Can you tell me the most important things about Dutch etiquette?
- Dutch manners are frank which can be described as a no-nonsense attitude, informality combined with adherence to basic etiquette. This might be perceived as impersonal by some other cultures but is the norm of the Dutch culture. As always, manners differ between groups. Asking about basic rules will not be considered impolite
- Shake hands with everyone present – men, women, and children – at business and social meetings. Shake hands again when leaving. Introduce yourself if no one is present to introduce you. The Dutch consider it rude when you do not identify yourself
- The Dutch value privacy and seldom speak to strangers. It is more likely that they will wait for you to make the first move. Do not be afraid to do so
- The Dutch expect eye contact while speaking with someone
- Food does not play a major role in hospitality as it does in many other cultures. It is not considered essential for making someone feel welcome Do not expect to be served a meal unless the invitation specifically mentions a meal
- Men should wait until all women are seated before they sit. Allow the hostess to start eating and drinking before you eat
- The Dutch prefer fashions that are casual, unpretentious, conservative and subdued. A traditional suit and tie are required only in certain circles of business and government
- When invited to someone’s home, bring a small gift for the hostess. Bring children a small gift or candy. Sending flowers before or after the party is also appropriate
Are there any Dutch traditions I should know about?
The most important Dutch traditions are:
- Carnaval (carnival) is most celebrated in the Catholic regions, mainly in the southern provinces such as North Brabant and Limburg. The Dutch Carnival is officially celebrated on the Sunday through Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday
- Elfstedentocht or Eleven cities tour (200-kilometer skating tour on real, natural ice along the 11 cities and villages in Friesland, a province in the northern part of the Netherlands). The last one was held on 1997 but Dutch people still hope that the canals will froze again in winter to hold this tour.
- Koningsdag (King’s Day) is officially celebrated on 27 April (the king’s birthday), unless it falls on a Sunday. On King’s Day there are celebrations throughout the Netherlands
- Dodenherdenking (Remembrance of the Dead) on 4 May. It commemorates all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II
- Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) on 5 December. In the days leading up to 5 December (starting when Saint Nicholas arrives by steamboat in late November, all the way from Madrid), young children put their shoes in front of the chimneys and sing Sinterklaas songs. On the evening of 5 December, Sinterklaas brings presents to every child who has behaved well in the past year (in practice, just as with Santa Claus, all children receive gifts without distinction)
- Beschuit met muisjes (rusk with candy coated aniseed) is a widespread tradition when people come to visit a new-born baby and its mother. Beschuit is a typical Dutch biscuit, muisjes are sugared anise seeds. For a boy the muisjes are blue and white in colour, while for a girl they are pink and white.
Some of these traditions are also public holidays in the Netherlands.
What are the public holidays in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands has only a few official public or bank holidays. Most of them take place between April and May. Here you have an overview:
- 1 January: New Year’s Day
- March/April: Easter
- 27 April: King’s Day
- 5 May: Liberation Day (it is a national holiday only every five years)
- 40 days after Easter: Ascension Day
- 7 weeks after Easter: Pentecost
- 5 December: Saint Nicolas’ Eve
- 25-26 December: Christmas
I would like to keep up to date with events which are coming up. Where do I sign up?
The links provided below are mainly international parties, which are hosted around the Netherlands. You can sign up on the website, and they will keep you updated with upcoming events:
Most municipalities also offer event listings on their website in English:
- Amsterdam: iamsterdam.com
- Delft: Delft.nl/delften
- Groningen: Gemeente.groningen.nl/english
- Holland Expat Center South: Hollandexpatcenter.com
- Leiden: Portal.leiden.nl/en/homepage
- Maastricht: maastrichtportal.nl/en/
- Rotterdam: rotterdam.nl/home_english
- The Hague: TheHague.com
- Utrecht: Utrecht.nl/english
Exploring dolmens in the Netherlands
You have probably heard about Stonehenge in England and the menhirs in France. But did you know, that here in the Netherlands, we have something older called the dolmens, and there are fifty-three of them?
The stones of these dolmens were left behind after the penultimate ice age and weigh up to 40 tons each.
Dolmens are mainly in the province of Drenthe (North-East Netherlands) while one is in the adjacent province of Groningen. In Dutch these dolmens are called hunebedden. The word stems from the old Dutch word “huyne” which meant giant, as for many centuries people believed that these megaliths were built by giants.
Thanks to modern archaeology, we now know that hunebedden are graves and were built in the new Stone Age.
Origin of hunebedden
About 5000 years ago, between 3400- B.C -2850 B.C., farmers in the North-East of the Netherlands lived in small communities in extended forests in wooden houses. They grew wheat and had cattle. In a central place in the area, they built common graves, now known as hunebedden. In the graves, earthenware has been found in the shape of a funnel. Therefore, archaeologists say that these people belong to the Funnel Beaker Culture.
Restoration of hunebedden
For many centuries, people used the stones from the hunebedden for all kind of purposes, such as building churches, protecting dikes or marking the borders of a property. In the 18th century the local government realised the error of this and that the hunnebedden should be protected and conserved for the future. From the end of the 19th century, the national government and the province of Drenthe ,own all the hunebedden. In 1918 is appears that the condition of the hunebedden are very bad and the government assigns a special person to supervise the protection and conservation of them. Since then, a lot of research has been done and many of the hunebedden have been restored in such a way that it is clear which parts are older and which parts have been restored.A hunebed near the village Schoonoord: before and after restoration
Building process of the hunebedden
Although it is not scientifically established, it is likely that the building process of a hunebed was as follows:
- Collecting megalith stones which were placed on wooden rollers or sleighs by means of levers , using manpower and oxen.
- Building an earthen dam. Two rows of standing side stones were placed in pits against the dam, secured by cobbles and sand. Both ends were closed by stones at their respective ends.
- Building a hill of sand -The capstones, with the flat side downwards, were dragged to the top of the hill and placed on top of the sidestones. After completion the skeleton of the burial chamber was ready and the sand within could be removed.
- The openings between the stones were filled with smaller boulders and the dry masonry of flattened stones.
- On the south side an entrance was constructed by 2 or 4 passage sidestones and a passage-capstone.The floor of the chamber was paved with small pebbles and grit.
- The completed chamber was covered by a barrow consisting of sods, sand and cobbles, leaving only the top of the capstones visible. Sometimes the foot of the barrow was strengthened by a oval wreath of smaller boulders.
Nowadays the remaining hunebedden are only the skeletons of the original ones as the cover layer has disappeared.
Visiting the hunebedden
When you visit the hunebedden, the past will come alive. Travelling to Drenthe by car takes 2-3 hours from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague area. Therefore it is best to go there for 2 or more days. It is also really interesing to visit the Hunebedcentrum too (www.hunebedcentrum.eu/en) where you will find several exhibitions, a Stone Age house and a prehistoric garden.
The Hondsrug Geopark (www.geoparkdehondsrug.nl/en/p/expedities) takes you to the places where prehistory comes alive in the present day. You will see the best-preserved hunebedden and other remainings from the prehistory.