Whenever I travel, I get a lot of questions about my country and culture. There seem to be some deeply rooted misconceptions about the Dutch and some of them are actually really funny! Like any country, the Netherlands has a unique culture. Although there may be some sort of truth in most stereotypes, it’s not all as it seems…
If you plan on visiting the Netherlands, pay attention to the most common misconceptions below!
Misconception #1: The Dutch are rude
I’ve heard this one so many times and I can see how people from other cultures come to this conclusion… In many cultures it is simply polite to start any conversation with “How are you”, whether you are dealing with your best friend, or the waitress at your table that you’ve never seen before in your life. The Dutch don’t do this. A short “Hello, may I order two beers?” will do just fine. When you ask a Dutchman how they are, you will most likely get an elaborate, honest answer instead of just: “Good, how are you?”
By any means, we are not being rude when we tell you what we think straight up, without the polite phrases to explain the situation. No, we are just very, VERY direct. The Dutch are straight to the point: We speak our minds in the most direct and honest way possible. Smalltalk just isn’t in our vocabulary.
Misconception #2: The Dutch smoke weed all the time
Whenever I meet people while traveling, and I tell them where I’m from, they jump straight on the weed-questions. “Is it true that weed is completely legal in Holland?” Yes and no. “Is it true that EVERYONE smokes pot all day?” NO! In fact, most of us don’t smoke weed at all. In 2016, 20,9 percent of the Dutch adults used cannabis atleast once. So there you go. Just because it’s easy to to get by, doesn’t mean we all walk around stoned all day. Who got time for that? Besides, it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea.
Misconception #3: The Dutch eat Dutch cheese
Yes and no. Did you know that Gouda cheese isn’t necessarily made in Gouda? In fact, most of our Dutch cheeses are actually produced in Poland and Germany. Gouda is not a protected brand and can be produced anywhere in the world. If you are looking for a truly Dutch Gouda cheese, keep your eyes out for the brand Gouda Holland, this brand has a protected geographical indication and may only be produced in the Netherlands. Not in Gouda though…
Misconception #4: The Dutch are cheap
Going Dutch must have come from somewhere… Yes ofcourse, we all have those friends who always insist on splitting the bill, and worse, not even splitting it in half, but paying EXACTLY for what they had, but in general I think it just depends on the situation. If I go out with my friends I’m more than happy to pay for the round. Usually someone else will pick up the bill for the next round and so on. And if they don’t, no worries, they probably have a good reason for it. On the other hand, if I’m with people I don’t know well, I’ll usually just pay for my own drinks.
The Dutch also have a reputation for being cheap in countries like Greece, Turkey and Egypt. “Kijken kijken niks kopen” means “look look buy nothing” and it’s something we hear a lot when we enter a store on our vacations to the south. We like quality and we always want a good deal. Therefore, we will compare a few shops before actually buying. So yeah, it’s common that a Dutchie walks into your store, looks around and walks out again without buying anything.
Misconception #5: The dutch are all blonde and tall and they all have blue eyes
Hey, that’s what we say about the Swedes! But nope, not true. Although a lot of people typically are tall and blonde, we have become a multi-cultural country, and the northern European stereotype is long gone. Good, because who doesn’t like diversity? Besides, I might be blonde and my eyes are blueish, but I’m far from tall.
Misconception #6: The Dutch go everywhere on their bicycle
We are a small country, but not THAT small. Most people just take the car, train or bus to work. Over 50% of all adults owns a car, or multiple cars. Although we may use our bicycle to move around areas closer to home, it’s not like we do everything on our bike. I actually stopped riding bicycles years ago because mine got stolen all the time. I do have to say that riding a bicycle is easy in the Netherlands. We have bike lanes everywhere and tat makes it quite safe to cycle around. Just do me one favor: Don’t go bicycling around Amsterdam if you are not a local and an absolute bicycle pro… Please.
Misconception #7: The Dutch only play football
Wrong! Although it’s a very popular sport in this little country, not everyone plays it. Our national team used to be one of the best in the world but to be honest, they suck right now. But look at our hockeyteams! They dominate the world tournaments right now. And what about our swimmers and ice skaters? Bicycle racers too! And oh, volleyball! Tennis! I guess this shows that kids have a lot more options than to just join their local football teams.
Misconception #8: The Dutch live in windmills or one of those cute gable houses
Lol! We wish. Some windmills are inhabited but there are way more people than windmills. As for the gable houses… Living in Amsterdam in general is expensive, but living in a gable house around the canals will cost you millions! A lot of those houses are in the hands of foreign investors. There are other cities like Haarlem, Utrecht and Leiden with similar houses, but most people live in modern houses or apartments.
Misconception #9: The Dutch are hard to make friends with
Pardon me? No we are not! In general, the Dutch are very open people. We love to socialize and make friends. There is, however, one thing you need to understand about Dutch friendships. There is a difference between friends and acquaintances. With friends we mean people that we’ve known for most of our lives, people that we have a strong connection with and people that we would trust with our lives. We don’t use that term lightly! Ofcourse we also hang out with people from outside our inner circle. This can be our colleagues, neigbors, people we meet in a bar etc. We meet up, have fun, we care about these people but simply because we don’t use the term friend lightly, we call them acquaintances. They might eventually become our friends, it just usually takes a while. I guess in other countries it would be the difference between a best friend and a friend.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that the Dutch don’t really have a culture of visiting people unannounced. Yes, we would love to have you over for dinner, but just let us know in advance. And then, ofcourse, there is the fact that we come across as rude, blunt and direct. That is something you have to get used to when having Dutch friends, I guess. Just know that we mean well!
Misconception #10: The Dutch speak Deutsch
A perfect example on how 2 letters can make all the difference. The Dutch speak Dutch. Deutsch is German. And no, Germany is not the same country. Don’t make that mistake in front of a Dutchman. If you’re lucky he will only break your nose for it.
Misconception #11: The Dutch wear wooden shoes
Seriously, have you ever tried them on? I can tell you that it hurts your feet to walk on clogs. Especially the top of your foot gets sore because the wood doesn’t stretch like a normal shoe would. Clogs were ideal when working on the land for centuries, but eventually we found out that there are more practical and more comfortable solutions. So no. If we even have clogs, most of us just use them for decorative purposes.
Let’s hope this settles it once and for all 😉