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12 Things Dutch People Do

Hoi vrienden (hi friends)! I’m slowly setting up life here in the Netherlands, and as it turns out, setting up a life involves a lot more than opening a bank account and getting a European cellphone. In the few weeks that I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed some things that make Dutch people, well, just so Dutch! I suppose as I situate myself in this cozy corner of Europe I’ll need to learn all of the Dutchy habits, but for now, here’s the quick list of stuff Dutch people do:

Stuff Dutch People Do

1. Talk about the weather. Overcast with scattered showers seems to be the average weather prediction, but it doesn’t stop everyone from talking about it. I can only imagine what a hot topic the weather would be on a sunny day (I’ll keep you posted, haven’t experienced one of those in Rotterdam yet).

2. Give really great hugs. In America we give awful hugs. Cold, short, no love. But here people give really great hugs. I’m talking last-longer-than-4-seconds real hugs.

3. Eat a lot of sandwiches. Boterhammen, as they call them, most often consist of just cheese and butter.

4. Celebrate the holidays for a long time. In America, December is magical. We have ABC’s 25 Days of Christmas and then actual Christmas, so that’s great right? No! The Dutch celebrate so much Christmas! There’s Sinterklaas, which is celebrated on December 5th. You set your shoe by the chimney and Sinterklaas, a jolly old man based on Saint Nicholas, fills it with treats. Then there’s Christmas Day, where Santa Clause (or the Kerstman) brings more gifts. And for the sake of being able to get around to all friends and family, many Dutch people also celebrate “2nd Christmas” on the 26th. SO MUCH CHRISTMAS!

5. Bike everywhere. I mean, we all knew this about Dutch people, right? But try to find anyone wearing a helmet and you have your work cut out for you.

6. Eat stroopwafels. This could also be listed under “Things Sarah Does…A Lot”, because these little Dutch cookies are magical. Warm caramel-like syrup between two thin waffle cookies. I had my very first fresh-off-the-iron stroopwafel in the Markthal last week and…I think I will probably need to invest in my very own stroopwafel iron in the near future. I can open a little shop, Sarah’s Stroopwafels, what do you think?!

Stuff Dutch People Do - Stroopwafels

7. Live in condos and multiplexes. Stand-alone houses are few and far between. Most people live in big condos or in long multiplexes. Why? Well this is a small country with a lot of people! 1,259 people per square mile to be exact (compared to the United States’ 84 people per square mile).

Stuff Dutch People Do

8. Wreak firework havoc on New Year’s Eve. The steady stream of fireworks begins around noon on NYE, climaxing with utter chaos at midnight. Everyone, everywhere rings in the New Year with fireworks. I’ve never seen anything quite like it!

9. Eat sprinkles for breakfast. For having some of the best BMI’s in Europe, the Dutch sure do eat some junky food. Take for example hagelslag, literally chocolate/vanilla/fruit sprinkles for your breakfast bread or toast. Perfectly acceptable for kids and grown-ups alike! I mean…I’m definitely not complaining.

10. Kiss 3 times. When greeting close friends and family, the Dutch do a 3-air-cheek-kiss-hug of sorts. I’m starting to get the gist of this custom, but not before a few awkward encounters, of course. I mean some countries kiss twice or once or none (‘merica!). And how do you know on which side to start? And what people are on the no kiss list? For a foreigner, this whole greeting kissing thing is just a hard one.

11. Make plans. From what I’ve found, the Dutch aren’t all that about spontaneity. Hanging out with friends, dinner with family, most social outings etc. are pencilled into the agenda at least a week or so in advance. As someone who errs towards a Type A personality, I’m all about this.

12. Eat fries with mayonnaise. It’s odd, but it’s growing on me.

So it’s safe to say I’m starting to get the hang of this Netherlands thing. Stay tuned for new recipes coming shortly! The featured ingredient? Gouda of course!

Stuff Dutch People Do

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  1. Huub Ricardo says:

    I was born and raised in the Netherlands and I love it there. Been living on Curacao (was a colony of the Netherlands for many many years, we’re still part of the kingdom though). You forget the one that when they drink a cup of coffee or eat whatever, they always say LEKKER (drives my husband crazy..hahahha). Actually Sinterklaas isn’t Christmas, kind of has the same ring with it with the gift giving and stuff but has a whole another history.

    1. Sarah says:

      Yes everything is LEKKER! Forgot to add that one in there. I’m sure I’ll have enough for a 2nd list soon enough, ha! And yes, I tried diving into the history of Sinterklaas but there is just so much! Again, probably warrants a post all unto itself 🙂 So much to discover!

    2. Huub Ricardo says:

      if you ever want the same vibe but with a Caribbean twist…take a plane over to Curacao 🙂 lots of dutchie here also, so we speak dutch, english, spanish, and our main language is papiamentu. Lots of people from here also live in the Netherlands. Jandino the comidian is from here. Maybe you’ve seen him on tv there. Anyways..when i start talking about holland i won’t shut up. So enjoy it and maybe one day you’ll visit the sunny island of Curacao also 🙂

    3. Sarah says:

      I’m sure I’ll make my way there eventually. Do a lot of Dutch vacation on Curacao? It sounds like such an interesting blend of culture!

  2. Marlynn @ UrbanBlissLife says:

    Love this list! So many fascinating and fun customs. I always forget which countries do two kisses and which do three. And I must try a stroopwafel. How have I never had one of those in my life yet?! Beautiful photos. Makes me want to head out there soon!

