9 Apr

Dutch Circle Party

Anyone who has lived in Holland for any length of time has most likely encountered a Dutch circle party and those who have not will eventually, it is inevitable. A Dutch circle party (the name is not a euphemism) can be best described as a ‘party’ that involves sitting in a circle all afternoon and chatting while drinking tea or coffee and eating cake. Anyone who only considers a party to be a party if someone is passed out in the corner, people are making out in the kitchen and the cops have been called at least three times is going to be sorely disappointed by a Dutch circle party.


When attending a Dutch circle party it is important to know that when other attendees shake your hand and announce ‘Gefeliciteerd’ they are not introducing themselves. It might start to seem like you are being introduced to a very big family or that Gefeliciteerd is a more common name than Smith but they are in fact wishing you, “congratulations”.


“Stuart. Nice to meet you Mr and Mrs Gefeliciteerd.”

This is because it is custom for the Dutch to congratulate everyone at the party and (as I discovered) is not because they are unsure about who the birthday boy or girl is (don’t try to be helpful by pointing).

Joining The Circle

Once you have successfully found a place to sit with in the circle (not necessarily with the people you arrived with and most likely with people you don’t know at all) you will be offered a drink and some cake. If you desire a drink with a little extra kick it is advisable to secretly conceal a hip flask of alcohol about your person since the strongest thing to be served at most Dutch circle parties is chamomile tea.

It is also custom for there to be a minimum of 3 or 4 generations of family present at a Dutch circle party (the maximum limit is only set by the average human life span). This makes it entirely possible to go from a conversation about life as a member of the Dutch resistance during World War 2 to which Sesame Street character is best and why (It’s best to avoid getting these two conversations mixed up, Dora the Explore was never part of the Dutch resistance).

However, since a lot of these conversations will be in Dutch and thus impossible for a non-Dutch speaker to follow it is best to find something of interest to do to pass the time such as; staring at a wall, listening to the clock tick, trying to guess how much Dutch ‘worst & kaas’ you can eat or simply going to your happy place.

However, you must also stay alert! As a non Dutch speaker it is possible to go from being unintentionally ignored to suddenly having the entire room focus upon you within a split second as everyone waits silently for your answer to a question that you might not have heard because you were too busy watching a bug crawl across the window. This can happen because a Dutch attendee simply wanted to practice their English, ask you what brought you to Holland or simply know the current prices of the UK housing market. Whatever the reason, everyone in the room suddenly wants to hear the English speaker talk and they never seem to realize what a shock to the system this sudden intimidating attention can be or that testing us on our Dutch under the watchful eye of a room full of native speakers is not necessarily the most comfortable of situations.

But do not worry. Most Dutch circle parties have a set end time at a very respectable hour which the host or hostess will politely remind you of by starting to clean up around you.


Find out more about the Dutch Circle Party by checking out these posts:
The Original Dutch Circle Party Guide
How To Identify a Dutch Circle Party
Dutch Circle Party Closed Loop Theory
…or get your very own Dutch Circle Party T-Shirt


79 responses to “The Dutch Circle Party Guide”

  1. Dan Potter says:

    We’ve avoided these so far by being social recluses, although if you dating/married to a dutch person I imagine they’re hard to avoid.

  2. Breigh says:

    Again, so glad our families are both out of the country. We do get sucked into a few of those parties but we are that couple that make an appearance, eat the good stuff then leave :P

  3. Jean-Baptiste says:

    Thanks for writing this. It’s absolutely brilliant and painfully acurate. After years of living in this country, I simply refuse invitations to these parties :-)

  4. LizzeeB says:

    This is too funny and too true. In Australia it doesn’t matter how old the birthday boy or girl is, a birthday party is an excuse to drink as much social lubricant as you can and to eat cake ONLY after you have consumed your own body weight in barbequed meat and potato salad. I particularly feel anxious when fellow guests try and HELP me with my Dutch, by speaking exclusively to me in Dutch, and don’t pick up on my whincing and squirming that I’m in extreme brain pain!!!

  5. Heather says:

    Thank goodness for the ‘happy place’ without it I am not sure I would survive these things, even if we do keep our attendance of them quite minimal. Great post!

  6. Invader Stu says:

    Dan Potter – They are and my girlfriend actually apologised to me the other day for having to take me to them.

