This month I celebrate that I live in The Netherlands for three years. It’s the third country I have lived in and the third one I call home. Before NL I lived in Germany. I thought I didn’t need to integrate or learn about the culture anymore. But the past three years have totally shown me the opposite. I already blogged about 12 crazy things that Dutchies do, but today, I want to share with you twelve more habits that I haven’t seen people doing in any other place I’ve lived before. Get ready!
Dutch people love bread. For breakfast and for lunch, bread is the Dutchies favorite food. Every Saturday before doing grocery shopping, a good Dutchie makes space in the freezer to be sure that the four extra loaves of bread will fit so a happy week can begin. Dutchies know every trick on how to unfroze bread. The favorite trick is to put the bread on top of the heather or on a spot where a sun ray is shining.
2. A closet full of food
A typical Dutchie house has a special place, mostly under the stairs. Full of food! They call it a ‘voorraadkast’. Three pots of peanut butter, five bars of chocolate, twenty different kinds of cookies, chips, cans of soup, bottles of cola, beer, cleaning stuff… Dutchies are well prepared in case of… war? a surprise party?
3. Birthday calendar
The best place to remember when ‘tante Marijke’ has birthday number sixty, is in the comfort of the toilet. Dutchies love to hang birthday calendars in their bathrooms. More precisely in the guest bathroom. It’s very handy to remind yourself that you have to send a ‘verjaardagskaart’ when you are doing your business.
4. But please only one
When you get invited to have a coffee at the house of the parents of your Dutchie partner, remember to answer with the word ‘lekker’ when they ask you if you want coffee. Besides coffee, you will be offered cookies, chocolate OR cake. OR, not AND. This means you are expected to eat only this one thing you choose. If you happen to eat more than one piece, you can expect a comment like ‘Oh, but you already had one’ or ‘you must be hungry’. It makes you feel very guilty about eating two or more pieces of sweet. This rule applies to birthdays as well. There might be three different cakes. But you are allowed to choose only one piece.
5. Is water not ok?
As soon as you visit a Dutchie, you will be asked ‘Wat wil je drinken?’ (What do you want to drink?). Coffee, tea, something fresh, juice? You are not even done hanging your coat and you are already welcomed with that question. If you politely answer the question with just some tap water, your Dutchie host will surprisingly repeat that you could get a soda or a juice instead. Dutchies don’t like to offer water. I guess they don’t want you to think that they are cheap?
A well-respected Dutchie goes or has been going to ANWB’s recommended campings of the south of France and Italy in the summer. When I hear my Dutch partner talk about camping, I imagine a tent in nature, ‘The Revenant’ style. Oh, how wrong I was. Dutchies go camping deluxe. They take their whole house with them (camping version). From cutlery, pans, pots, cups, chairs, fridge, heater, veranda to air mattress plus bed. Dutchies have all they need to go camping for weeks. The campings have, all they need to survive in nature. Washing machines, restaurants, swimming pool, disco, pubs…
7. The (test) emergency alarm
Don’t be scared if you hear a frightening sound on the streets in the middle of the day. It’s not that the Hunger Games have started. It’s probably 12:00am on the first Monday of the month. The day where the emergency alarm gets tested in the whole country. Dutchies are used to it and just ignore it. I keep on fantasizing about being the chosen one to represent my district. Now for real. What happens if there is an emergency on the first Monday of the month at 12 o’clock?
If you want to show off in front of your Dutch friends or colleagues, just add the word ‘dus’ (‘so’) in all of your sentences. At the beginning or at the end, Duchies use the word ‘dus’ a lot! It can be used to communicate a wide range of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It can be everything from an angry stopword to a suggestive come on and more.
Most countries will have a few safe firework displays on New Year’s Eve. It starts at midnight and lasts around 20-30 minutes. And that’s it with the fireworks. Everyone can go back to the party. On the other hand, in The Netherlands, the fireworks are the party. Every year Dutchies spend a lot of money and go fireworks-mad. The steady stream of fireworks begins the 31st of December around noon. Climaxing with utter chaos at midnight. Grown-ups and !children! will light up the fireworks one after another until around 2:00am. I’ve never seen anything like this. I might be a party pooper, but this custom I dislike a lot. And by the way, my dog as well (he’s from Spain).
10. Dutch old houses… why?
Most of the old houses in The Netherlands are designed very weirdly. In theory, the idea is good. It’s all about hygiene. But in practice: super annoying. I am talking about having the toilet separate from the shower. Not only in a different room but on another floor! And how about the mini sink that you can’t actually use, so you end up washing your hands in the kitchen. And please! Why old houses have dangerous stairs?
Walking around the city at around June – July you will wonder two things. The first is why do Dutchies hang the Dutch flag in the middle of the summer. And the second is why is there a backpack hanging below the flag? Well, Dutchies are very proud to announce that they have a graduated kid from school. So proud the whole neighborhood should know. I think this weird tradition is actually cool! I guess this is a way of saying goodbye to school and embrace new changes.
December is the most wonderful time of the year. Dutchies makes sure of that. The celebrations start on December 5th with Sinterklaas. A holy old man that comes all the way from Spain on a steamboat to bring you presents. You set your shoe by the chimney and Sinterklaas, fills it with treats. Then the 24th there’s Christmas evening, the 25th is the first Christmas day where Santa Claus (or the Kerstman) brings more gifts. And because two days of Christmas is too less to get around to all friends and family Dutchies also celebrate the second Christmas day on the 26th. So much Christmas. I love it!
I´m going to leave the ‘haring”, the real-life doll when someone turns 50 and some more loco things for next year. For now, I can only say that even though the Dutch culture is different than mine, I have learned to like it and embrace it. Some things I find funny, others I really like and I´m learning from them.
Thanks to all the Dutchies that have embraced me and made me feel welcome in The Netherlands the past years.