    1. Sarah says:

      Thanks, Marlynn! Yes, if you ever make your way to this side of the world you MUST try stroopwafels 🙂

  3. Kari says:

    What a fun experience to get to learn about another culture. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Christine | Vermilion Roots says:

    I would absolutely eat fries with mayo! Once I was given vinegar for my fries at an Irish pub in Malaysia and thought it was weird but they went together so well. Looks like you are settling in wonderfully. I look forward to reading more about your new life there, and hopefully a few Dutch recipes? 😉

    1. Sarah says:

      I think Five Guys also serves them with vinegar! I thought it was too weird to try, but now I wish I had. And yes yes Dutch recipes definitely to come! The real classics, from what I’ve seen, aren’t all that vegetarian-friendly, but I’ll figure something out 🙂 Thanks so much for dropping by, Christine!

  5. Rachel Lloyd says:

    What a fun post!! I love this idea. My favorite was #4. Celebrate the holidays for a long time! I wish we did that here. Although, I will admit, people in my neighborhood still have their lights on each night!

    1. Sarah says:

      Oh I’m all for keeping the Christmas lights up for way longer than is socially appropriate! Thanks for stopping by, Rachel!

  6. Jenny says:

    Great post! I love to travel abroad and hearing about other cultures is always so much fun! Love the pictures you included, really gives you a visual.

  7. Jeff says:

    I love this. What a great insight into the Dutch life!

  8. Lucinda says:

    Hee, i live in Utrecht.
    Have you been moved to the Netherlands or are you on vacation? Just figured your insta and website out today, so I will follow you now ;D

    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Lucinda! Yes I’ve moved here! About 3 weeks ago, so still all pretty new. Thanks so much for following along 🙂

    2. Lucinda says:

      Oh wauw, nice. Why did you want to go to the Netherlands?

    3. Sarah says:

      For love! Mijn vriendje is from here. And for the adventure of it, obviously 😉

    4. Wilko says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Any more about us Hollanders? I like reading about things we take for granted but are weird in the eyes of “foreigners”.

      Have you noticed the habit of Rotterdammers to give nicknames to places, buildings, bridges? I like the “blunderput” and the ” koopgoot”.

      And no, I won’t buy ALL the stroopwafels, one is fine for me.

    5. Sarah says:

      I’ll be writing more about the Dutchies soon! I’m thinking something along the lines of “Things you should know before visiting the Netherlands”, to include very important things such as the difference between a “coffee shop” and “cafe”, and all the instances in which you could use the word “lekker”. You Hollanders are quite complex people, us foreigners need a manual!

    6. Wilko says:

      ALL the instances of lekker?! “Nou dat is lekker dan!”

      But I don’t think you will have to explain the Dutch meaning of coffeeshop. I doubt that there are any foreigners who still do not know our meaning of the word 😉

      I used to have a book (can’t find it) that you might like. “The Undutchables”

    7. Sarah says:

      I’ve heard of that book! Haven’t checked it out yet though, thanks! I’m particularly fond of 🙂

  9. Beverly Andrea says:

    Love you and this Sarah!! Holland sounds fantastic and all of the culture and customs are really heartwarming. Looking forward to some new recipes and updates for sure. Glad you got to go to Germany for Christmas with everyone that must have been very special. Be safe on those bikes!! Love ya???Beverly

    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Bev! Christmas was so nice, the whole family being together again 🙂 Haha and I’ll be safe! I wouldn’t exactly call myself a speed racer anyways 😉 Love ya and hope to see you in the not-so-distant future!

  10. Chandra Rai says:

    Hi ! Sarah,
    Namaste From Nepal,

    This is good to know about Dutch-People, Culture, Costume and Religion. I am a trek/tour Leader in Nepal, so i want and i need to know more-less about Dutchies. So this is the good way to learn about dutch people.

    Thank you !

    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Chandra! Happy to help! The Dutch love to travel so I’m sure you get many of them in your tours 😀

  11. Anne says:

    This article is from 2016, so I hope you have seen lots of stand-alone houses by now 😉

    1. Sarah says:

      Hahah, indeed I have! Though where I live they’re few and far between 😛

  12. Oscar says:

    I’ve seen often people go to sport bringing the clothes in an Albert heijn bag.

    1. Sarah says:

      Hahah, yes! Or those Action bags 😅

  13. Wilko says:

    Dutch guy again… Ehhh, what is wrong with an Albert Heijn or even an Action bag? Do you have special bags for every purpose / occasion?

    1. Sarah says:

      Nothing wrong with it! I do the same 😀 Just super Dutch I think.

  14. Desiree says:

    I saw that you lived in San Antonio! I work right near the Pearl and love it. Then I saw you live in Holland! We must have swapped places – I lived in Zwolle for years before moving here. I would love to visit Holland again in the near future. Love your recipes! <3

    1. Sarah says:

      Aw what a small world! I sure do miss SA (and the Pearl area especially!) but Rotterdam has been pretty great 😀

  15. Imeri says:

    Hi! I really enjoyed your article. Especially since I’m going to be moving to Rotterdam next year and I’m so excited/stressed. Any tips? I’m American as well haha

    1. Sarah says:

      Ah so exciting! It’s a great city/country and you’re going to love it! 😀 I’ve found that (trying to) learn Dutch makes me feel a lot more at home here. I’d take a course to get you started! Besides that just walk around the city and explore and immerse yourself in it 😀