Home Moving to the Netherlands Integration Bitterballenbruid: 15 things I never did until I lived in the Netherlands
Last update on February 13, 2020

After diving head-first into Dutch culture, expat Hayley recounts the Dutch cultural traits she has adopted since moving to the Netherlands.

1. Call people ‘unsavoury things’ (to their face).

Ja, hoor!” “Nee, hoor!” “Momentje, hoor!” It still makes me chuckle every time.

2. Arrive at a party at 2pm and left at 6pm.

It’s not strange at all to set a time when everyone has to leave your birthday party. (Could it have something to do with the fact that it’s the birthday boy or girl’s job to buy all of the food and drinks for the occasion?)

If you work in an office, you’ll also need to buy cake for the whole workforce.

3. Electrical work.

Most rented Dutch houses/apartments come without light fittings… so you call an electrician, right? Wrong. You save money and risk your life by doing it yourself.

4. Look into other people’s houses.

Curtains are a rarity here, let alone net curtains. Even if there are window coverings, the Dutch are still inclined to open their windows and curtains to the whole world. Nose away!

5. Cycle, everywhere!

Just do it. You can hardly say no with the Dutch variety of bicycles and excellent cycling facilities – not least the cargo bike (bakfiets), where everything from grocercies to children get transported in the front cargo tray.

6. Accept that ice cream topping is a breakfast food.

Hagelslag (chocolate or sugar sprinkles) on bread, normally with lashings of butter, is a healthy start to any day, right? I think I’ll stick to my marmite, thanks!

7. Ate Frikandel.

Never again. Frikandel could be considered the Dutch and Belgian version of a hot dog. It’s a skinless deep-fried sausage, made of chicken, pork and beef.

8. Eat hot food from a vending machine.

The Dutch love all things deep-fried and hate queuing. A chain of fast food restaurants called FEBO solved these two problems in one, with their vending machine walls. More about Dutch deep-fried snacks.

9. Understand the difference between Holland and the Netherlands (but still say Holland).

Hup Holland Hup. Holland actually refers to regions on the west coast of the Netherlands (North and South Holland), while the official name of the country is the Netherlands. But back in the 17th century when these regions were the maritime and economic power provinces, the country became widely known as ‘Holland’ as  most of the sailors and ships were coming from here.

10. Call Boxing Day ‘second Christmas Day’ and Easter Monday ‘second Easter Day’.

Why create more words when you can just add a ‘two’ on the end (Tweede Kerstdag and Tweede Paasdag)? One would argue that the Dutch language is super efficient in general, for example, the word for animals is dieren, and pets are huisdieren (house animals).

11. The lekker hand sign.

Pretty much anything can be lekker (delicious, tasty, yummy) but there’s also a funny Dutch hand sign to accompany it: you raise your hand to ear level with your palm open to your face and wave it back and forward a couple of times, while saying the word lekkerrrrrrrrrrr (roll that r!!). So whenever you eat something delicious, do this.

12. Own orange clothing.

Whether it’s King’s Day, football matches, or other sporting events, it’s a must to dress head-to-toe in orange. The sillier the better.

13. ‘Swear’ without getting a bar of soap down my throat.

Here you can say ‘je kunt’ (you can), ‘Kunt u?”‘ (can you? [formal)], and my personal favourite ‘kies mijn kant’ (choose my side) without so much as a bat of the eyelid.

14. Hear swearing on the radio at 9am.

Swearing just doesn’t have the same power here, and even the strongest swearwords are unlikely to cause any offence. Similarly, songs with swearing aren’t ‘bleeped’ out like in the UK: There’s no Cee Lo Green Forget You, instead you get the original version. Same goes for Lily Allen.

Really want to insult a Dutch person? Tell them they have cancer horrible but that’s Dutch profanity for you.

15. Have a calendar in my bathroom.

Weird, freaky or just super-sensible? At least, it’s the one place in the house where you have time to sit and do nothing but see whose birthday is coming up. I can go on about bathroom calendars.

What have I missed? Anything else you’ve noticed about the Netherlands you would add to this list?

Reprinted with permission from Bitterballenbruid.

Hayley (aka Bitterballenbruid) is 32 and lives in Hilversum, the Netherlands, with her Dutch husband and their cat called Paris (no, she didn’t name her – long story). Her blog Bitterballenbruid is about living in het Gooi, eating too many bitterballen, getting married in Holland, learning how to be Dutch, and dealing with the language. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her Instagram.