19 Strange Dutch Habits

If you’ve only just arrived in The Netherlands or been in the country for a while there are a lot of strange Dutch habits and traditions to discover. Here are just nineteen of the weird things the Dutch get up to.

1) Cycle everywhere without bike helmets

Maybe it is cycling from a very early age that makes the Dutch very confident when it comes to getting about on two wheels. Not only are they able to multitask while cycling but they do so without even wearing bike helmets (and think it’s strange if anyone does).

Read more: How To Cycle Like The Dutch

2) Eat very salty liquorice

If a Dutch person ever offers you liquorice (Dutch drop) be very careful. It could be a trap. Some types of Dutch liquorice have a very extreme salty taste that will make everyone of your taste buds scream out in horror. It’s hard to understand how the Dutch can love the stuff so much.

Read more: The Horrors of Dutch Drop

3) Ignore emergency alarms (if it’s on the first Monday of the month)

On the first Monday of every month, at noon, a rather scary sounding alarm screeches over the whole of the country. The Dutch ignore it though since they know it is just a scheduled test. But what happens if there is a real emergency on the first Monday of the month at noon?

Read more: The Emergency Alarm

4) Use the Dutch word ‘dus’ for everything

The Dutch word ‘dus’ (which mean ‘so’ in English) is very flexable. It can be used to communicate a wide range of thoughts, feelings and emotions. It can be everything from an angry stop word to a suggestive come on (and more). That’s why it is best not to get the intended meaning mixed up.

Read more: The Many Meanings of Dus

5) Celebrate birthdays by sitting in a circle with tea, coffee and a slice of cake

If you only consider a party to be a party if the music is too loud, the police have been called three times and someone is passed out in the corner you are going to be slightly disappointed by a Dutch birthday party. It mostly involves sitting in a circle and drinking coffee.

Read more: The Dutch Circle Party Tradition

6) Go camping in style

When the Dutch go camping they go camping on their own terms. Why should getting in touch with nature be done without indoor plumping, a fridge/freezer, washing machine, heating, a home entertainment system and the other luxuries of home?

Read more: A Dutch Guide To Camping

7) Greet each other with three kisses on the cheek

If a Dutch person suddenly kisses you on the cheek three times don’t get any romantic ideas. It is just their way of saying hello (and goodbye). It’s usually reserved for close friends and family so don’t go over using it yourself. That would just be odd.

Read more: The Dutch Three Kiss Rule

8) Understand the use of ‘de’ and ‘het’ even though the rule makes no sense

Most Dutch people will tell you there is a very simple rule for using the words ‘de’ and ‘het’ (which both mean ‘the’ in English). Then they remember all the times the rule does not work and admit you just have to be Dutch to understand it.

Read more: The Great Dutch Mystery – De and Het

9) Celebrate the Kings birthday (or anything else) by dressing up in orange

Whenever it is celebration time in the Netherlands the Dutch will go orange crazy. It’s no surprise since it is the official colour of the Dutch royal family (house orange). It must be a very confusing time for anyone who suffers from colour blindness.

Read More: The King’s Day Guide

10) Put lots of mayonnaise on their fries

The Dutch love mayonnaise. They love it so much that every chip shop in the land will automatically add it to your order if you don’t explicitly tell them not to. Anyone who does request not to have it is seen as an oddity. In The Netherlands mayonnaise is basically considered its own food group.

11) Drive on the right (which is weird if you are British)

Never get into an argument with the Dutch about which country drives on the correct side of the road. You will lose. They will use your own language (English) against you to explain why driving on the right side of the road makes them right and you wrong.

Read More: Driving in Holland

12) Sometimes live in dangerous houses (especially in Amsterdam)

Old Dutch houses have a lot of charm and character, which is a polite way of saying they can be incredibly dangerous. Spiral stairs so steep they can be classified as twisty ladders, fuses that would withstand a lighting strike and mice as house mates are just a few of the strange things you might find.

Read More: The Dutch House Guide

13) Ignore all the rules of queuing

When it comes to queuing in The Netherlands there are no rules, only survivors. It is every man, woman and child for themselves. Anyone who has ever tried to board a busy train in the Netherlands will be very familiar with this (and probably still suffer from flashbacks).

Read more: How To Queue Like The Dutch

14) Wait ages to be served by waiters

The biggest mistake you can make when trying to get served by a Dutch waiter is trying to get served by a Dutch waiter. They are masters in finding other distractions. They will only serve you when they are ready and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

Read More: The Trouble With Dutch Waiters

15) Recognize the official start of spring based on ladies fashion

It is not the appearance of the first tulip or the first baby bunny that ushers in the start of spring in The Netherlands. It is Rokjesdag, the day Dutch ladies start wearing short skirts again (and the day most guys start accidentally walking into lamp posts).

Read More: What is Rokjesdag?

16) Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a lot of very big explosions

Most countries will have a few safe firework displays on New Year’s Eve. Holland on the other hand actually tries to blow itself up. At the stroke of midnight it is as if someone tosses a lit match into the countries entire supply of fireworks (and it does not run out till at least 2am).

Read More: How The Dutch Celebrate New Year’s Eve

17) Are un-phased by parts of their country being seven meters below sea level

If you lived with the constant risk of your country being reclaimed by the sea you would probably be a little nervous. Not the Dutch. Most of them don’t even think about it. Maybe it’s because to them The Dutch are not below sea level, the sea is above Dutch level and they are the masters of it.

18) Eat lots and lots of chocolate for breakfast

The Dutch love sweet things on their bread for breakfast. Chocolate paste, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate shavings and more. What could possibly go wrong with giving children (and adults) a massive sugar rush every morning?

19) Celebrate Sinterklaas on the 5th of December

Sinterklaas might seem like a serious copyright infringement to anyone who gets their gifts from Santa on December 25th, but don’t be mistaken. Sinterklaas is the original. Santa is the copy. In this case it is the rest of us that are being weird.

Read More: The Sinterklaas Guide

Are there any strange Dutch habits missing from the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

  1. Very funny! I’ll admit I have picked up the habit of using ‘dus’ with everything. The main ones that I am not a fan of are: kissing on the cheek as a greeting (even once, to be honest!), going to birthday parties and congratulating everyone who is in attendance — argh! why?!?, and mayo on fries. Though usually I remember to tell them not to add it so I survive that okay…

  2. Last night, walking home here in Bologna, we came across two people on obviously rented bikes. More importantly, they were wearing helmets. My boyfriend and I turned to each other and both said, “tourists”. Helmets were always an easy way for us to tell people were tourists in the Netherlands (unless they’re wearing lycra, have racing bikes, and are in a pack, then they’re just a bunch of friends out for a ride).

  3. I think you missed to barbecue at 15 degrees, on the otherhand, if we would only barbecue at 25 degrees, there would be no point in having a barbecue…

  4. My second visit to the Netherlands was over New Years when they switched over to the Euro in 2002. We have the 4th of July here in the US, and it pales in comparison to what I saw there. I wound up being in one of the fancier neighborhoods that night (my wife’s “perfect” aunt and uncle) so when the fireworks began all around us, it felt very eerie. There was a guy who sold fireworks that lived in this neighborhood, and he was setting up as war erupted on all sides of us in other neighborhoods. Once our fireworks began, it was almost like a display a small town in the US would set up in the park.I fell very spoiled in my first experience.

  5. Re: 17. Just think of it as stuffing the sea in your attic. You really only worry about it when it’s storming hard enough that (part of) the roof might blow away.

  6. Many times I have seen people of smaller height waiting in line to gain access to the toilets. The Dutch urinals are too high even if the shorties stand on tip toe. Why aren’t the Dutch follow international standard? I feel sorry for the Asia Pacific tourists.

  7. Has anyone had an experience like I had when a waitress brought me fish and chips with mayonnaise over them? When I complained she said “Shorry Yo” and walked away.

  8. Oh yeah, it used to be that in Holland you had to check out of your hotel room by 10 am. I don’t know if it’s still the same rule. International norm is 12 noon.

  9. I know what you forgot… when they live the party and say bye-bye to each other they normally do it for dozen of times…

    – Doeiiiii!

    – Daaaag!!

    -Doeiiii!

    – Daaag! 😂😂

    – ….
    -……

    (And so on en so forth untill they disappear over the horizon!!)

    We had extreemly party lovings neighbours and they freeked me out everytime in the middle of the night by Daaging-Doeing each other for lots of times with the voice as loud as if they were on fire!! 😁

  10. Many Dutch, inclusief nyself have a calender hanging in the toiletroom. This calender tells us when friends and family are having there birthday. Nowadays, thnx to Social Media (Facebook alerts), it is less common as it used to be.

  11. Driving on the right is hardly weird. I’m British and I understand that most of the world drives on the right. It’s weird to drive on the left strictly speaking…

  12. Hi, nice overview. Some really recognizable, others more common in the world.(celebrating new year with explosions). What about ice-skiting on real water during the winter?

  13. You forgot the ‘Open Curtains’ ! Walking on the street at night, one can look into ALL the houses because the curtains are not drawn.

  14. In 1946 I came to Holland as a refugee and I discovered that Dutch people wipe their anus after making a shit just with a piece of paper only smeering it all over the place. They took a bath only once a week. I always had the imagine that the were smelly. These habits I could never adept to. We wash our bum with water and take a bath every day.

