Always wondered what it would be like to live in the Netherlands as a local? Or are your hopes and dreams already shattered because you just didn’t fit in? Today I’m giving you some (tongue in cheek) advice on how to become a proper Dutchie.
1. Jump into the freezing sea
On new year’s day the Dutch gather on the many beaches the country has to jump into the freezing North Sea. The ‘Nieuwjaarsduik’, as the Dutchies call it, is an ongoing tradition and every year around 200 different dives are organized throughout the country. You haven’t had a proper nieuwjaarsduik without an orange Unox hat as a souvenir.
2. Eat herring with onions, upside down
You’ll see them on every market: fish stalls that sell herring, best served with chopped onions. You’ll also notice the strange way this fish is eaten.
3. Bike everywhere
Amsterdam is often called the bicycle capital of the world, but don’t underestimate the rest of the country! The Dutch love to ride their bicycles everywhere. Shopping, taking the kids to school or going to work; a bicycle is all you will ever need. But don’t get attached! There’s a Dutch saying in Amsterdam that says that every bike has at least been stolen twice.
4. Sit outside on the first spring day
‘Don’t care that it’s the first week of March, last week it snowed and now it’s 12 degrees, I’m sitting outside!’ Is what every Dutchmen seems to think on the first – not even official – day of spring. When the weather is great, outside is the place to be, enjoying, another typically Dutch thing, a beer.
5. Actively hate the National Railways (NS)
They can’t do anything right in our eyes. If you ever ask a Dutchmen about the train system, most likely all you will hear are complaints.
6. Squish your food
A Dutch dinner means eating potatoes, meat and veggies, accompanied with gravy or some kind of sauce. To mix the potatoes with the gravy, the Dutch tend to ‘squish’ their potatoes with their fork – in Dutch this is called prakken – to break and flatten it. If you ever see people doing this around the world, there’s a 99% chance they are Dutch.
7. Act normal
The Dutch phrase ‘Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg.’ (meaning Act normal because that’s crazy enough), is not just a saying, it’s a lifestyle. The Dutch love modesty, so acting over the top – or as we call fake – is not an option. Bragging is simply considered to be rude.
8. Make appointments
Having a social life is high on the list of life standards. However, the Dutch like to plan their social life. Dropping by unexpected – although it does happen – is considered to be slightly less thoughtful than let’s say making an appointment. Social events are mostly scheduled and coming on time is highly appreciated.
9. ‘Bakfiets’ is a way of life
You’ll see people with ‘carrier bikes’ riding around everywhere, most of the time accompanied by their kids (who sit in the front). Dutchies use them to bring their kids to school, to do groceries or to scare the heck out of bus drivers by parking half of it on the street. Although more and more people are starting to use it, upper class families are known to drive them. That’s how it’s considered to be a different kind of lifestyle.
10. Be honest
If there’s something stuck between your teeth, a Dutchmen never fails to tell you straight away. This might come across as bluntness, but it’s actually meant in the nicest way. We just don’t want you to walk around like a fool, so we honestly tell you what’s up.
11. Orange is the only color
During soccer matches or Kings Day, we turn into an orange mass. Streets are decorated, people are dressed up and the nation unites.
12. Don’t care for monarchy unless it’s Kings Day
Some of the Dutch love the royal family, some think it costs a lot of money. On Kings Day, the birthday of the king, everyone goes out on the streets to party and enjoys their day. You can find little flea markets everywhere and… yes, a lot of orange.
13. The only way to grow up is by eating Pindakaas
Almost every kid grows up with pindakaas, the Dutch version of peanut butter. Although this nutty paste is known all over the world, the Dutch version definitely tastes different from everything else out there. Any Dutchmen will tell you that.
14. Eat out of the wall
At train stations or in shopping streets you will find the typical Dutch snack foods that you can eat out of the wall. Frikadel (a spiced sausage of minced… well, crap), kroket (a crispy croquette filled with ragout) and kaassoufflee (cheese soufflé) are some of the items you have to try when you stumble on one of them.
15. ‘Gezellig bakkie doen’
‘Gezellig’ is a word that doesn’t have a proper English translation, but it comes closest to something fun, but low profile, you can do together, like drinking coffee (bakkie). A common Dutch phrase is ‘Bakkie doen?’, mostly answered by: ‘Gezellig!’. When you get together with friends, going to the movies or having dinner, this is considered to be ‘gezellig’.
16. Mobile shelter
I’ve already told you we like to ride our bicycles wherever, but I forgot to mention we also do it whenever. Rain or shine, the Dutch get on their bike. With the necessary accessories, like an umbrella, we turn into a mobile shelter. It must be a strange sight.
17. Water management
Although the Netherlands has excellent water management, the country occasionally does flood. Luckily we do seem to cope with it. I told you we like to bike everywhere.
18. Love thy neighbor
Because Holland is such a small country, most of the Dutch live close together. This makes that things like buying a new fence for the garden becomes a neighborhood related issue that should be carefully discussed with close neighbors. Sometimes people share a fence, which means that they all have to agree on the looks (and price) of the material. Fencing, big trees and too many leafs are the main cause for neighborhood fights.
19. Be the cheese
The Dutch are often called cheese heads, by themselves and the Flemish. It’s no wonder how we got this nickname if you look at the amount of cheese consumed in the Netherlands and I don’t even want to talk about cheese production. If you want to experience the Netherlands, eat the cheese. Be the cheese.