Dutch manners

Meeting and Greeting the Dutch

Dutch people are very open-minded and they will not be offended if you don't behave according to the Dutch manners. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, they will easily be forgiven because the Dutch people will know you're a foreigner. To help you understand the Dutch a bit better, we'll give you some examples of typically Dutch (cultural) behavior.

 

Greeting people: corporate environment
In the Netherlands, shaking hands is very important. When someone is introduced to you, he/she will shake hands with you and say his/her name. When you leave, shake hands again and thank the person in question for the visit/meeting, etc. At the next meeting, shaking hands is not necessary, but in business situations it is common.

 

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 quickly start calling people by their first name. In the Netherlands, a younger person, a child, a relative, a friend, or an acquaintance are addressed with an informal "je/jij" ("you"). The formal "u" ("you") is used to address people you do not know, or are only slightly acquainted with. The formal "u" is used to address a higher-ranking businessperson, although it can soon be replaced by the informal "je."

 

When you meet someone in the Netherlands, you generally call them sir or madam, but soon will be asked to refer to 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; just wait and see what the other party says!


The Dutch do not use titles when they speak 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 King and Queen, which will always be referred to as His and 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 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!

 

Dining out

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.

 

Tipping

In the Netherlands, everyone receives a basic salary, but you can still tip. For example:

 

  • In a hotel, €1-2 to a porter, room service, or cleaning lady when they deliver a service. 
  • In restaurants and cafés, 5-10% of the total bill. Leaving some small change on a restaurant table is common. 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). But if you're not satisfied with a service, you do not have to tip!
  • Tips are generally not expected in bars, but are not uncommon.
  • Taxi drivers generally receive a 3-5% tip.


Going Dutch
In the Netherlands, men and women are equal, which means that women enjoy the same privileges as men. Enjoying lunch or dinner with a (male or female) friend will very often end up in Going Dutch (splitting the bill). When you invite someone, or if you are invited, it is generally the one who does the inviting that pays for dinner.


Making a phone call
When making a phone call, always state your name (and if necessary your company name), and 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 state your name. When a Dutch person answers the phone, he/she will identify him-/herself by stating their first name and/or last name. The name is usually preceded by "met" ("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.


When making a phone call, first ask if your call is convenient. If it isn't a convenient time, offer to call back later. It is best not to make personal calls before 09:00 and after 22:00. On Sundays, you're 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 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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