As Seen In the Netherlands

Let’s talk about the Netherlands, my adopted home country that took me in while my own country tore itself apart – and now 20 years later the divided communities support each other by giving top points during Eurovision. Anyway … a topic that never tends to fail me are random typical Dutch things, so it’s time for As Seen in the Netherlands.

Having a slice of bread with a lot of butter and hagelslag (aka chocolate sprinkles) for breakfast or lunch is totally legit and not frowned upon. As you can see from the photo above there is a whole aisle assigned to it and they come in different flavours and sizes. So horray for the Netherlands for making it completely alright for adults of any age to stuff their faces with a children-style treat, and rotting your teeth on top of it too.

The birthday calender on the toilet
Long before you sat down on the toilet and let Facebook remind you of a birthday the Dutch had the birthday calender. Yes people, there are wide range of designs for birthday calenders, they are everlasting calendars and you can use it year after year until you replace it with new one because some people are not worth being on your calendar anymore.

Cheese – and not the Edam and Gouda rip off that is sold in the rest of the world – is a serious thing. It’s so serious that they sell different cheese graters for mature and young cheese. It’s a pretty major part of the Dutch dairy obsession – which includes a hell of a lot of milk. Those poor cows don’t get a break!

Bikes, bikes everywhere
Since the Netherlands is as flat as a pancake, getting around by bike isn’t that hard. Unless you are 13 and have to bike 13 kilometres to school. And back. You might also see some great bike accessories like bike bags or seats (front AND back) for kids. Rumours are that you aren’t a mom until you’ve mastered to bike with two seats and full bike bags, like some sort of modern day, two wheeled pack horse. Around train stations you might run into these kind of bicycle parking spots. They are – even for me – still fascinating.

Congratulating everyone
Dutch birthday parties require their own post (watch this space!). If you happen to get an invite to a typical old fashioned birthday celebration at someone’s house you have to congratulate everyone in the room. Yes, everyone individually. So once you enter the living room it goes from ” Congratulations for your wife’s birthday” to ” Congratulations for your neighbour’s birthday.” Then, when you’ve said that a million or so times, you can get a cookie…

Beschuit met muisjes
In the Netherlands it’s a tradition to eat beschuit met muisjes when a baby is born – literally translated it means ‘dry Dutch biscuit with mice’, but don’t worry the mice are little sugar coated aniseeds, and come in two versions colours… blue/white and pink/white. That being said – this phrase has the potential for some amusing lost in translation social faux pas!

Unwritten one cookie rule
Coming from a culture where people put everything they have on the table to a culture that opens a tin and lets you choose one dry cookie and the puts the tin away was weird. Though if I had accepted the one cookie mentality my hips might would have appreciated it more.

What wacky and wonderful things have you seen, experienced or heard about the Netherlands?

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  1. I think I need to move to Amsterdam as I have a seriously sweet tooth! On the other hand… it could be dangerous! Great post 🙂

  2. I’m kind of surprised you don’t discuss the other thing we Dutch people do on birthdays, and that’s sitting around in a circle and just chat with your (mostly awkward) neighbour for the entirety of the birthday. I saw on facebook that this is really weird. And now I’m at birthdays going like “This is weird, but is there any other way?”, I really don’t know a birthday without it and how it’s supposed to function.

    I also read somewhere that it’s weird that you’re supposed to bring your own pie to your own birthday? And we don’t really do cakes. Just pies. Or vlaaien.

    1. Oh I thought of some more! The three kisses, and also at birthdays, no one will ever take the last snack or whatever, they always leave it out of politeness, in case anyone else wants it. And when someone asks “Can I have the last ***” no one will ever say no, even though, in their hearts, they really want to say “I really wanted that last one”.

    2. dat heeft een eigen post nodig – zoals boven staat. en de laatste snack is hilarisch inderdaad :,)

  3. Hilarious! It’s so funny that I never realized how ‘typical Dutch’ these things were until I moved to another country.

  4. this is SO fascinating. i’m so curious now for the post on birthdays after reading this and the comments above! and completely kicking myself for having a sprinkle-free trip when we went to holland back in february! #hugeregret

    michelle marie

  5. I think I need to move to the Netherlands.
    Hagelslag sounds like heaven in food form, cheese is my absolute favourite, and I want to live somewhere, where I could just cycle to my hearts content…

  6. Awesome post! I love that biking is such a large part of culture in the Netherlands, it greatly supports sustainable transportation methods. And I love that little fact about congratulating everyone at a party or celebration, I had never heard of the before! Thanks so much for sharing. – Emme @ Green Global Travel

  7. I’m an American living in the Netherlands and the birthday calendar in the toilet baffles me. No one has an explanation for it, either.

    Between congratulating EVERYONE for someone’s birthday and kissing everyone three times, I’m not sure how the Dutch find time to get anything else done.