Funny Things Dutch People Do That Aren’t Stereotypical Because They’re True

Since we’ve been living here since mid October 2011, we’ve certainly picked up on a few of the funny things that Dutch people do as a nation.

Being a big fan of stereotypes (they’re what makes the world go ’round), I present to you my carefully chosen (through keen observation) list of Dutch oddities.

Over-Using Hair Gel

Whilst I’m probably the last person who should comment on hair styles (see exhibit A), I will anyway…

Exhibit A: Classic Tom haircut. Untrimmed with a tantalising mixture of ‘no soul ginger’ and monk bowl cut. And a fake smile to boot! Trudy, what more could you possibly ask for in a man?

The Dutch lads just love OVER-USING hair gel. I mean it’s extreme (ly awesome?). I reckon some blokes will wad a half tub of it in one sitting. Curls or straight, it’s irrelevant – all hair must be brushed back with stupendous amounts of the gelatinous stuff. Apparently the Dutch invented hair gel, but I’m not finding any reliable sources to back this up in the 10 seconds of Google search I managed before deciding legitimate research is for journalists and not unheard of travel bloggers.

Hair gel is especially strong in those known as ‘Hockey’s’ – the Dutch equivalent of American Frat Boys or private school Rugby Union players in Australia. Yes, they play hockey and come from well-to-do families. Clinking glasses with those of similar social status is a must, and maintaining stiff manes of wet gelatinous hair a priority.

Who am I kidding anyway? I’m considering the look myself.


Mastering Language Minimalism with Lekker & Gezellig

If you’ve visited Holland then surely you’ve heard the words ‘lekker’ and ‘gezellig’. In fact, using a combination of these two words you can describe almost anything.

Food, weather & girls can be ‘lekker’ and anything that is cosy, atmospheric or has a great ambiance can be ‘gezellig’. The Dutch will love to tell you that ‘gezellig’ has no literal translation – it cannot be translated (it’s too awesome of a word).

So if you’re out and about in Holland, throw out a ‘lekker’ whilst munching on Kibbeling (bite sized deep fried fish pieces) or Herring with onions. You never know, it may even be ‘SUPER lekker’.

If you’re at the market, a family dinner, out at a restaurant or enjoying a house party – don’t worry, because ‘gezellig’ is always appropriate. Although if you would like to offend your host drop a ‘niet gezellig’ (not cosy) and watch the outrage begin.


Get Let Down Every Year By Elfstedentocht

Every year around February the nation stops breathing as they wait to hear whether the ice will be strong enough for ‘Elfstedentocht’. It’s really a big deal.

It may sound like a powerful elf from the Lord of the Rings but it is in fact a famous and culturally rich 200km ice skating marathon across the rivers and canals of The Netherlands.

And almost every year, the Dutch get disappointed all over again as Elfstedentocht runs about as often as your grandma does.


Chocolate Fairy Bread: You’re Never Too Old

It’s a little known fact, but in Holland it’s more than appropriate for the CEO of a huge corporate company to munch down what is essentially chocolate sprinkles on bread (with a glass of milk of course) as it is for your neighbour’s kids five year old birthday party.

The sprinkles, which come in a range of flavours from milk chocolate to dark chocolate, are known as ‘hagelslag’. Pronounced in Australian using ‘G’ as in ‘Goat’ it reads as ‘Hag-A-Slag’ which actually doesn’t sound that appetising. Australians especially have a unique skill of butchering the Dutch language.

I didn’t really like it at first, but the abundance of hagelslag is slowly bending me to its will. It’s lekker with butter on a fresh slice of brown bread, feel free to talk about shaving, cars and football whilst plastering chocolate sprinkles all over your face.


It’s Your Birthday: Prepare To Pay

Looking forward to celebrating your birthday in The Netherlands? Think again!

If you have a party at your house, it’s your job to provide all the food and alcohol for the night. You also need to run around offering everyone drinks and food on a 15 minute basis. It’s pretty much awesome for everyone except the birthday person!

Oh well, you can always tell them to BYO (Bring Your Own) alcohol… except if you try and pull those shenanigans in Holland, the problem will resolve itself as no-one will show up.

Well at least you get free cake from your work colleagues, right? Wrong! You have to bring your own cake to work and then walk around and give everyone at the office a piece (and three kisses). Dutch birthday’s ftw!

Still, you get to choose your own themed birthday cake…a slice of kick-ass, perhaps?

Of course it’s all fun and games, Trudy and I are loving our time here in The Netherlands. One day I should do a post on the funny things Australians do…the list would be endless.

Know some more funny things that the Dutch do? Drop a comment below!

(I also want to hear what our Dutch friends think of my list :D)

26 Responses to “Funny Things Dutch People Do That Aren’t Stereotypical Because They’re True”

  1. Wouter says:

    You weren’t talking about my birthday party, were you now? Haha..
    But sadly enough, yes, it’s all true.

    Kudos on the omg cat 😛

  2. Chantal says:

    You forgot “complain about the weather”! I mean, it’s not like you can change it!

