Netherlands Travel Tips
The following etiquette tips are a general guide to assist you in blending in with the locals and preventing social faux pas when visiting the Netherlands.
Don't be offended by the directness of the Dutch
In general Dutch people are very direct and outspoken. Whilst they won't raise their voice or show anger in public, they will not have a problem with voicing their honest opinion. This isn't meant to be rude, the Dutch do believe that honesty is the best policy and a sign of trust.
A handshake is always a good greeting
Have a firm handshake and maintain eye contact. Ensure that you shake the hand of everyone in the room, including children. In cases where the persons are closely acquainted the Dutch may kiss each other three times on each cheek.
Netherlands is the biggest exporter of fresh flowers
Therefore it is safe to say that flowers are a very welcomed gift if meeting people or invited to a home. Avoid giving white lilies or chrysanthemums as these are associated with funerals and give flowers in odd numbers.
It is normal to split bills if you go on a date
Where do you think the term "Going Dutch" came from? Dutch pride themselves on equality when it comes to relationships - that includes paying for themselves.
Know the difference between a coffeeshop, koffiehuis and a café
A licensed establishment in the sale of cannabis (marijuana) is called a coffeeship. A koffiehuis (coffee house) sells coffee and light meals whilst a café is a casual restaurant or bar.
Remove your coat before you enter a building
It is considered rude not to do so and will more than likely be asked to if you don't first.
Stick to an agenda
The Dutch typically prefer to plan and make agendas so everything is planned in advance. When organising a social outing you are advised to contact the person prior to make an appointment.
Don't ask for a cup of tap water
If you try ordering tap water at a restaurant they may think you're stingy and prefer you to order bottled or sparkling mineral water.
You may not be initially greeted with a "Hello"
Many people in the Netherlands shake your hand and say their surname (sometimes first name) instead of 'hello' as part of identifying themselves. This also occurs when they answer the telephone.
Ask for permission to have a cigarette
Statistics say that one in four Netherlanders smoke cigarettes, however it is customary to ask the owner of the house if it is ok to smoke and if there's a designated area.
It is ok to bring wine as a gift for the host
Some people say you should not bring wine as the host may have already selected wine for their guests. That doesn't mean you can't bring a bottle of wine - when you give wine as a gift it shouldn't be given and expected to be drank on that occasion.
Don't be surprised by sparse clothing at the beach
Like many European countries, topless sunbathing is common and beach goers in Netherlands aren't an exception. There are even designated nudist beaches – so best to check the locals if you're travelling with children and worried about what they may see.
Remember that Dutch people are typically very open minded and not easily offended - so if you make an error of judgement in social settings don't get stressed about it. The Netherlanders are likely to understand as you are a foreigner.