Greeting people: corporate environment
In The Netherlands, shaking hands is very important. This is not the case in every culture, but over here it is normal. When someone is introduced to you, he/she will shake hands with you and state his/her name. When you leave, you shake hands again and thank the person in question for the visit /meeting etc. At the next meeting, shaking hands is not necessary, but still, especially in business situations, it is a common thing to do.
You might be wondering whether to use your left or your right hand. The Dutch do not have a special hand for personal hygiene, eating, or praying. This means that they do not realise they may insult you when they pass something on to you with the wrong hand.
Addressing people: formal and informal
Dutch people very quickly start calling people by their first name. In most countries, this is considered rather rude. In The Netherlands, we address a younger person, a child, a relative, a friend, or an acquaintance with informal je/jij (you). We use the formal u (you) to address people we are not or only slightly acquainted with and higher-ranking businesspersons, although we would soon replace the formal u with the informal je. When you meet someone in the Netherlands, you generally call them sir or madam, but soon enough people will ask you to just call them by their first name. In other countries, it takes much longer for people to associate on a first name basis. There is no special rule that tells you how to deal with this in the Netherlands. Just wait and see what the other party says.
The Dutch do not use titles when they talk to someone. In writing, you can state the title, but you will only do that in an official letter. The only exception is the Dutch Queen, she will always be Her Majesty.
Greeting friends: the 3 Dutch kisses
You might find the custom of social kissing a bit over the top, the Dutch, however, do it frequently. Mind you, it is only done among people who know each other rather well! People kiss each other on the cheeks two or three times, every time they meet. This is not compulsory. If you do not want to be kissed, just extend your hand for a handshake.
When you re invited to a lunch or dinner, the Dutch will make it clear that you are their guest and that they intend to pay the bill, otherwise expect to 'go Dutch' and pay your fair share. No one will be embarrassed at splitting the bill. Dutch manners are frank - no-nonsense informality combined with strict adherence to basic etiquette.
A waiter or waitress is beckoned by raising a hand, making eye-contact and calling "Ober" ("Waiter") or "Mevrouw" ("Waitress"), but not too loudly. Another important point to make: snapping your fingers is considered very rude!
It is also considered rude to leave the table during dinner, even to go to the bathroom. During a long dinner, you may leave the table between courses to visit the bathroom. It is polite to ask if you may be excused. When you have finished eating, place your fork and knife at the 15.15 position on your plate.
When do you have to give a tip? In The Netherlands, you tip people like you do in any other country. Just keep in mind, that everyone in The Netherlands receives a basic salary. In a hotel, you can give 1 or 2 Euros (porter, room service, cleaning lady) every time they deliver a service. In restaurants and cafés, you give 5% to 10% of the total bill, if the service was good. Leaving some small change on a restaurant table is a common way of giving a tip to the serving staff. Most Dutch restaurants and cafés collect all the tips received during the evening and split the amount among everyone working that evening (also kitchen/ cleaning staff). If you are not satisfied, do not give a tip at all! Tips are generally not expected in bars, but are not uncommon. Taxi drivers generally receive a 3% to 5% tip.
In The Netherlands, as in many other parts of the world, men and women are equal. This means that the women in the Netherlands enjoy the same privileges as men. Enjoying lunch or dinner with a (male or female) friend will very often end up in going Dutch (split the bill). When you invite someone, or if you are invited, it is generally the one who does the inviting that picks up the bill.
Making a phone call
When you make a phone call, always state your name (and if necessary your company name), also if you would like to speak to someone else. Even when you call a cab, order a pizza, or ask for information, it is polite to mention your name. When someone calls you, you do the same, pick up the phone, and mention your name. When a Dutch person answers the phone, he/she identifies him-/herself by stating their first name, their last name, or both. The name is usually preceded by met, which means 'you're speaking with'. The caller is expected to identify him- or herself as well before asking to speak to another person or talking about something else.
If you are making a phone call, first ask if your call is convenient. It is extremely annoying to have to listen to a long story when you are busy doing something else. If your call does not come at a convenient time, just offer to call back later. It is best not to make personal calls before 09.00 and after 22.00. On Sundays, you are expected not to call before 10.00. It is also better to avoid meal times (18.00– 19.30).
At the beach
At the beach and on the terraces along it, the Dutch are as sparsely clothed as possible. Do not get offended by this because to the Dutch this kind of beach dress is completely normal. Women, also older women, may also (sun) bathe topless on most beaches in the Netherlands. The Netherlands even has nudist beaches.
Saunas, gyms and swimming pools
Saunas/gyms and swimming pools are often visited by families and therefore always mixed. Some saunas do offer special men-only or women-only evenings. Most places do offer free towels and bathrobes, but you should check this with your local sauna. Gyms and swimming pools are generally mixed as well. It is again a family thing and it is nice to enjoy sports together.
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