    Breigh – We try to do the same.

    Dragonlady – Only if one is dropped by accident.

    Jean-Baptiste – Smart man.

    LizzeeB – I sometimes think they do pick up on it and enjoy it. Australian parties sound like a lot of fun. I imagine it being something like, “Here you go little Timmy. Three years old, it’s time for ya first beer.”

    Heather – It’s great isn’t it. My happy place is greatly influenced by the magic roundabout. I don’t know why, I’ve never seen an episode but it is something about he music.

  7. Sonya says:

    So far I have been soooo lucky in never having to do the circle birthday from hell. When I first came here my husband forgot to tell me that I needed to congratulate everyone in the room. I went in and sat down after saying Hello and learned after the fact what I should have

  8. Paule says:

    When I first moved over here I was invited to one of these. I was so hoping to meet, mingle and have a few beers. Uh oh nooo!. Sat in a circle, was offered coffee and cake and felt like a complete alien. Thankfully there was a guy there who spoke fluent English and detected my awkwardness. I told him I wasn’t used to these kind of parties and explained that we usually stood up, had loud music, no-one over the age of 50 and got raving drunk. He wispered that he had some wonderful Russian vodka stashed away and would I care for some. Oh yes I said. I sat getting quietly drunk by myself ignoring the weird looks I was getting from my boyfriends ex. Since then I have been to many of this nature. They don’t get much better but now I always come prepared :)

  9. MissNeriss says:

    So, so true! I just love it when my fiance will RSVP for both of us at one of these hideous displays. Unfortunately for me I’m now past the required length of time to have any sort of English conversation, so am only spoken to in Dutch and am expected to respond in kind. So my happy place is relegated to the far reaches of my fantasy, only to be replaced by the brain pain LizzieB describes. Thank God I only really need to know Gezellig hoor and a couple snippets about football otherwise I’d be totally screwed.

    And I now refuse to do the gefeliciteerd lap and just wave from the entrance. I have to embrace their idiosyncrasies, so they can at least do me this one favour!

    Love it, great post.

  10. kerryanne says:

    Oh! This was *brilliant*.

    4 days after I arrived 8 years ago it was my partners mother’s birthday. I thought it would be a ‘fun’ opportunity to meet his family. He actually insisted that it would be okay if I didn’t go- that maybe it would be too much. I had ‘party’ in my head- food, drinks, jovial conversation, dare I say I thought there might even be…music. I was horrified! Subsequent Circles from Hell over the next year found me at some point during the day in the WC trying not to cry, telling myself I just had to get through it and it was not worth a suicide attempt. It was not until I met other expats married to Dutchies that I realized it was national- not just some freaky way of doing things in my husband’s family!

    AGH!!!!! Now at least I speak Dutch…

  11. Meta says:

    The trick is to only go to parties that begin after dinner (so for us Dutch, say after seven), where we still sit in a circle but have beer, wine and snacks. Mind you, it will probably still be a bit tame compared to other countries :)

  12. Anneke says:

    Haha! Okay, maybe this is something only people from Holland do, and not the Netherlands in general, because in my world the parties are always without chairs, and with loads of alcohol and snacks. Sure the occasional circle party occurs, but these are generally for family (with all the grandparents etc). The real parties are for friends only, not a family member in sight. So perhaps you are saying you’ve never been to a real party only to the obligatory meet ‘n greet with the folks… Hmmm. :P *sporting a halo*

  13. Gez says:

    I must be some twisted freak then – I seem to be the only expat that enjoys these things! Admittedly, the first one I went to (for my girlfriend) waas a culture shock, but only because of the congratulations directed at me – I was first in line for them as I was on door-opening duty. Standing there smiling, thinking “thank you, but it’s not my birthday – she’s in the lounge…”. Since then, I’ve moved to The Netherlands (was ‘just visiting’ till 2 years ago) and been to plenty more since then – 2 of my own included! Got to admit I’m a sucker for some of the ‘hapjes’ (little bites) that are always served – I tend to scoff way more than my fair share of the ghurkins wrapped in ‘Parisian sandwich meat’. And with a possible maximum of 15 of these a year (though some end up being joint do’s), that’s a lot of hapjes….

