Dutch Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • Greet people as you pass them casually around the workplace or in public. It is considered slightly standoffish to pass someone you know without at least waving and saying “Goedemorgen” (Good morning) or “Goedemiddag” (Good afternoon).
  • Be punctual when you can and always give a fair warning of your tardiness if you anticipate delays. It is considered rude to keep people waiting.
  • It is polite to cover your mouth when yawning.
  • It is rude to speak whilst chewing gum.
  • Knock before entering a room if the door is shut.
  • Standing with your hands in your pockets can be considered impolite.
  • Compliments are usually given in private directly to the person that deserves them.
  • When talking on the phone, both the caller and receiver state their names first before beginning a conversation. This is considered to be proper phone etiquette.
  • If a Dutch hears someone sneeze, they will say ‘gezondheid’, which is the equivalent of saying "Bless you".
  • Punctuality is highly valued in Dutch culture. For example, many children are given their first agenda in primary school to help them learn how to create schedules. For many, everything has fixed times, for example, a time to work, a time to eat, a time to visit friends, etc. 
  • Many Dutch consider it to be rude if one does not give prior notice or a legitimate reason for being late.

Visiting

  • Always call or text a person to arrange a visit. Unannounced visits are not common, except between close friends and family.
  • Dutch rarely invite those whom they are not closely acquainted with to visit their house. Rather, invitations to meet for coffee in a public space is more common.
  • Punctuality is important to many Dutch. Thus, ensure you arrive at the designated time.
  • When you arrive, it is customary to greet everyone present, including children.
  • It is common practice to bring a gift to a Dutch host or hostess.
  • Avoid asking your host for a tour of their home. This might be seen as an invasion of their privacy.
  • Social visits are especially important on birthdays.
  • Parties can continue very late into the night. Give yourself the flexibility to stay a few hours after dinner has finished.
  • Unless invited, avoid visiting your Dutch counterpart at 6pm as this is the time many Dutch have their dinner. They may not appreciate the interruption.

 

Eating

  • Dinner is usually the main meal of the day. It begins around 6pm.
  • It is impolite to begin eating your meal before others at the table.
  • The host will often indicate when you may begin eating.
  • As people begin to eat, some may say "Eet Smakelijk” which means “Eat well and with taste”.
  • It is polite to keep one’s hands above the table until all have finished eating.
  • It is recommended to take a small portion as your first helping, so you're able to accept a second helping.
  • The Dutch tend to avoid wasting food. Thus, many appreciate it when their guests finish everything on their plate.
  • Bills are usually split equally between couples as it can become awkward to specify who ate what. However, in groups, people usually pay for what they ordered.


Gifts

  • When visiting a host, it is appropriate to bring chocolates, flowers or a book as gifts.
  • Do not give white lilies or chrysanthemums. These are used during times of mourning.
  • Gifts are usually opened in front of the giver upon being received.
  • Gifting very expensive or lavish items can make the receiver a bit uncomfortable. 
 
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