Dutch customs and etiquette

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The Dutch have a code of etiquette which governs social behaviour and is considered important.[citation needed] Because of the international position of the Netherlands, many books have been written on the subject. Some customs may not be true in all regions and they are never absolute. In addition to those specific to the Dutch, many general points of European etiquette apply to the Dutch as well.

The people[edit]

Dutch society is egalitarian, individualistic and modern. The people tend to view themselves as modest, independent and self-reliant. They value ability over dependency. The Dutch have an aversion to the non-essential. Ostentatious behaviour is to be avoided. Accumulating money is fine, but public spending of large amounts of money is considered something of a vice and associated with being a show-off. A high lifestyle is considered wasteful by most people and sometimes met with suspicion. The Dutch are proud of their cultural heritage, rich history in art and involvement in international affairs.

Dutch manners are blunt with a no-nonsense attitude; informality combined with adherence to basic behaviour. This might be perceived as impersonal and patronising by other cultures, but is the norm in Dutch culture. According to a source on Dutch culture, The Undutchables,Their directness gives many the impression that they are rude and crude—attributes they prefer to call ‘openness’.[1] Asking about personal information from others will not be considered impolite. What may strike you as being blatantly blunt topics and comments are no more embarrassing or unusual to the Dutch than discussing the weather.[1] Phrases that are considered to be basic etiquette[neutrality is disputed], such as saying 'I beg your pardon', 'I'm sorry', 'Excuse me' or 'Thank you so much', are not so commonly used by Dutch people compared to people in other countries. This behaviour is considered to be rude by other cultures, but it is considered as normal behaviour by Dutch people.[2]

According to Paul Schnabel, Professor of Sociology of the university of Utrecht, "courtesy, willingness to please, and good manners are not national virtues in the Netherlands. To a certain extent we are even proud of this fact. We like to say that this is because we are so honest and straightforward. Anyone born or raised outside our borders would say that the Dutch are mainly blunt and rude.”[3]

The author Colleen Geske stated in her book Stuff Dutch people like that "Dutch people consider the English or American forms of politeness a sign of weakness, and reeking of insincerity and hypocrisy . These are two traits Dutch people despise".[4]

Research for Dutch world service radio concluded that just over half of Dutch people who live abroad consider their compatriots at home less well-mannered than other nationalities. In particular, waiters, teenagers and shop staff score badly. Some 55% of Dutch expats think the Dutch have become ruder since they left the country.[5]


Conversation and language[edit]

The Dutch and foreign languages[edit]


Dutch humor has changed over the centuries. In the 16th century, the Dutch were renowned for their humor throughout Europe, and many travel journals have notes on the happy and celebratory nature of the Dutch. Farces and joke books were in demand and many Dutch painters chose to paint humorous paintings, Jan Steen being a good example.

"Fighting peasants" by Adriaen Brouwer.

The main subjects of Dutch jokes at the time were deranged households, drunken clerics (mostly of the Roman Catholic Church) and people with mental and/or physical handicaps. A main theme was the reproof of immoral ethics: the 'Vicar's wagging finger'. However, at the end of the 17th century, the Dutch Republic was in decline, and the Dutch Reformed Church denounced laughter and advocated sober lifestyles. Etiquette manuals appeared which considered it impolite to laugh out loud. This continued into the 1960s: during World War II, American soldiers were instructed not to tell jokes to the Dutch as "they wouldn't appreciate it".[7]

Famous Dutch comedians include Hans Teeuwen, Herman Finkers, Wim Sonneveld, Toon Hermans, Bert Visscher, Youp van 't Hek, Najib Amhali, Theo Maassen, Kees van Kooten, Sara Kroos, Brigitte Kaandorp, Karin Bloemen, Claudia de Breij, Tineke Schouten, Jochem Myjer and André van Duin.


The Netherlands has one of the lowest death rates caused by road traffic in the world.[8] The Dutch driving test is one of the toughest in the world and there is a mandated minimum number of hours driving with a licensed instructor. However, this does not necessarily translate into a pleasant driving style. Many Dutch drivers tend to be impatient or even aggressive, making Dutch traffic a somewhat daunting experience for many foreigners.[citation needed] Note that not all points mentioned here are true for all Dutch drivers.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Colin White & Laurie Boucke (1995). The UnDutchables: An observation of the Netherlands, its culture and its inhabitants (3rd Ed.). White-Boucke Publishing.
  2. ^ Vellekoop, Heleen. "Botte boer tussen de Britten". Wilweg.nl. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Driessen, Christoph. "http://weblogs.nrc.nl/discussion/2009/08/04/dutch-people-direct-or-just-plain-rude/". NRC Handelsblad. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Geske, Colleen. "Directness". Stuff Dutch People like. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  5. ^ News, Dutch. "Dutch expats think the Dutch are ruder". Dutchnews.nl. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  6. ^ White, Colin & Boucke, Laurie (2010). The UnDutchables. White-Boucke Publishing. p. 204. ISBN 978-1-888580-44-0
  7. ^ (Dutch)Anno - Veel poep en pies
  8. ^ Mortality: Road traffic deaths data by country, World Health Organization
  9. ^ Top ten driving annoyances NL #6
  10. ^ Top ten driving annoyances NL #9
  11. ^ Discussion on loose use of indicators
  12. ^ Top ten driving annoyances NL #10
  13. ^ Speed control sudden braking
  14. ^ Dutch cyclist/pedestrian protection
  15. ^ a b (Dutch)Hoofdletters in namen, Genootschap Onze Taal
  16. ^ Becker, Jos and Joep de Hart (2006). Godsdienstige veranderingen in Nederland (in Dutch). Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau. ISBN 90-377-0259-7. OCLC 84601762. 

External links and sources[edit]