  14. Alison says:

    I’ve yet to attend one of these — and not sure if or when I ever will, as it doesn’t seem the thing that our handful of Dutch friends do. But at least if I ever do go to one, I’m going to feel much more prepared after reading all the tips and tricks and warnings from other expats who have gone before me! You’re doing a public service!

  15. A Touch of Dutch says:

    I wish I wasn’t drinking coffee while I read this! You successfully got it to come out of my nose ;-) Great post!

  16. Aledys Ver says:

    This is sooo good, you’ve described it perfectly!! Only thing you forgot to include, is when these unknown people hear you’re NOT Dutch and they ask you the 3 “de rigeur” questions: “are you adapting?” “how do you like Holland?” and “Can you ride a bike?”; after which they will (thank God) forget that you are there and you can resume staring at the bug on the wall…
    Or….. to add some variety to the whole “procedure”, they’ll ask you where you come from, when you say that you come from Argentina, they’ll ask you, “what language do you speak there – Latin?” After which you have to excuse yourself and run to the “wc” to be able to burst out laughing at ease!!! :o)

  17. suus says:

    Lovely post. I agree with with one of the posters who said you have to arrive after seven. there will be good snacks (deep fried) and booze. But somehow people tend to “celebrate” between noon and around 4. Why? Gosh. I guess we are inclined to invite the entire family, inc grandma. We don’t want to get wasted when grandma is around. And when grandma/ants/uncles/boredom leaves, we are beaten down so we just want to.. wash the tea cups, and watch tv.

    I’ve been to plenty horrific circle parties. I try to avoid, but…. it’s The Force.

  18. Invader Stu says:

    Sonya – I’ve done that as well. It’s so confusing. Why do I have to congratulate everyone? It’s not their birthday. It makes no sense to me.

    Paule – He sounds like he had a god idea sneaking in Vodka. I’m going to start doing that from now on.

    MissNeriss – It sounds like your fiancée wants to share the pain. I’m also past the length of time where I should have learned Dutch, ‘should’ being the key word. My Dutch is still very basic and that always becomes a big part of the conversation.

    kerryanne – Oh god. I can’t think of anything worse than meeting the family for the first time at a Dutch circle party.

    Meta – But it is still very good advice. Cheers.

    orangesplaash – Me too.

    Anneke – I wish that was true. I’ve been to a good many normal parties as well but they still don’t out number the circle parties I’ve had to go to either.

    Gez – I think you are officially Dutch now :p

    Alison – Thanks. I try to do what I can :)

    A Touch of Dutch – I do what I can to make people spray their monitors with beverages :)

    Aledys Ver – you are so right. There are always standard questions they ask. I’m tempted to get the answered printed out on little cards I can hand around.

    suus – It would be a great party of grandma got wasted as well :p

  19. Anita says:

    Maybe a circle party is meant to be a sort of group therapy ???
    Because me and hubby+kids celebrate birthday between May and early Aug. the guests can spread themselves in the backyard and the side of the house as well. NO chairs are arranged in circles, neither inside nor outside!! And yes: my two kids were planned to be born in spring or summer so that the guests can spread themselves during birthday parties, hehehe !

  20. Iooryz says:

    So, how did your own circle party go?

  21. Invader Stu says:

    Anita – I like the idea of it being group therapy :)

    Looryz – It went well. We had music and at one point two circles so their was mingling between the two. We slightly broke the circle.

  22. Wendi says:

    I love the Circle Party idea! OK, maybe just the cake part.

  23. Invader Stu says:

    Wendi – The cake is the best part :)

  24. Just a Plane Ride Away says:

    I have yet to attend a party like this… now I feel left out!

    However, I do take every opportunity to wish someone: “Hartelijk gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag!”

    That must count for something.

  25. Invader Stu says:

    Just a Plane Ride Away – It means you’ll be ready for the party greetings :)

  26. says:

    Oh Stu, I’ve got tears running down my cheeks with laughter. I recognise the feelings of being the tame English speaker so well…also the shock of being actually spoken to when you thought everyone had conveniently forgotten your presence. Brilliant piece of writing. Definitely one for the book!!

