11 gross things Dutch people do

All humans have a tendency to be yucky sometimes — but we’re only here to point out some of the common gross things you probably witnessed (or have done yourself) in the Netherlands. 

We’re not here to shame —  but fair warning — ⚠️ it’s not recommended to read through this list before or during a meal.

1. Spit everywhere

Oh, all the spitting I’ve seen. It happens quickly, and when you least expect it. During a stroll along a beautiful Amsterdam canal, at a train station where a group of jongeren practice aim on the tracks, or as soon as the person in front of you gets off the bus.

In short: check for mucus before you decide to romanticise your life and sit on a picturesque Dutch street 🧽

2. Eat drop

Photo-of-drop-Dutch-liqourice
Think that’s sugar? NOPE. Salt. Image: Tekka77/Depositphotos

Ever heard of drop? No? Well how about liquorice? I’ve been warned that kids on the internet hate it and that the Dutch have a variety of it out in the market, but isn’t the idea of salty black liquorice alone scary enough? Well, Dutchies love drop — as a matter of fact, they love it so much that we have a whole guide to Dutch drop, so it’s as important as it is disgusting. 👅

3. Pick their nose in public

A Dutch sport practised by royals while attending the Olympics — ahem — King Willem-Alexander. A hygiene survey on the popularity of this habit in the Netherlands showed that 90% of Dutch people pick their noses from time to time, whereas 10% eat the outcome. 👃

4. Swallow live goldfish

The 1939 trend of gulping down live goldfish took many forms over the years in the Netherlands. From winning bets to simply pulling stunts in public, it’s a gross thing either way so please don’t harm any goldfish for €€. 🐠

5. Place urinals on the streets

If you’ve never seen a Dutch public urinal let me paint you a picture of the situation: they’re curled in shape, made of iron or stone, and are raised just enough for you to make shameful eye contact with the user while seeing their pee splash from the bottom — enough said but here’s a picture anyway. 👀

picture-of-a-man-in-public-urinal-Amsterdam
Never make eye contact with a man inside an Amsterdam urinal. Image: CreativeFamily/Depositphotos

6. Inspect their poop

Speaking of Dutch bathrooms, did you notice a shelf in your toilet? 🚽 This is called an inspection shelf, an examination shelf, or a plateau toilet — it goes by different names. The design dates back to many moons ago where, in theory, the short shelf in the bowl allows for the examination of any (ahem) abnormalities in 💩 before flushing. But here’s another picture to demonstrate.

7. Eat herring

photo-eating-the-hollandse-nieuwe-in-the-netherlands
Random Dutchman enjoying herring. Image: Supplied

It’s a daring tourists’ favourite, a 15th-century Dutch tradition, and is on the list of Dutch foods to try. Aside from the fish being eaten raw with liver and pancreas untouched, the method itself contributes to the grossness of this one. 

Traditionally, after being salted and dipped in onion, the herring is held by the tail, hung over the mouth, and munched from below. 🙈 FYI, there’s also a herring ice-cream flavour in the Netherlands — we felt you should know. 🍦

8. Lick their fingers and utensils

Even KFC dropped their Finger-Lickin’ Good cheer due to a hygiene-related pandemic, but the Dutchies sure didn’t. Finger licking, followed by a spoon lick, then back in the family-sized Pindakaas jar. Shared saliva, lekker. 👅🍯

9. Eat filet Americain

Photo-of-raw-meat- filet-Americainon-toast
Suspicious raw meat spread with a lethal reputation. Source: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Ironically, it’s one way to die in the Netherlands. This Dutch delicacy, in a nutshell, is an unappealing raw meat spread that goes on bread, crackers, or can be combined with some uncooked onions and/or boiled egg. You may encounter this monstrosity of a dish at a Dutch lunch or as a party appetiser. 🍞

10. Not wash their hands

Goes hand in hand with the finger-licking — no pun intended. 🤝 The Dutch have a sticky reputation for not washing their hands, they’ve had this report before and after the coronavirus so it’s not time-specific either. Dutchies not washing their hands is however tied to the visitation of a certain room or space. 🚾