    But as I’m writing this I’m looking at the gale that is once more pounding my windows despite it being the middle of July, thinking about how my jeans are still not dry from having to bike back from work through the rain with a wonky umbrella as my only protection. When will it clear up already!? When will we finally get to see some sun and sip our ice teas/rose beers/white wines on the patio of a nice bar? Om my God, why does the weather suck so badly in this country? Why do we never get a decent summer? And you bet ya that when it does get better, we’ll have such humid heat that you’re forced inside anyway!

    😉 😉 😉

    • Tom says:

      Oh man, the weather is really sucking at the moment! Worst. Summer. Ever. Still, we’re off to Italy soon so we’ll get a dose of sun.

      There is no way Rotterdam will manage more humid heat than Brisbane, that’s for sure 😀

      I finally understand the Dutch need to chat about the weather now though, it’s not even “when you have nothing else to say” but truly a topic of conversation as everyone is interested to know when the sun ‘might’ be coming out 😉

      • Wouter says:

        Wait till summer finally arrives. Then we’ll all be complaining how hot it is, how we can’t sleep thanks to the mosquitoes and that a little bit of rain would be nice for a change.

        • Tom says:

          Haha, never satisfied? It’s certainly not arriving yet though, and I could definitely do a few weeks in Asia or Spain right now!

  3. louise says:

    Fuuunny one mr Awesome…I laughed out loud…xo

  4. John says:

    Haha… that birthday one cracked me up… Sounds so strange! not much incentive for a birthday party is it?

    • Tom says:

      Except it can be very gezellig 🙂 But yeah, if you went to a party with free booze in Australia it would be like the greatest party of the year haha.

  5. Iris Reehuis says:

    na 40 jaar wonen in Nederland kan ik vertellen, goed gezien en waar….
    maar het leven in Holland is hel lekker en meestal ook gezellig….. 🙂 Groeten, Iris

  6. Vera says:

    From Germany to Holland …I completely forgot about the hagelslag! We had a pink&white one, and would eat it on rusk with butter -mmmmh, healthy. There was also a serious Vla-acquisition whenever we crossed the border. And you had to eat fries when you went to Holland, and drink chocomel… Why is everything always about food with me:(? Anyway, I didn’t know about the hair-gel, and I always wanted to know the actual translation for “gezellig” and “lekker”, and with the birthday parties it’s similar in Germany -but what I always admired about the Dutch is how they effortlessly speak AT LEAST three different languages!! Anyway, loved the post:)!

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Vera 🙂 Yeah the Dutch are amazing at languages. Dutch and English are always a given and then a lot of them understand and speak German and French as well!

      I do love the food here…bitteballen and kibbeling (deep friend snacks), great varieties of excellent cheese and then lots of good Turkish options too due to the multicultural influence. Mmmm, getting hungry just talking about it 😀

  7. Hogga says:

    Stereotypes are fun… especially when they are true haha

  8. Caitlyn says:

    Great read Tom, i will have to do one of these lists about the crazy things Swedes do…I recognise the birthday things! It’s like the opposite of home 🙂

    Miss you guys, will get in touch soon! Hope all is well in Holland!

  9. Wouter says:

    Here’s an addition! (or something for your next post)
    How about the use of te word HEHE..! 😉
    You’re probably better in explaining it than I

  10. This was a fun read! I’ve seriously got to try Chocolate Fairy Bread. I’ve been on a quest to try different breads and spreads around the world now for a while.

  11. Margyle says:

    Oh Dutch people…. I grew up surrounded by them and many of these things, even a few generations removed from the homeland, still ring true.

  12. Ayngelina says:

    SO so cute, I don’t know a lot about the Netherlands but it seems very endearing.

  13. How can you forget our 150 different flavours of drop? A candy no one likes outside of Holland. How about the “cafetaria” with all it’s fried delights like kroketten and frikandellen?

    Our national obsession with cheese. We are very direct,cheap and don’t like to talk about money. Germany is our national enemy every worldcup or Eurocup.

    I can go on for hours.

    • Tom says:

      True and true, all true! Bitterballen with a nice tangy mustard is my favourite deep fried Dutch snack. The cheese here is also superb 😉

  14. Caitlyn says:

    What about how they go out to lunch or somebody’s house and actually order milk? Or juice? Such strange people. Their houses are chockers full of potted plants, they really do hate the Germans and they – I was warned about this – switch from saying “don’t worry about learning Dutch, we all speak English” to “why haven’t you learnt Dutch yet?” as soon as you’ve been in the country for twelve months.

    • Tom says:

      Haha, so true. I like milk though, so I’m fine with it 😉

      The language thing is funny, although we are leaving in December so we can get away with “We’re leaving soon!” which is mostly met by, “Yeah, I certainly wouldn’t bother then!”. Following along with Caitlyn’s point though, if any readers of this article are planning on living in The Netherlands longer than two years – not knowing Dutch can be quite alienating at times when going to parties, at work etc (depending a little on who you’re hanging out with of course). It might be worth it to “go to the nuns” as they say, also known as an extremely intensive & immersive Dutch course!

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