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  28. Invader Stu says:

    Valmann – Thank you :)

  29. Ferry says:

    hahahahah, great story. I’m a native dutch guy and i reconize this. it’s a bit exagurated (Did i spell that right?) but ooh so funny. Our family birthday parties are not like that luckely because even me, as a native dutchman, would be bored to death. The younger generation doesn’t do these things anymore. We mingle and stand/walk around eating and drinking our bellies full:)

  30. Ferry says:

    Ooh, and i forgot the (loud) music part… can’t do without it:)

  31. Aledys Ver says:

    I just told my husband about the Telegraph article and your blog and gave him the link urging him to read a couple of posts while I went into the kitchen to start dinner. I’d forgotten about it and since I could hear him laughing repeatedly came to the “woonkamer” too see what was so funny on TV – to find him actually laughing about you description of the Dutch Circle Party :o)

  32. Michiel says:

    I’m Dutch and I absolutely hate these circle parties too. At my own parties I always make sure there are not enough chairs for everybody. That works remarkably well.

  33. Jules says:

    I’m glad that my boyfriend missed out on that part of the Dutch genome…he has booze at his circle parties. Granted, he makes you wait until 4 pm to start, but at least that’s better than nothing.

  34. iver says:

    ja, I was lured by the Telegraph article… I haven´t been to a Nederlands circle party. However, Norwegians have a afternoon coffee and dessert party and everyone sits and talks and talks. There is a common phrase sitte og prate (sit and converse – meaning a long time). Is it not true that you can´t leave the circle during the party? Mostly because the chairs won´t unlock? with the host smiling and filling your cup and plate? Circle or dessert parties can get old and boring with some of the same relatives or friends, but drunken nonsense with music too loud to discuss anything is so much better? ja, onkel Max or `sweet 16´ niece Camilla doesn´t want you to know how old they are or the attention but to forget their birthday would make them …invisible. :( You know, I am speaking in a light-hearted manner but I am also kind to Oma/mormor who did these parties long before electricity or printed materials, I think.

  35. Invader Stu says:

    Ferry – Thank goodness things are starting to change. Future generations of expats will breath a sigh of relief.

    Aledys Ver – Hehe. Thanks for telling me about that great reaction :)

    Michiel – As long as it does not become a Dutch standing circle party :p

    Jules – Yes, you need booze so that you don’t end up drinking tea.

    iver – Oh I try to leave belive me but my English politeness keeps me trapped there.

  36. Minisaurus » Blog Archive » Gefeliciteerd! says:

    […] We booked a holiday in Amsterdam in October (23 days from now) to get a good feel for the city—as well as visit my wife’s sister in Durham, a mere ferry trip away. And, over this past weekend, we both did the first lesson of Rosetta Stone’s Dutch and spent Sunday reading expat blogs while having a good lol over the “circle party“. […]

  37. Monique says:

    Have you ever been at a Dutch funeral? That’s even worse. If the deceased is a close member of your family you have to line up at the reception while everyone filters past, kisses you one by one and says ‘gecondoleerd’. You can be there for a very long time, kissing uncle so and so you haven’t seen for a hundred years! Very painful!
    The tea and the hapjes are much the same!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. Dick Bruinsma says:

    As a dutchman I don’t think it is that bad. Of course, when the people in the circle are boring, then the circle can be pretty annoying. (I can say that from my own experience and maybe I am boring, too ;-) But if you learn to speak Dutch and don’t wait for others to start talking to you and begin a conversation yourself, you might enjoy it a little bit more. You can even use English if you’re uncertain about your Dutch, since most Dutch people speak English. I don’t promise you will have the time of your life, but at least the time may pass a little bit faster :-)

  39. Niels says:

    I am also Dutch and have a good tip. I have found that suggesting (early) to start drinking something stronger than coffee is often very well received, especially by the male members in the circle. The party will end when your wife/girlfriend comes to get you from the kitchen and insists that you go home. And offers to pay the host for the ruined carpet where you dropped your cigarettes.

  40. Emma says:

    I’m Dutch and I tend to go to my happy place/watch spiders etc ALL the time at these parties. Luckily, my family does not AT ALL like these parties, but they appear to be the height of fun within my boyfriend’s family, especially with the elder members…
    I’ve tried refusing to congratulate everyone (just saying hi when you come, after congratulating the birthday boy/girl seems fine to me), but they won’t take no for an answer… Does anyone have any advice for this? I used to live in France, such a civilised country in this respect…

  41. wordgeyser says:

    I’ve heard about them, heard the horror stories and managed to avoid one so far. Gotta love the Dutch!

