The Hague University

Customs and traditions

One of the first things many people are stuck by, when they arrive here for the first time, is the cosmopolitan and individual attitude. People really treat each other as equals.

Dutch greetings

At the beginning and end of your first meeting with a new acquaintance, remember to shake hands. The Dutch like to present themselves by surname when they first meet. It’s common for good friends and families in Holland to say hello or goodbye with three kisses, starting with the left cheek.

Privacy is an important part of Dutch life. Dutch people tend to leave strangers to themselves, but will gladly help if approached. When we’re invited to someone’s home, we don’t actually step into the house until we’re invited to enter.

Dutch people like to use their agendas (diaries) a lot. Don’t be surprised if your new Dutch friends flick open the pages of their diaries to arrange a date, often weeks in advance.

(Body) language

When expressing opinions, you may find the Dutch avoid superlatives. We can sometimes come across as a little negative, or overly critical. Don’t be offended – our questioning nature is really a sign of interest. And our sense of humour tends to be dry.

You won’t see extreme emotional behaviour, here. We’re generally calm and controlled, and we give compliments sparingly. We don’t usually use gestures when we talk, and generally avoid touch. But we do like to look each other in the eyes, when we’re talking.

Dutch delicacies

  • Speculaas (windmill cookies) – spiced biscuits of different shapes.
  • Ontbijtkoek - a dark cake often served at breakfast.
  • Haring (herring) - raw fish with onions. The first and best catch of the season is called 'Hollandse nieuwe' (Dutch new).
  • Poffertjes - small, light pancakes traditionally served warm with butter and icing sugar.
  • Hagelslag – chocolate sprinkles, usually eaten on bread.
  • Drop (liquorice) – this comes in different forms and tastes - from salty and hard to soft and sweet.
  • Patat – (French fries) – usually served with mayonnaise (patat met mayonnaise). Feeling especially hungry? Try the Patatje Oorlog (meaning French fries war) – chips covered with mayonnaise, ketchup, saté sauce and raw onions.
  • Kroket and Frikandel - fried, meat rolls.

If you want to know more about dutch customs and etiquette click here.

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