna

      More like first kiss the left and then right and then left cheek (or first right) but it more cheek to cheek because you do more kissing the air then the cheek Xd but you also can shake hands because sometimes it comes a little bit to touch across and then we may back off Xd

  12. Esthertje

    maybe these etiquete is in some parts of Holland, but not in the area where I live, or in my family or among our friends. We don’t have ‘ cirkelbirthdayparties’ but party’s with lots of food and drinks (the day before we start preparing a large buffet,or bbq) combined with music and lots of fun and dancing……we love spontanious visites, and when you visite at dinnertime it’s no problem to join us and I will make more food so there’s enough for every one..and not 1 cookie with your coffee: you can get as much cookies, cake, coffee, liquer, beer etc as you want!!…and in our family the men hug eachother!!….but about the three kisses on the cheek….unfortunatly this is true, and for me this is a dutch habbit wich I hate…..

    1. Sijna

      Haha I get what ya mean but I still was laughing and saying sometimes :zo waar echt hoor! Or. Dat kan ik me niet herinneren…
      So as you can see I’m a dutchy Xd

  13. Eelke

    ‘Tutoyeren’ should be ‘vousvoyeren’ as the first means to call someone ‘jij, je’ and the latter calling someone ‘u’.

  14. Hendrik Beenker

    Coman Dutchies! Admit the ugly truth that this is who we are!
    I love my Minty Moroccan tea. I hate the circle parties, shaking hands and people congratulating everybody and their mother for someone’s birthday. And when the doorbell rings when we don’t expect anyone!! It gives us terror.

    But, the worst office birthday thing these days is when someone has ordered MultiVlaai… The most uninspiring cake treat you can get. Blech…

  15. Dutchess

    Very funny and all very typical Dutch, I recognize all of it. Born and raised in Holland by both a Dutch and an English parent I have always noticed these differences clearly when visiting other countries.
    Come on, no one who grew up in Holland has never been to a “circle” birthday do/family gathering. The only thing missing in this post is the big chunks of cheese and liver sausage with mustard that are passed around at these parties.

  16. Missriete

    I love it! Most of it is true (yes, I’m Dutch 😉 ) or at least has some truth in it.
    I hate the handshaking at parties too! That’s why I always try to be there first … so I don’t have to go to everyone already there. LOL.

  17. geralynwichers

    I’m second generation Canadian, but my Dad’s parents are from the Netherlands (or Holland, as I know it… is there some difference I don’t know about?). I’ve never been back to visit, but I’ll keep this in mind because I hope to go there someday. I’ll be reading with interest.

  18. Edward

    Dutch Handshaking: The handshaking round at birthdays is awkward for those coming to the party later, but somehow it forces you to socialise and introduce yourself to unknowns. If you do not handshake, like in other cultures, you may end up not talking to unknown people all evening.
    I live in Russia and men shake hand on most occasions, also when entering a party or every morning at work. Russian men never shake the hand of women, but give them a kind nod or smile. And of course no kissing, almost never. In 2009 the Court in the Netherlands ruled that a muslim woman that refused to shake the hands of her male colleagues was rightfully dismissed: http://nieuws-uitgelicht.infonu.nl/mens-en-samenleving/36539-handen-schudden-weigerende-moslim-docente-terecht-ontslagen.html … True! In that respect I liked the comment here on this site saying: ” you do not force jewish to eat pork…”. It is a pity, because it can be very colorful if you have different cultures at your work (even at schools) and that you can talk about that and exchange experiences and respect each other cultures. The Dutch abroad adopt easily to other cultures, maybe that is why the Dutch that stay home use the adagium: if you live here you have to adopt to our habits and culture…

  19. Carol

    I am a Dutch – Canadian who as lived and had schooling in both countries. I think 1 through 7 are pretty accurate . 8and 9 are debatable depending what part of the country you are from. I have never been asked to bring anything to a party or dinner. They would call this feestje American and this would be something amongst very good friends. The Dutch will drop in just like that ,but the Dutch also are blunt enough to tell them that its not a good time and to come by another time. The Dutch have always been very tolerant but dead honest in their opinions. Take it or leave it. Lol

  20. louize

    that is just one big ly, that we are tolerant in holland that is whate we say and want to be. But in fact we are rude and very individualistic even in mariage. On the work floor 9 of 10 have 2 face’s. But we always shake hands and kiss 3 times like we are tolerant people who like forgeins special when the are black… NOT… dutch people a just one big joke en always playing a show to the out side world, like we are decent tolerant people who are not rude at all.