  42. Mirthe says:

    Lol this is so brilliant :D It’s exactly how we celebrate all the birthday stuff, but I’m used to it.. Didn’t know it’s so awkward to non-Dutchies

  43. Hippy Jesus says:

    Dutch guy here, this is indeed how at the very least most birthday parties are. However, there are plenty of these WITH alcohol (usually only beer and wine though) However, they are indeed a horrible bore and I don’t really celebrate my birthday because of this shit.

  44. Gurumaguaffi says:

    Funny article

    In South Africa we do pretty much the same, except replace the tea with beer, and the table full of cheese snacks with a bbq.

  45. Koen Havik says:

    Great post! And very true! I never realised that a “Circle Party” was that… euh lets say “special”… Now that I have read this post I realise that all the birthday parties I go to are exactly like this. And I now feel a little bit sorry for my wife who is Chinees and dragged to all the parties the last few years. And is about to give one herself…

    Anyway I’m still laughing about your story! :-)

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  48. Aaron says:

    “It’s best to avoid getting these two conversations mixed up, Dora the Explore was never part of the Dutch resistance”

    One of the funniest things I’ve ever read on the net =D

  49. Sjoerd says:

    Other traditions:
    Don’t forget that the “jarige” (birthday boy or girl) has to present everybody a piece of cake and a drink of choice, i.e. he/she is busy all afternoon. So you speak your host only when entering and leaving the party. A kind of willfull slavery.
    I always seem to be seated between a silent elderly man, and some gossiping female neighbours, so I’m ignored from two sides.
    But never try to change seates! NEVER! Once you are seated you are stuck. It’s not allowed to take another empty chair, because that’s the the chair where aunt Geertruida sat, she has just left 45 minutes ago to cut some cheese and will just return from the kitchen, at least an hour later. The cirkle will shoo you from the chair. So every seat is invisibly reserved, since there is allways a shortage of chairs, allthough extra plastic garden chairs were provided by at least two neigbours.
    Happily there is a cure nowadays:
    Start smoking if you don’t smoke, and go for a fag on the balkony, or in the kitchen.
    The best party is allways in the kitchen.

  50. Sjoerd says:

    Story from my boyfriend family from Leiden:
    The party ends when the “oprot soep” (= F*ck off soup) is served.
    Everybody knows the soup is the last call, so drink your soup and go.

  51. Fluffylove says:

    Dutch circle party, brilliant! If only the weather would be good enough in Holland to have lots of bbq’s and garden parties we would soon be evicted from our house for invading the sound privacy of our neighbours…

  52. Invading Holland » The Dutch Circle Party Guide | InsegoTips says:

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  54. Mark says:

    In our family we refer to these get-togethers as “the Dutch Circle of Death”. We avoid them like the plague after having suffered a few. Early on in my relocation my mother was visiting from the UK and so had to join us for a birthday “celebration”. She must have known more about the hell we were about to enter as she had brought her book to read. She spent the whole time wedge between 2 aunts reading her book and not a word said or an eyelid batted.

  55. Sarah says:

    I LOATHE these things. Fortunately, my sister-in-law’s in-laws (my niece and nephew’s other grandparents) are still under the impression that, after 7 years here, I’m still unable to speak Dutch and they ignore me completely. The grandmother sounds like a Python in drag and I haven’t been able to speak to her with a straight face since I figured that out a few years back anyway… I suffer through an hour or so and focus on the cake and talking to the parts of the family who have caught on to my Dutch abilities.

    Also, I’ve still not gotten used to being congratulated for my husband’s birthday, and “yep. I haven’t managed to kill him yet” has slipped out of my mouth a time or two.

    I’m doomed.

  56. About space and cake – Three cultural highlights of the Netherlands - Lexiophiles says:

    […] form an essential part of the Dutch ‘circle party’, a generic celebratory event. It usually involves both friends and family of all ages and everyone […]

  57. Geraldine says:

    Superb article! I love it! I’ve been in this situation so many times… Also what Aledys and Sjoerd had to say is sooo true!… If you are coming from Argentina you won’t miss the person who asks “are you talking portuguese (or latin) down there?” – which my husband always take my arm as soon as he hears this question, before I kill the person who asked – and definitely, the party will end with soup! why? LOL!