  15. Being Dutch myself, but living in Germany, I found several peculiarities of us, Dutch people:
    When visiting for a birthday: You’ll get one piece of cake with your “kopje koffie”. You’ll be asked what kind, if there is a choice … and if ou are lucky, you might be asked, if you want a second piece (To go with the 2nd cup of coffee). In Germany, they’ll put a bunch of cakes on the table and everyone will serve himself. (The same with cookies: The thin is held in fromt of you in the Netherlands. You take one out and then the tin goes back in the cupboard).
    When someone has his / her birthday, it is normal in NL to congratulate the relatives with the birthday of their son, daughter, grandchild etc. Everywhere else, you only congratulate the birthday child.

    However: One thing I can’t get my head around: “To go Dutch” is when everybody pays for himself. Which is being done massively in Germany (“Zusammen oder getrennt” (Together or separate), even if you’re obviously married). We never did this when going out! Somebody got the bill and everybody gave him/her enough money to at least cover their own consumptions. ost of the time, the waiter gained a huge tip out of this, since nobody paid less, but rather included the tip.

    Cheers
    JK

  16. Jeroen Keeri ,
    I was Born and raised in Limburg , for Birthdays there were numerous different pies and Taart , gasten kregen zoveel ze hebben wilden .!!!
    Also after coffee and vlaai of taart , werden er snacks op tafel gezet , and adult beverages were served or soft drinks .
    Most often a Birthday party was held on weekends.!!!!
    Sure miss this ( Gezelligheid) in America.!!!!

  17. Haha, as an Aussie who has only recently went over to the Netherlands for a couple of months to see my beautiful Dutch girlfriend, (who is immigrating to Australia next year) I can relate to the 19 strange habits, I also found it strange that the Dutch don’t pull their curtains of an evening. As for no helmets on push bikes, it is against the law in Australia to cycle without a helmet ( across all age groups!).
    I loved the Netherlands so much along with being in love with my girlfriend, I am heading back over next month for another two months!!
    Thanks for giving me a good laugh!!😜

  18. The birthday parties, the long goodbyes, the early dinning, the cashiers at the supermarkets tossing the products like not giving a daamn :’) the uptight attitudes sometimes.. but also a big amount of multiculturalism.. so yeah, despite some things, I love the culture!

  19. Most of the Dutch people (including me) keep their curtains open at night.. so every passenger can see what happends inside the house

  20. Although most Dutch name it mayonnaise the majority of the fries in The Netherlands are served with “frietsaus”, which is sweeter and has less calories (mayonaise => 70% oil, frietsaus <= 25% oil). But you can get mayonnaise in other other countries as well. I believe that for foreigners it is much stranger to get peanut sauce over the fries (which is also really populair!).

  21. When it is your birthday you arrange/bring cake to the office. I noticed that in (some) other countries your colleagues will arrange that.

  22. Most Dutchies have a birthday calendar in their toilet room.
    They eat oliebollen and appelflappen at New Year’s Eve.
    During the Sinterklaas period they eat pepernoten, kruidnoten, taaitaai and gevuld speculaas.
    With their average height they are one of the tallest people in the world.

  23. Swart Piet at Christmas, throwing sweets off-the-wall back of lorries during mayor’s day festival, human manure on the flower beds… Etc

  24. When it’s still cold outside right after spring, each time the sun shines they go outside eating and drinking on a terrace.

  25. Whenever I have an argument with my wife, in the end I can say: “Sorry hoor!” And it’s allright!
    Sorry hoor sounds like Sorry whore…

  26. With number 16 your on thin ice. Try to find some news articles about the fireworks dissaster in Enschede. A complete area was blown to pieces by an accident in a fireqorks storage.
    All other just make me grin

  27. I miss:1) congratulating every family member with the birthday of one of them (so you get congratulated on the birthday of your son)
    2) Making private events (lik birthdays, births etc.) public by putting the figure of stork in your gareden when you had a baby or by putting funny dressed puppets on your front porch when you reach the age of 50 (and caal that an ‘Abrahem’ or a ‘Sara’.
    3) Doling out just one cookie or one piece of cake when you on a coffee-visit, so you have to wait if you ever get more (it’s not considered polite to ask for it…)
    4) Eating ‘vla’, which is nor a custard, nor a sauce…and their yoghurt is fluid, too….

    Well, I got used to all these things. And what I don’t like, I just don’t adopt (like ice-skating gives me a hell of pain in the ankles. I tried, though…it’s very dutch. Everbody gets crazy about the ‘Elfstedentocht’. They call it ‘Elfstedenfever’).

    When I came here from Germany, I thought the Dutch were just the same, only with a different lan
    guage…

  28. Hello all,
    This was fun to read. Thank you.
    I did not see anything about ‘bitterballen en bier’ (brown fruit and beer), or cheese squares and mosterd sauce, or kroketten, frikandellen, eierballen etc……. These are also dutch habits, to be served bitterballen at the end of a congress or seminar.
    Have fun in dutchyland