  21. Mike

    Met a really nice Dutch family on holidays a few years back. Enjoyed there company. Got the impression there young daughter would have liked to keep in touch. I was 31 at the time.
    and she was maybe 18. I’m afraid I handled it by ignoring her as as I was a bit uncomfortable with the age difference and I thought it was the decent thing to do. With hindsight I can only think it looked a bit ignorant to all and I was probably being a bit of a stiff. I’m from Ireland and possibly a slightly more conservative culture than Holland regarding certain things?
    Hindsight is 20/20 Vision!

  22. Sijna

    Heey I’m from Holland and I just wanted to say that hand shake stuff is true bit if you can’t because of what you believe and just simply TELL that to us we understands that and don’t bother you with it anymore but why may ask “why may you not shake that?” or think if you don’t explain that you don’t like us or that we have done something wrong… But as I may say it’s different by each person but womans understand it more but can also be more bitchy… Xd

  23. Adam

    Funny to read the comments on “Dutch tolerance”… I’m 100% American, though I “look middle eastern”… I’ve lived in almost 2 dozen cities around the globe (and now in Amsterdam for the 4 years) and I’ll must say I experience more racism in Amsterdam in a month than I have in my combined 44 years in all other countries I’ve lived in. Dutch tolerance is very greed driven and shallow. I’m refused entry into places, told that brown skin people aren’t welcome here… I’ve had people wipe their dirty hands on me (only to apologize when someone says he’s American… say “oh I thought you were a arab type”… as if that makes wiping your hands on my shirt okay). Of the say few hundred women I’ve asked out over half the time the reason for a “no” is “I don’t date brown skin/arab/etc”…

    Having said this I would say it’s certainly not everyone… but it’s on the order of 33-50%… It’s the highest ratio of rudeness I’ve ever seen… this is the first country I’ve lived in where I can say I dislike the people and “culture”.

    Note I came to Holland with a prejudice that the Dutch were wonderful people and looking forward to being here… and it’s their behavior that has created this dislike… unlike Beijing where my prejudice was the opposite and I learned their culture and appreciated the wonderful people and why their behavior is so different.

    I know in public everyone calls it “Dutch directness” or “Dutch honesty”… or “Dutch culture”… let’s be honest… “Dutch culture” (as well as “Dutch Cuisine”) is a complete oxymoron (and insults to the words culture and cuisine).

    After living in Germany for several years I’ve come to realize compared to the Dutch they’re the polite, civilized, tolerant ones (and compared to the Dutch language, German sounds soft and romantic!). Of course the Germans learned their lesson…

    1. Edward

      Bravo! I like this comment and it is true! Long time the Dutch were the tolerant’s of the world. We became arrogant about that and compliment ourselves. But we flipped completely to the other side. I do not know a Western and Asian (not obvious-muslim) society that is less tolerant than The Netherlands in 2014! Including Russian people, despite intolerant government and legislation.

    2. Braindegauss

      I’ve lived in the netherlands pretty much all my life, amd indeed thendutch are NOT tolerant. We were up until the 80’ies or so.

      Since then, tolerance has made way for INDIFFERENCE, which is still mistaken for tolerance (eg. I don’t care what others do, they are free to do so, as long as They don’t bother me with it – als ik er maar geen last van heb).

      True meaning of tolerance is where something DOES bother you, but you accept anyway. And that is no longer true. The dutch have become very prejudiced and self-righteous about almost anything.

    3. Andi

      Wow you know, you shouldn’t lie right? This is absolutely ridiculous. But then again, people who aren’t happy talk more than people who are content. I love the Netherlands and I’ve never had a problem with being “darker” coloured than the Dutch. Are you really sure you went to the Netherlands?

      I on the other hand, am very happy with my experience in the Netherlands and even found a dutch girlfriend. I look forward to going back. I still won’t try to ride a bicycle over there. Too dangerous for me.

      1. Angela

        Your experience does not mean it is everyones experience. In my opinion calling someones experience a lie because it is differnt that yours is immature to say the least.

  24. Derya

    Hi . I am Turkish and 44. We have that habit of “kissing cheeks” twice, too. LOL . I must have travelled 3-4 dozens of cities in the northern hemisphere and I will be travelling to “The Hague” and Amsterdam in 3 weeks for the first time (possibly for a week or so)… I can’t wait…. I must have read all the comments left in here. Sounds fun to go there !! . Should you have any further advice whatsoever, feel free to drop me an e-mail any time. You are most welcome to offer me the biscuits there.!!.. 🙂 . Frankly speaking I have plenty of questions about Dutch day-to-day life. Thanking you & B.Regards. deryaakyuz@yahoo.de

    1. Lana G.

      Dear Derya, people in this country are extremely unfriendly towards foreigners. Stay away from here. The Dutch are serious boycotters; they boycot foreigners and themselves as well. That´s it, they are nice to each other either. They look at foreigners with skepticism, they think that all foreigners are up to no good. They have a way of making people think that they are not as good as they are.