    The most interesting part is that as soon as you arrive they offer coffee and/or tea with a portion of the cake – already cut – and you wonder when they are going to sing the Happy Birthday and/or blow out the candles!? :))) and forget of asking for a second portion of the cake (if you really liked it)… probably they bought “just” enough considering 1 portion x head.

    Agree with a comment that always try to escape to the kitchen.. there is where you will probably enjoy it the most!

    Congrats for the blog and I hope you will win the competition.

  58. Dutchflavour says:

    [But do not worry. Most Dutch circle parties have a set end time at a very respectable hour which the host or hostess will politely remind you of by starting to clean up around you.]

    hahaha so true!! my mother does that always!

  59. I am Dutch, married to an American, and I cannot count the number of circle parties I have sat through in . . . America, in the house of my in-laws, in a small rural community. Every aunt, uncle, cousin, neighbor and dog would show up. For hours and hours I’d have to listen to all the news from the neighborhood and everyone’s life, and I actually understood it all. I would go hide out in a bedroom for a while and read, but invariably my dh would come looking for me ;)

    Of course I’ve had plenty of Dutch circle parties, as I grew up in Holland, and my husband had to suffer through some of them as well, without understanding much. So it goes!

  60. johanna says:

    Just found your blog thanks to the well-deserved Bloggies win.

    I am a Dutch born Australian who has lived here for – ahem – many, many decades. Two weeks ago I went to a “circle party” for my father’s 86th birthday, in the suburbs of Sydney.

    Because it is an important birthday, it started at 11am and finished at about 4pm. It was exactly as you have described, although at least people spoke a lot of English (my Dutch is sparse).

    There were a couple of young Dutch backpackers there (were staying with one of the guests), and they looked absolutely haunted, poor things. On the pretence of showing them the garden I took them out of sight and slipped them a cigarette and a beer. One of them remarked that it seems that there is nowhere far away enough to escape these sorts of gatherings.

    The only slight variation worth mentioning is that several of the mainly ancient guests brought along various electronic devices loaded with a few thousand of their favourite family and travel photos. Ah well, at least the food was plentiful and lekker.

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  62. Alice Anna says:

    The British alternative to the Dutch circle party of course is everyone going to the pub and getting pissed in the absolutely minimum amount of time possible, making lots of noise, crashing at a weird hour in place unknown and waking up without any clue what has happened. Party!!!!

  63. Sailqueen says:

    Having lived in Holland for 13 years (no longer, now watching people get drunk at parties no matter the hour in Australia) I am well acquainted with circle parties, the evening ones were better as the cake and coffee requirement were out of the way quite promptly to be followed by snacks and drinks to ease the night. What has not been mentioned is after the deliciously awkward moment of congratulating everyone on the hosts birthday you are offered a choice of taart and coffee. In the kitchen a large slab of your choice is put on a plate and the requisite coffee (strong enough to put hair on your chest) is brought to you in the circle and you then have this interesting juggling act of holding onto both the coffee and the cake plate while trying to accept the congratulations of the next entrant into the room (usually 3 kisses and/or a handshake) I found myself balancing my cake on my lap, while I quickly downed the coffee as there is absolutely nowhere to put either, the coffee table is miles away and there are no side tables in sight either. I would just pick up the fork to have a piece of cake when someone else would enter the arena and I’d once more be clutching the plate and coffee and trying to rise to greet them. I still have nightmares about those events. I never suffered the language humiliation as I learned to speak fluent Dutch within months of living there. We didn’t choose a big city to live in, no we chose a southern rural village – acclimatise or die!!

    • Roel says:

      I am native Dutch and I was forced to go to these “circle parties” practically since I was born. I have a large family so I practically had to go to one every two weeks, plus the ones from people my parents knew. The parties could sometimes last from 2 o’clock in the afternoon until nine/ten at night.

      When I became a teenager I rebelled against this (as teenagers do) and got into a fight with a few of my family members because they felt I was neglecting them by not going to these parties. It was a real guilt trip and it made me feel awful for not going to the parties. So I started going again, against my will, forced to sit with people.

      Nowadays I only celebrate my birthday with my direct family and never go to these parties anymore. You feel “different” and weird sometimes but I am much happier.

    • Roel says:

      I am native Dutch and I was forced to go to these “circle parties” practically since I was born. I have a large family so I practically had to go to one every two weeks, plus the ones from people my parents knew. The parties could sometimes last from 2 o’clock in the afternoon until nine/ten at night.