11. Wear outside shoes inside the house

Clogs or no-clogs, I think we can all agree on the foul things that can hang from the bottom of outside shoes — yet the Dutch don’t really differentiate between outside and inside shoes at all. Concepts such as taking off your shoes when visiting a guest or switching to inside slippers when coming back home are simply non-existent in the Dutch cultural dictionary. 👞


There you have it! All the gooey, green, or smelly gross habits the Dutch do. 🤢 At least we hope that’s all…

Got any other gross Dutch habits? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: RostyslavOleksin/Depositphotos

Farah Al Mazouni
Farah believes she's been on many adventures during her millennial life, each for a different (sometimes invisible) purpose. The latest adventure whisked her away to Amsterdam for love, and what a magical surprise she found in this city. Armed with imaginary confetti in her pocket, and ready to celebrate all wins, big and small, Farah says "ahla w sahla" or “welcome” to her latest adventure in this wonderland.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Indoor and outdoor shoes? This writer must be from Japan. Americans wear outdoor shoes, boots, etc., in the house and no one thinks twice about it. The slippers or “indoor shoes” only come out when day is done. I see Americans walk outdoors in stocking feet then wear them to bed. I’m reporting middle class, not the great unwashed from a bad hood.

  2. I find this article inaccurate and more of a criticism towards the culture, a personal opinion based on what she doesn’t like (food) and generalizing things that even Dutch themselves find rude…
    1. Not all Dutch spit on the streets and it’s not characteristic of the culture. It’s usually people without manners and I’ve seen those in every country I’ve visited.
    2. Drop is something not only enjoyed by the Dutch. And if you don’t like it, you don’t need to eat it… Every country has their own candy, and people from other cultures might find it disgusting because they didn’t grow up with it. Ask the Danish about their own licorice.
    3. I really don’t understand why people make such a big deal about Herring! You will eat raw salmon in your sushi but you won’t eat Herring? If what you find disgusting is eating the full fish, you can also ask for it to be cut in pieces. There you go! Sushi! And if Herring is not your thing, try Kibbeling.
    4. EVERY Dutch home I’ve visited has an entry hall and people take off their shoes and use slippers. Or just stay with their socks on… There might be people who don’t do it for sure… But most countries I’ve visited find it very strange to have to take off your shoes and will find it even rude if you dare to ask them to do so when they visit you…

    • I love drop and raw herring, I’ve never seen Dutch people spit, pick noses, etc, my daughter lives in Groesbeek near the German border, I’m English, NL is one of the cleanest country I’ve visited, I’ve just returned from visiting her, the UK could learn a lot from the Dutch but I don’t think bad manners

  3. Raw herring does not contain liver and pancreas.
    Eating goldfish is not a specifically Dutch thing and is not something Dutch people typically do.
    Urinals like this may be spotted in Amsterdam here and there but are hardly a Dutch staple.
    Spitting is not a thing we do everywhere and is not normal behaviour.
    Writer might want to try visiting some other areas outside of Amsterdam centre.

  4. We where thought at School not to spit anywhere as the Flies carry the Virus of TB “Tuberculosis”. so I still remember never to spit, and Herring is not Raw its seasoned in salt and Vinegar or just salt

  5. I agree that (not) changing or taking off the shoes when coming home is not typical Dutch, and that I haven’t seen the Dutch spitting in the streets any more than in any other country I’ve visited. It’s certainly cleaner in the streets of the Netherlands than in most other parts of the world. I find it funny though that none of the commenters challenged licking fingers and not washing (maybe just pretending to) one’s hands not only before eating but even after visiting a WC and then eating. Corona or not. Witnessed it just yesterday with a highly educated colleague. It’s definitely not an exception (been 8 years here). Our kids are not really encouraged to wash their hands in daycare/school.

  6. Lol! Not sure what “Dutch” people you know but we don’t spit as a rule, we do wash our hands and my habit of changing into my indoor shoes was instilled in me by my Dutch upbringing. Now, as for dropjes (dubbel zout aub), haring or filet Americain…… eet smakelijk!

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