8 Customs Only The Dutch Will Understand

In the Netherlands, large, child carrying bicycles called Bakfiets are exceptionally common
In the Netherlands, large, child carrying bicycles called Bakfiets are exceptionally common | © Todd Fahrner / flickr
Tom Coggins

As with all nationalities, the Dutch are not without their idiosyncrasies, and observe certain customs that may throw foreigners slightly off balance. To help travellers acclimatise to the Dutch way of life, the Culture Trip has rounded up the following list of peculiar customs that seem completely normal inside the Netherlands.

Using Diseases as Curse Words

Whereas English speakers usually rely on bodily waste and sexual organs to insult one another, the Dutch have instead developed a whole lexicon of swear words that refer to life threatening illness such as typhus, cholera and cancer. Among the many disturbing insults in the Netherlands, common curses include pestpokke-tering (plague boils-tuberculosis), krijg de klere (catch cholera) and the particularly nasty tyfushond (typhus dog).

Drinking Tiny Beers

Despite the myths surrounding Dutch beer consumption, it is exceptionally rare to see Heineken or any other lager served by the pint in the Netherlands. In reality, Dutch people prefer to drink beer out of tiny, thimble sized glasses called fluitjes or slightly larger vessels known as vaasjes. According to anecdotal evidence, beer remains fresher for longer when poured into minuscule glasses, meaning that this custom is likely based upon practicality more than anything else.

Stacking Multiple Children on a Bike

While cycling is usually seen as a leisure activity outside the Netherlands, it is the primary mode of transport for around 10 million Dutch people. In fact, cycling is so deeply ingrained into Dutch culture that it is not unusual to see parents carrying several young children on a single bicycle whilst completing their daily routine.

Handing Fireworks to Children on New Years Eve

On New Years Eve Dutch streets are engulfed by fireworks. Although many of these rockets are ignited by grown-ups, a considerable amount parents believe that their children are more than ready to handle high-grade explosives and allow their infants to bombard passing cyclists or pedestrians with impromptu pyrotechnic displays.

Giving Birth at Home

Instead of heading to the hospital after their waters break, Dutch mothers-to-be usually prefer to remain at home during labour and will only opt for clinical assistance in emergencies. Although this custom is probably quite shocking to foreigners, it is actually very common in the Netherlands and most home childbirths proceed relatively smoothly.

Putting Peanut Sauce on Fries

Although the fact that Dutch people prefer mayonnaise over ketchup on their fries is well documented, there are considerably more peculiar potato toppings on offer in the Netherlands. Fries and satay peanut sauce, for example, is among the most popular dishes available at snack bars throughout the country, as well as patatje oorlog, which adds mayonnaise to this unusual mash-up.

Fries and saté sauce a.k.a. Patat oorlog met kroket

Pointing Out That There is Crap on Someone’s Face

Whereas most other Europeans will try their hardest to ignore crap on other people’s faces, Dutch people tend to be quite vocal when it comes to stray matter and believe that it is considerate to point out noticeable facial blemishes such as snot, dirt or food.

Congratulating Everyone At Birthday Parties

At Dutch birthday parties courtesy dictates that guests should congratulate everyone they meet individually, which means that a considerable amount of time is spent greeting friends, relatives and acquaintances before it is possible to finally acknowledge the birthday boy or girl. This custom often extends beyond gatherings, as family members commonly expect a barrage of congratulatory text messages during a loved one’s birthday.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


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