      1. Roel

        Not exactly where I live in the Netherlands, but hey, I do business with them. Don’t know where Lana lives (if she’s Dutch?), but hey, after 9/11… experience a world-wide changed mentality towards ‘strangers’, ‘islam’, ‘other colours’, ‘unknown’, ‘different’ in lower, uneducated classes. In the Netherlands, but in just any country, both in Europe and further away.. Not just regarding foreigner, but regarding gay/lesbians too.

      2. Derya Akyüz

        Dear Lana, How are you ? , I already went to Holland and am back home in Istanbul. To be honest with you, I think I almost had the best days of my life. I stayed in Scheveningen part (shoreside) and I’ve been all around Leiden, The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam. I always believed that the most little smile at the eyes of people, from wherever they are, works very nicely ;)) . I had no problems whatsoever. On the contrary, I had several lovely chats with the Dutch. I like smiling and I like to see/make them smile. So no problems ;)) . If anyone (not about the Dutch) is to think that I am not as good as him, possibly I would eliminate the reasons. I am a very diplomatic but also a very sincere guy. If they are approaching with skepticism, I’d happily help them feel that there is no need for such skepticism against myself. I don’t think there exists anyone who wouldn’t give me a counter-smile when I am really sincere,honest and reliable. I pay utmost attention to my language (even my body language) and pay utmost respect to the respective traditions of each country during my visits. So, Lana, I thank you very much for yor valuable comment. I regret to say that I am not holding with you :))

      3. Derya Akyüz

        Dear Lana (II.Letter) , I’d like to confess one thing to you. I am Turkish and am living in Turkey. Just ask me why I never feel skepticism against the Dutch people here and just ask me why I feel skepticism against my own people 🙂

      4. Lisanne

        What a load of bull****. The Dutch are usually holding a bit back but they are not “serious boycotters”. I don’t know where you get your information but even IF this is your own experience and not hear-say it means you had some bad experiences but those don’t represent all Dutch, at all.

  25. Alfred

    All sounds very familiar – I’m a Brit that’s lived in NL for about 30 years.
    As for the hand shaking thing. It really is the case that it happens almost all the time:
    When my wife was in hospital in the middle of giving birth everyone who came into the room, be that consultant, midwife, junior doctor, peadiatricain, nurse, trainee nurse etc, came up to the pair of us and shook our hands, even to the point of interrupting my wife while she was concentrating on contractions.

    I have been to some very annoying birthday parties where there are several people there that you are pleased to see and would like a chance to talk to, but you get shown to an empty chair next to some weird old lady you don’t know and will never see again and never exchaneg a word with the people you’d like to talk to.

    And if you want to get good service in shops and restaurants make sure you sprinkle your arrival with plenty of friendly Hellos.

  26. Fred Houdijk

    Between the lines I read a lot of frustration. Referring to the Muslim thing regarding handshaking for instance. Where does you frustration come from?

    (Don’t turn up unannounced at a friend’s and expect to be welcomed in with open arms.) Just another example.

    1. Braindegauss

      Thanks to PVV whonhas helped spread more prejudice and confusion and even distrust towards muslims.

      The hand shake controversy came from an imam not wanting to shake hands with Rita Verdonk, which was explained as imam not respecting women enough to acknowledge her with a respectful hand shake.

      This is easy to believe since the common amd widely held perception by the west is that islam is less tolerant of women than the other abrahamic religions (judaism and christianity), which is theologically false but ‘proven’ by the role of women in much of the middle east. Many not only understand the difference between culture and religion, butneven believe the culture is defined by the religion. This is true to some extent, but interpretation of religion in turn is defined by culture. It’s not thenreligion that makes churches in the netherlands start to be tolerant of gay marriags. A culture is also very much if not more, influenced by wealth. Dubai has become very tolerant of western women in tiny skirts. Alcohol and prostitution, the icon of dutch tolerance (with exception of legalized drugs) is also very much tolerated, as long as it is not out in the ipen but inside bars. And that for a highly conservative local population. So dutch tolerance is very much a result of individualism that is result of wealth (we depend less on our fellow citizens for our well-being).

