Dutch eating culture: an Austrian perspective on the Netherlands

As an international who has recently arrived in the Netherlands, I’ve come across so many weird assumptions. One of them is that everybody thinks that you come from Oosterwijk, although you actually come from Austria (Oostenrijk).

Another is the Dutch eating culture, in comparison to mine. And no, they’re not the same!

Arriving in the Netherlands

When people get the hint that you are actually from another country and not the tiny village in the Netherlands, people start to assume that you must know that one particular place, somewhere in the Alps, where they always go on skiing holidays. I always feel a bit sorry to disappoint those people, but I also don’t wear my Dirndl on the weekends and I don’t listen to Apres-Ski.

Born and raised in Vienna I did go skiing every once in a while, that doesn’t mean that I know every single skiing piste and glacier. That’s like asking Dutch people about specific fields in the Netherlands.

Dutch eating culture
Nope, not a clue where that is… Image: Walkerssk/Pixabay

Once they are done telling me how beautiful Austria is and how often they go there, or which wine they love from that special region, they kind of run out of topics to talk about. Although, it seems like people have this burning question of how I experience the cultural differences. This term has become a pretty annoying one for me over the past months.

Cultural differences?

The reason is that, throughout the four years, I have been coming to the Netherlands regularly, I didn’t notice as many cultural differences as one might think. Dutch people are straightforward – well Viennese people are rude and grumpy. Dutch people are greedy I also like to watch my money. Dutch people are so open and tolerantwell, where to draw the line of being tolerant or not caring?

The only big cultural difference I noticed, besides the fluffy, airy bread, was the different time for eating a warm meal. Dutch people eat warm dinner, Austrian people eat warm lunch. Not that this ever caused a problem for me personally, but I did get a lot of confused looks when I ate a plate of spaghetti for lunch. My apologies if that is weird.

Since regular discussions about the terminology of this eating event showed up, I have been thinking of multiple ways to call it. What makes the word lunch “lunch” and dinner “dinner” – opinions regarding this differ, although I couldn’t imagine this myself. I was thinking that the time is in connection with the name. So, lunch happens at obviously lunchtime/noon and dinner in the evening. Apparently, that can be seen differently – meaning that lunch describes a cold meal while dinner represents a warm one. So, complications appeared when I ate my warm lunch…or is it now dinner… at noon?

Dutch eating culture: Linch or Dunch?

To avoid this horrible confusion, I decided to merge two words. If it works with breakfast and lunch, so-called brunch, why shouldn’t it work with lunch and dinner? The only tricky question, in this case, was the order. What happens first now? Lunch or dinner… meaning is it now Linner or Dunch?

After half a year of living here, people still want to convince me that there are so many cultural differences between Austria and the Netherlands and I still haven’t figured out yet how to tell them that there is actually just one… and that’s the Dutch eating culture. 

But, as long as I haven’t solved the lunch-dinner problem myself, I can’t expect others to understand the Austrian-Dutch cultural difference.

Do you have any experience of this? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature image: Sara_winter/Depositphotos

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2018, and was fully updated in June 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Marion Boigner
I was born and raised in Vienna, Austria and moved to the Netherlands out of love. I am working as a "German as a foreign language" as well as "English" teacher. My passion for languages helped me to learn Dutch easily and at the moment I am speaking all three languages throughout my days. Furthermore, I am living and enjoying the wonderful but crazy life of having two homes in two countries. This goes along with seeing the beauty of two worlds and broadening my horizon and point of view.

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  1. In the past, people used to eat warm (the main meal of the day) at noon time. I think it’s only since the rise of car and people working further away from their home that this habit has been changed. We still ate warm at noon time in the 60’s and 70’s.


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