Things You Need to Know About Culture in the Netherlands

One of the dreamiest and most beautiful places any person could want to visit in Europe is the Netherlands. Imagine the rustic feel of townhomes and the beautiful countryside set in a background of green pastures and vibrant flower fields.

When looking for a host country to work in, it’s necessary for every OFW to know something or a little bit about the country they are aiming for. While looking at pictures and hearing stories from other people or seeing how life is in a country based on the movies is fun and all-too-common. Doing some research is very essential, especially when you’re not just visiting for a short while but planning to settle to work and live in a country such as the Netherlands. If you’re planning to relocate there for work, here’s a short guide to help you.

Things You Need to Know About Culture in the Netherlands

What’s the Culture in the Netherlands Like?

Firstly, don’t be confused between the Netherlands and Holland, as both terms refer to the same country, technically. But the former is the proper term you use when you talk about the country, and the latter is used for two of its provinces. Did you know, however, that the Netherlands is a kingdom? It is a constitutional monarchy in Western Europe, bordering Belgium and Germany. It’s also worth noting that the kingdom has territories in the Caribbean, islands of Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, and Saba.

Culture and Social Etiquette

While the Netherlands looks great in photocards, there’s more to it than what meets the eye. And with it are some things that you ought to know about if you plan on migrating to this area. Here’s a list of things that makes the Netherlands unique and memorable:


If you’re coming from a conservative background, don’t be surprised when you find the Dutch leaning in for a quick peck on the cheek when they greet each other on the street. In fact, this isn’t if you’re just lucky – they might give you three little kisses as the standard. This is a common way of saying “hi” and “good-bye” to people when you live here. If you find yourself in a three-kisses-greeting, don’t panic. Start with the right cheek, then, left, and back to the right. But the most important thing to note here is that these are air kisses and you are not supposed to actually put your lips on the other person’s cheek.

Also, do keep in mind that this does not happen with acquaintances or when you just meet another person for the first time. Moreover, this kissing tradition is only common between women, and women and men. Two men would typically greet each other with a friendly handshake.

Dutch Directness

Another thing you ought to know is how direct the Dutch can be. This could be in the form of a small comment about your looks, actions, or what you say – these people will not hold back on any opinion they may have of you. As a way of communication here, you can expect people to be very blunt with their words regardless of the situation. They also freely express their feelings about certain topics that might seem taboo in other countries.

And while this kind of communication approach can be off-putting at first, many people learn to appreciate the directness. In fact, this often seeps into the lives of local expats. The major advantage of this is that relationships are clear and misunderstandings are dealt with immediately.

Agenda is King

You might be a free spirit when it comes to how you conduct your daily activities, but not the Dutch. Every meeting or get-together needs to be scheduled in advance – sometimes, even a few weeks. You might even be surprised to find out that some people schedule their downtime at home, which they will compromise for nothing. That said, it’s important that you ask if someone has an appointment before meeting with them and for how long they’re only available so you can plan accordingly.

Thrifty Living

Perhaps this attitude can be attributed to the high cost of living, mainly due to the taxes they pay, but the Dutch, in general, are very frugal. If they can help it, they always try to stay within their budget, avoiding unnecessary splurging. Because of this, the term “going Dutch” has been adapted, which means splitting the bill. This is something you need to think about if you’re going out on a date.

Unassuming Lifestyle

As they are conscientious with how they spend their time, so are the Dutch when it comes to handling their finances. You will notice their preference for modesty when it comes to buying things or spending their cash. This can be attributed to their protestant heritage and Calvinist influences in particular. Unlike in other parts of the world, locals won’t be impressed if you show off your wealth. This covers everything from your clothes to the car you drive. This is something you can think about if you plan on gaining new friends in this country.

The Orange Color

The country’s flag consists of red, white, and blue, yet the country’s national colour is orange. Why is this so? This is because orange is the colour of the country’s most prolific royal family. The monarchs are of House Orange-Nassau, which dictates the now-popular hue associated with patriotism and national pride. Many people wear orange during the King Day celebrations on 27 April.

Biking is Life

Aside from tulips and windmills, one thing that should be included in the picturesque life in the Netherlands is people riding their bicycles. In fact, the Dutch own more bicycles in the world – even more than China. To support this fact of life, almost a quarter of people living in the Netherlands cycle every day, including children going to school as well as commuting adults.

Another less known fact in life here is that when a road accident occurs involving a person on their bike, the person driving the car will likely have to pay for all of the damages. This is because it is assumed the driver has a liability, and they must prove that the cyclist was in the wrong to avoid paying out.

Sports Craze

Aside from cycling, one thing you need to know about the Dutch is that they are big sports fans. And it’s not just cycling. In fact, the country, being one of the founding members of FIFA, is soccer mad. Other popular sports in the country include field hockey and korfball. The latter is a Dutch game that has gained global popularity. It consists of two teams, each with 8 players (4 male and 4 female).

It’s interesting how in some aspects, we Filipinos can be quite just like the Dutch, but knowing these similarities and differences will enable expats to adapt much faster and more effectively to society and the people in the Netherlands.

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