      When I became a teenager I rebelled against this (as teenagers do) and got into a fight with a few of my family members because they felt I was neglecting them by not going to these parties. It was a real guilt trip and it made me feel awful for not going to the parties. So I started going again, against my will, forced to sit with people.

      Nowadays I only celebrate my birthday with my direct family and never go to these parties anymore. You feel “different” and weird sometimes but I am much happier.

  64. Test Blog » Circle Party Closed Loop Theory says:

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    […] as well as the person whose birthday it is. And for the birthday party, everyone sits in a giant circle for tea and […]

  66. Jeobox – 19 Bizarre National Customs From Around The World says:

    […] as well as the person whose birthday it is. And for the birthday party, everyone sits in a giant circle for tea and […]

  67. Blogging about dutch culture | Get in Touch says:

    […] hilarious blog includes nice stories and funny cartoons.  Before attending your first dutch birthday party be sure to read their post about […]

  68. 19 Bizarre National Customs From Around The World | Freshookups says:

    […] as well as the person whose birthday it is. And for the birthday party, everyone sits in a giant circle for tea and […]

  69. JDvanZeijl says:

    Lol, I am native dutch and I hate these ‘parties’ :))

  70. Great blog! Thank you! SO hilarious, SO recognisable…
    Just to add my tuppence worth:
    – Horror (1): The word itself “Ge-fe-li-ci-teerd”. What kind of twisted-logic-in-the-universe invented such an utterance??
    Horror (2): Exposure of my ‘who’s who’ ignorance, when going round the circle shaking hands and desperately trying to work out the connection of that hand with the birthday boy/girl. E.g. (literal translation) “Congratulations on the birthday of the cousin of your neighbour’s mother-in-law!”

  71. Darcy says:

    I am Dutch and I simply refuse to congratulate everyone in the circle – it’s simply too ridiculous. In my experience there are usually two camps at these parties – people who accept the circle and people who do not. The latter group will just wave at the circle, say hello loudly (if they’re bold enough) or simply move into the room quietly, only saying happy birthday to the person whose actual bloody birthday it is.

  72. […] – I love how Stu from the “Invading Holland” blog has come up with a “Dutch Circle Party Guide“.  But again it hits home that even celebrating your own birthday here means YOU have to buy […]

  73. […] and then afterwards a meal of some sort. During the tea and cake part, usually you will go around a circle, and serve your guests. There is no “help yourself” at the table. You, as mentioned above, are […]

  74. Roel says:

    I am native Dutch and I was forced to go to these “circle parties” practically since I was born. I have a large family so I practically had to go to one every two weeks, plus the ones from people my parents knew. The parties could sometimes last from 2 o’clock in the afternoon until nine/ten at night.

    When I became a teenager I rebelled against this (as teenagers do) and got into a fight with a few of my family members because they felt I was neglecting them by not going to these parties. It was a real guilt trip and it made me feel awful for not going to the parties. So I started going again, against my will, forced to sit with people.

    Nowadays I only celebrate my birthday with my direct family and never go to these parties anymore. You feel “different” and weird sometimes but I am much happier.

    • Angela says:

      I felt exactly the same, but stopped going to such predictable parties as soon I left my parents. Nobody could force me to join birthday, Easter, X-mas or whatever. When reading this, I’m still happy I made the decision not to go (to waist my time/life). I remember the conversations at such parties about cancer and other illnesses (!), and supposedly funny jokes …..:( And when they asked why I wasn’t at the party I answered that I don’t like that kind of parties, I never wanted to lie. (of course some people find you selfish or stingy, because they think that you don’t want to spend money for a present/ which is a must!)

  75. JK says:

    I found out that the dutch are actually educated to keep the tradition of the circle party. Learning to sit in a circle is part of every Dutch child’s developmental milestones, it seems.

    My Dutch sister-in-law was convincing me to sign my 1.5 yr old child up for the waiting list for the “peuterspeelzaal” (translated: toddler play school). When asked what the benefits of going sending him to the play school are, she replied “De kinderen leren in een KRING te zitten, Dan kunnen ze dat al in groep 1 doen.”

    I was completely horrified by the thought of my own child hosting his own circle party in the future.

  76. sten says:

    Spot on hahaha!

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