Private Situations

Making friends
Many internationals find it hard to start making friends in a new country. Because of their school activities and play dates, small children make it easier for parents to get to know each other. On the other hand, it is not that difficult to get to know the Dutch and find some new friends. Dutch are very open-minded people, especially in the South of the Netherlands!

Join a community, group or club, such as your favourite sports club, a gaming club or a card club. Show interest in the country when you are talking to a Dutchman. Many neighbourhoods have community centres where a lot of activities are organized for the neighbourhood’s residents. Do not only associate with other expats during meetings but also try to get in touch with the Dutch actively. Learn a little bit of Dutch, this will help you a lot in finding new Dutch contacts. 
 
Socializing with the neighbours
A good relationship with your neighbours can be very important. Especially for internationals, it is very good to have nice neighbours who can help you with questions or practical things. You can introduce yourself to your neighbours by inviting them to your house for coffee or tea, or a glass of wine in the evening. In general, your neighbours will in turn invite you over to their house the next time. 


It is considered polite to let your neighbours know when you are having a party or renovation or something else that may cause them any inconvenience. It is a good idea to give your neighbours or a good friend in the neigbourhood an extra set of keys to your house (if you know them well enough, of course). In the Netherlands, it is fairly common to ask your neighbours to water your plants or feed the your pet when you are on holiday. The Dutch value their peace and quiet, so they like to stick to an 23:00 rule. This means that your neighbours can come complaining about noise or smells from barbecues, etc. after 23:00. 


Private dinner invitations: etiquette

In the Netherlands, food plays a smaller role in hospitality than in many other countries. It is not considered imperative for making someone feel welcome. When you are invited to a dinner party at someone’s house, it is appropriate to bring a small gift for the host/hostess. This can be a bottle of wine, some flowers, chocolates, or something from your own country. Before dinner, people generally have a drink, which gives you the chance to get to know the other quests. Sometimes, there is a table setting but usually you can choose your own seat. Men should wait until the women are seated before taking a seat themselves. Do not start eating before your host/hostess has started or invites you to start or invites you to start.

 

At the dinner table

If you are invited to a Dutch home, observe the following the rules:

  • Be on time. You can arrive 15 minutes late, but definitely no later than that! Don’t be too early either; your host will not be ready yet.
  • Before dinner, the host/hostess sometimes requests a moment of silence at the dining table for a prayer.
  • Always wait until you are served or asked to serve yourself. Never start eating before the host/hostess gives the signal.
  • Never start drinking immediately. The Dutch always raise their glasses and drink the first drink together.
  • Take a small quantity of food to start with. A second helping will be offered and it is polite to accept. Keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal and be sure to keep your elbows off the table. Use knife and fork to eat solid food including sandwiches and pizza.
  • To indicate that you would like some more food or that you have not finished yet, cross your knife and fork in the middle of your plate in an X.
  • It is considered rude to leave the table during dinner (even to go to the bathroom). During long sit-down dinners, you can leave the table between the courses. If you have to leave the table, ask to be excused.
  • When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork side by side at the 15:15 position on your plate.
  • When you have a business meeting or dinner, you do not have to bring anything, unless it is held at someone’s home.
  • If you do not know what to wear, or if you do not know if and what you have to bring, just ask. Your host/hostess will know that you are new and explain it to you. You can also ask one the other invitees for advice.
  • Parties may go on very late. Plan to stay for an hour or so after dinner.


Birthdays
The Dutch love to celebrate their birthday in a grand style. They invite all kinds of people to their birthday parties; family and friends, neighbours, relations and relatives and sometimes colleagues. Are you invited? Try to figure out what the intention is. What do you need to wear, what does the birthday boy/girl want for a present, can you join a group of people and buy a present together?
In the Netherlands, you generally do not only congratulate the person whose birthday it is, but also the person’s family and relatives. 

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