      To get back, in Islam, not touching someone else’s wife, as a married man, is a sign of respect and sexual moral. In these conservative nations, women with veils are never harassed on streets and are more safe. Of course I understand and agree that that behavior of imam is out of context, and thus his inability to understand and interpret the rule of religion by its intention and meaning rather than the litteral wordt stripped from its context of time amd place, but by no means do I regard his refusal to shake hands as a sign of disrespect. You could equally argue the other way around, that the imam’s religious beliefs, that by definition can not be compromised without him losing his credibility as a devouted muslim, was not respected. I wouldn’t kiss a catholic nun, amd I would bow for a japanese. It’s about communication and respect, though the common atitude is that the foreigner should adapt to local customs. I agree if you want to approach this from a rational standpoint, with the intention to be right, but there is nothing wrong with being the first to show respect to the other, with the sole intention to be diplomatic and respectful, not to be right, especially as a politician. I’m sure Rita would have gained respect, much like former queen beatrix wearing a fasionable veil in saudi. She didn’t have to do it, but by doing it, she gained respect, more than those who come to holland and might not return the gesture. In the end, this is how you can convince others of your superior culture, not by putting down that of others.

  27. Roel

    Don’t forget almost all speak solid English in the Netherlands. So it’s always easy to communicate where ever you are.
    I agree with several of the points posted, but it’s not all that bad in this tiny country. Come visit and experience!

  28. TomE

    To really understand ‘the Dutch’ you have to get understand how Dutch culture works, what values are respected and what less, what they really think and so on. Thats for youre own intest. First of all I like to make a difference between people who foreigners mostly generlizing call ‘Dutch’ because altrough a little country it has a lot of different accents, dialects and also mentalities! In the east for example people tend to be a little more indirect if you compare it with people in the west of the Netherlands. People in the south are more relaxed and northenern can be somewhat rigid. But actually I am generlizing and maybe you cant generlize because you have stressfull southeners and rigid westeners too! Now about the Dutch, I think you have to understand the history of the Netherland aka Holland which lay in the trade and as a former seepower making a lot of contact with a lot of different people and cultures (mostly a combination of those too). This took a centrain approuch when meeting ‘foreigners’ or anyone they arent related to. This Dutch business mentality you see for example in the handshaking, straight-to-the point conversations or the somewhat ‘formal (cold)’ behaviour (altrough they can be also informal when other cultures are formel). So foreignerswho have a some difficulties with this kind of interacting the directness fe be try to understand and patient eventually you will become a real Dutchman(or woman).!

  29. Mir

    I’m from the Netherlands and studied the English language and culture and have therefore been able to “kindasorta” look at the Dutch from a non-Dutch perspective. The “problem” with the Dutch can be summarised in these two expressions:

    “Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg.” (“Act normal and you’ll be acting weird enough already”)
    “Wat zullen de buren wel niet denken?” (“What’ll the neighbours think of this?”)

    The nail that sticks out gets hammered down. There are many unwritten protocols the Dutch force themselves and unfortunately also others to adhere to. That includes the handshaking, the three kisses on the cheeks, needing to make an appointment for a visit (the place will have to be spotlessly clean). Some Dutchies even correct each other when they think they’re behaving inappropriately. I work at PostNL’s cycling company and when I’m wearing a rain coat when it’s not raining, my co-workers demand to know why. The first things you’re asked when meeting a new person is “How are you doing?”, “What’s your job/what are you studying?” and “How much do you make by the month?” People live to work and when they’re done working, they’ll have to do other useful stuff. Especially Dutch women are always running from one task to the other (my Mom’s going to get a burn-out one day). Slacking off or just doing plain nothing is a terrible sin. There’s always more! more! more! to do.
    That said, I must admit I live in de Randstad (mid-west of the Netherlands, where the larger cities are located). I noticed many people who claim the Netherlands is a horribly racist country start their comments with “When I was in Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague/Utrecht”. Those four cities don’t represent the Netherlands as a whole. They’re without a doubt the most racist cities of the Netherlands. They are also the only cities with something that resembles ghettos (Schilderswijk, Overvecht). There’s less racism in other parts of the country.
    The more south you go in the Netherlands, the less “El Stiffos” you’ll meet (except for the more orthodox parts of Zeeland). People in Brabant are generally much more open and relaxed than people in Zuid-Holland. The thing is that most tourists seem to stop by de Randstad only and skip Brabant unless they want to visit de Efteling or something. That way de Randstad is perceived to define the Dutch people as a whole, even by the Dutch themselves. The truth is that there are many layers in society – from “Volksmensen” (“the common people”) to Kouwe Kak (“Cold Crap”; rich, posh people) to Pagans and Pirates; it’s all here.
    Some of my Dutch friends have fled the country due to its “hammer it down” attitude. They’re now living in the UK. Many (young) Dutch people hate their own society.
    At most birthday parties I’ve been at, cookies are presented on a nice dish, which is left on the table after everybody’s had/declined one. It’s considered polite to ask for a second one or wait for the hostess to offer you a second, instead of just grabbing one. I’ve personally only observed the “closed tin” thing with my parents, who wanted to teach children moderation.
    The one thing I personally really hate is the three kisses at special occasions. Males only kiss females, but the females have to kiss everybody. So… there was this New Year’s Eve party at my family’s place… and there were 25 guests, myself included… so that’s 72 kisses. I didn’t even know most of those people.

