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, tolerant, independent and self-reliant. They value education, tolerance, hard work, ambition and ability. The Dutch have an aversion to the non-essential. Ostentatious behaviour is to be avoided. Accumulating money is fine, but the gratuitous spending of money is considered something of a vice and associated by some people with being a show-off. A high style is considered wasteful and suspect with most people. The Dutch are proud of their cultural heritage, rich history in art and music and involvement in international affairs. Dutch manners are frank with a no-nonsense attitude; informality combined with adherence to basic etiquette. This might be perceived as impersonal by some other cultures but is the norm in Dutch culture. According to the popular 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] As always, manners differ between groups. Asking about basic rules 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]


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 lost their sense of humor. The Dutch Republic was in decline, the Dutch Reformed Church denounced laughter and advocated sober lifestyles, and 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".[3]

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, and André van Duin.


The Netherlands has one of the lowest death rates due to road traffic in the world.[4] 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. 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. ^ White, Colin & Boucke, Laurie (2010). The UnDutchables. White-Boucke Publishing. p. 204. ISBN 978-1-888580-44-0
  3. ^ (Dutch)Anno - Veel poep en pies
  4. ^ Mortality: Road traffic deaths data by country, World Health Organization
  5. ^ Top ten driving annoyances NL #6
  6. ^ Top ten driving annoyances NL #9
  7. ^ Discussion on loose use of indicators
  8. ^ Top ten driving annoyances NL #10
  9. ^ Speed control sudden braking
  10. ^ Dutch cyclist/pedestrian protection
  11. ^ a b (Dutch)Hoofdletters in namen, Genootschap Onze Taal

External links and sources[edit]