How to be Dutch

Here’s something I wrote about five years ago, but it still applies!

How to Be Dutch

There’s been a lot of talk in Holland lately about immigrants and about how and how much we should adapt ourselves into the Dutch culture. Clearly we need to learn Dutch, no question about that. But there’s more to the Dutch culture than the language. What I’d like to present tonight are a few tips to help you adapt: How to be Dutch.

photo by Anne Hellersmith
photo by Anne Hellersmith

1. Ride bicycles everywhere, no matter how cold, icy or rainy it is. Carry things in one hand while you steer with the other. Balance a crate of beer on the back with one hand while you steer with the other. Or carry two children and four bags of groceries. Never make your kids wear helmets or use the seatbelts on the bicycle seat. If there’s no bicycle seat, just have the kid sit on the rack in back of you and hang on. Smoke while you bicycle. Talk on your mobile phone while you bicycle. Carry an umbrella while you bicycle. Never use your lights, no matter how dark it is. Remember, as long as you are on a bicycle, no traffic laws apply to you.

2.  If you drive, tailgate.IMG_0760

3.  If you walk, never look left or right before stepping off the sidewalk.

4.  Bring sandwiches with you. Everywhere. If it’s breakfast or lunch-time, whatever you eat must be in the form of a sandwich. If it’s not in sandwich form, make a sandwich of it. Never eat peanut butter and jam together.

5.  Be completely confident as to the superiority of the Dutch political and social system, while regularly complaining about governmental over-regulation and interference.

6.  Insist that Zwarte Piet isn’t a racist image. Of course it isn’t racist for white people to dress up in blackface and act like clowns. It’s tradition!

7.  Never wear a hat no matter how cold it gets.

8.  Smoke.

9.  If you’re invited to someone’s house, make sure to comment on how gezellig it is.

10.  When visitors leave your house, stand outside and wave good-bye to them. They may take a long time to get into their car and get going and it may be bitterly cold, but you should still stand outside and wave until they are completely out of sight.

11. Leave your curtains open, even at night, so that everyone passing by can have a good look at how perfectly tidy your house is.

12. Use an incredibly small spoon to stir your tea. Be very careful not to burn your fingers. Never put milk in your tea.

13. Eat your French fries with mayonnaise, never ketchup.

14. If you ever go to any international sporting event of any kind, wear an orange wig and orange clothes.

15. Eat raw herring.

16. When asked if you speak English, reply “Of course!”

17. Discuss the weather. A lot. Say things like “Hopefully we will have a cold winter this year so we will be able to skate on the canals.”

And lastly:

18. Overleggen: There is no good English translation of this word, but before you make any decision, make sure to discuss the matter thoroughly and at great length with your colleagues or family.



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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments!  Read more…
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How to be Georgian:
1. Have your children apply to the University of Georgia and walk around saying, “How ‘bout them dawgs,” “Let the big dawg eat,” and “Who let the dawgs out?” Put a concrete red and black bulldog in your front yard. Why not two?
2. When the weather report calls for freezing rain (or snow, as we might get 1 day per yr), haul as fast as you can drive to the nearest grocery store and buy at least 3 gallons of milk and 2 loaves of white bread.
3. When people leave your house, stand in the front yard and wave goodbye until they are out of site. Then talk about them.
4. Sugar in tea and coffee is not an option.
5. Two-wheel riding is primarily reserved for the 10 and under crowd. (Except for my son, who at 14 rides to school every day and everyone things it is quite a novel idea.)
By the way, my daughter just got accepted to the Georgia Institute of Technology—engineering school-top 5 in the nation!!!! Beauty AND Brains, what can I say? Definitely not a UGA fan!


How about?:
Always enjoy your celebrations with friends and family the same way: start with coffee with huge cream cakes. Wait twenty minutes. Be offered another cup of coffee – NEVER ask for a third cup; the world will end. Wait twenty minutes. Be offered a beer or some wine out of a dripping wet glass. This is followed by piling the table with nuts, crisps, cheese and enough other snacks to be able to feed a small village. Wait twenty minutes. Be offered a second drink. Wait twenty minutes. The table will be replenished with another village’s food supply. Whatever happens always comment about how gezellig it all is. Last of all; don’t fotget that whatever the topic a Dutchman will always have an opinion.

Lots of luck with your blog


PS The gentle art of negotiation would be a reasoble translation of overleggen.

Don’t forget the sitting in a circle thing at Dutch gatherings – no matter how small the living room, all the chairs that can be found within the house are put into a circle around the coffee table. find a chair and whatever you do, do not vacate it or it will be gone….sit in the same circle for hours and hours…converse, mention gezelligheid, smile and nod politely when Dutch people go on at length about how terrible Americans and America are (say “why do you think I left and moved here?” – this gratifies them and shuts them up)…but if you really wanna stir things up, do what Rachel and I did, and hide the extra chairs!! Wait for the reactions when ther is no place to sit and they must stand and mingle!! I’ve actually had neighbours go home and bring their own dining room chairs….gotta love it!!

‘They’ (I am one of them, oops) always have their opinion about Ireland as well. My boyfriend is Irish. He loves to hear stories about how backwards his country is, how better it is to live in Holland… But don’t talk about the colony time, or Zwarte Piet.