    In my opinion Dutch society needs to loosen up and everybody needs to stop judging a book by its cover – or Muslims by the extremists – or de Dutch by the Randstad – or the US by rednecks – or Germany by Nazis – or Italy by Ansaldo Breda – or…

    Gotta stop here, or it’ll be too long. Talking/writing too much is a sin as well.

    1. Braindegauss

      I consider the moderation thing a virtue, especially in today’s overconsumption, carbon footprint and depleting natural resources. I gave the example of a man driving through the rain to his work, despite being a multi-millionaire. The dutch are pretty satisfied with their simple lives, and traditionally do not like to show off their wealth. This is one of the few things I admire the dutch for. According to UN research, the dutch are in the top 5 or 3 of the most satisfied, happy and content nations, which to me makes sense from the lack of major visible social class difference (which very much exist, just not very visible).

      I did not realize how direct and blunt we were until I spent some time in the US, where I got irritated by the fact that all the friendliness was notngenuine and nobody spoke their mind and looked down on you if you were too outspoken, amd if they did speak their mind, they lacked the ability to stick to the point without getting all personal. Political debates mostly revolve around disqualifying the other rather than the topics at hand, which means either you argue or keepmyour opinions to yourself. To me, thisis democracy at its worst.

      Here I’ve seen 15 year old girls heavily debate politics in heated discussions and have better arguments than crap you hear on fox news, and after the discussion still be the best of friends. So in the Netherlands we learn to debate for the sake of debate, and have more round table talk shows discussing various topics than common in the US, where focus is more on entertainment with breakfast news that mix world news of war and death with petty news like lost dogs that found their way back home, on a 1:5 ratio. We have something similar but less petty for little children called jeugdjournaal to make it not too depressing. As such I think the dutch are considered too critical by US standards and we consider US too childlike, ignorant and naive.

      What I dislike about the dutch is always calculted and somewhat pessimist (or rather careful) attitude to something new. They are not believers in the broadest sense of the word. They are cynical, skeptical. Seeing is believing, which I believe hampers entrepeneurship and innovation. While we have major innovations, and the success ratio between attempt and success is high, there many more great ideas that are never given a chance. This in contrast to the US, where in relative terms are maybe more fails, but in absolute numbers lead to more innovations, as it’s not just an exact science but also a numbers game, where drive and creativity are for more important drivers for success than academic theoretic excellence. Educational standards are high and affordable, but focus on filtering the best rather than enabling and educating, thus leaving a lot of untapped potential. Of course these are just my views.

    1. Braindegauss

      You need others to know yourself. You won’t realize yourmown cultural quirks until you have lived in another country for at least a year or two, as it usually takes that long to recognize the patterns.

  30. Braindegauss

    I’ve practically lived in NL all my life, and believe that point 6, about 1 biscuit, actually comes from dutch ‘scrooginess’, if you put it negatively. But is actually a good thing as the dutch are generally not wasteful with anything, not money, not natural resources. Then there is the calvinism, so dont’t be surprised if the guy riding his bike through the rain to work every day is actually a multi millionaire who could easily afford a limo with chauffeur if not a private helicopter and pilot.

    The cookie thing I personally experienced comes from the dutch offering you a cookie from the cookie jar, and then closing the jar, sometimes putting the jar away. In most cultures the jar would be kept open and on the table as to invite you to take more. The dutch family I confonted with this difference, told me the intention of closing jar is solely for keeping the cookies freh and crips. I’m not sure what to think of that argument. Perhaps if they would keep the cookie jar open, guests would get to eat them before they go stale and they could buy fresh ones next time.

    1. Angela

      I heard the crisp cookie reasoning also. What is interesting is I have never seen anyone eatmore than one, unless the tin is open. I always leave mine open and see most will then take another or so. But if I close it… it is done. not sure what to make of the one cookie thing. But at this house the tin stays open until the pot is empty. Then I must close it. For it is true in this very moist climate an open cookie tin or jar will lead to not very tasty cookies.


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