11 gross things Dutch people do

The Dutch are great! They're just sometimes gross too. 👀

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

This article is not an attempt to call EVERY Dutchie or to generalise Dutch culture as gross, but we’ve witnessed these actions often enough for them to earn a solid place on this comedic list. 💁

Fair warning ⚠️— we highly recommend reading this list after your stamppot. 🤢

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 their 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: Depositphotos

Ever heard of drop? Well, how about liquorice? I’ve been warned by children on the internet who hate it and noticed that the Dutch have a variety of drops sold 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’ve made a whole guide to Dutch drop, so it’s as important as it is odd.

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, and 10% eat what they’ve found! 🤮

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 on the floor below — enough said but here’s a photo anyway.

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

6. Inspect their poep

Speaking of Dutch bathrooms, have you noticed 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 your💩 before flushing.

7. Eat herring

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 speciality of this one.

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

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 haven’t. Finger licking, followed by a spoon lick, then back into 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. Wash your hands? Never heard of it

Goes hand in hand with the finger-licking — no pun intended. Dutchies not washing their hands is, unfortunately, 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, and gross habits the Dutch do. 🤢 At least we hope that’s all…

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

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2021 and was fully updated in September 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Farah Al Mazouni 🇸🇾 🇺🇸
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.

Liked it? Try these on for size:

What do you think?

33 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

    • Mary, did you read the box on top of the article, in blue? I do not take anything serious after having read that. For beter understanding: I am Dutch, born and raised, and lived in the US in different States since 1993, with a 5 year hiatus, when I went back to the Netherlands. So I should, could be annoyed but I am not. And yes, I can write similar “observations” about the US and several other cultures I lived in, for a short while.

  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!

  7. This post is very racist and disrespectful. How could Dutch Review allow such a discriminatory post? I, too, am an expat and can logically state that her article title is insulting, and the statements are full of belittling, generalizing, and disrespecting a whole population. I encourage her and the management of Dutch Review to be aware of fueling racism, especially after all these human rights and DEI movements.

  8. There’s another one! When they lick their fingers to make it wet so they can take off dirt from someone’s (mostly their kids) face 😂😂😂😂

  9. Very inaccurate and based only on the point of view of the writer.
    * I’ve seen spitting on the streets done in many countries; licking fingers as well.
    * The food is only based on the taste of the one who doesn’t like drop (black liquorice), filet americain (a raw finely minced meat spread on bread) and haring (herring), not on what’s actually gross. I, for one, don’t like either but would call it a gross habit.
    * Swallowing live goldfish may be a ritual during initiation into a student union, not a general thing.
    * Wearing outdoor shoes is family dependent, no not a general rule.
    * And public urinals are found in many places in large cities, not smaller ones.

    On the other hand, the washing hands after using the toilet may be somewhat accurate. A survey taken at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic showed that only 50% washed their hands after a visit too the toilet.

    Reader, take all what the writer wrote with a grain of salt and don’t let that deter you from visiting this country.

  10. The gold fish swallowing I’m not familiar with. May occur among younger folks, but I’ve not witnessed it among adults. However, all the other items discussed have some validity to it, although it may be perceived by a Dutch person as exaggerated, or even untrue. It is especially noticeable as an expat when revisiting the Netherlands. Perhaps it is less noticeable when your immersed full time in Dutch culture. I find it a bit amusing that some take the perception of an observant witness with such insult and disdain. The truth hurts, but no reason to lash out at the author. Besides each country has it own mannerism and cultural differences that may not be very appealing to others. For example, slurping your soup in many parts of Asia catches the aromas of the flavor, whereas in Europe it would be severely frowned upon. Another example is the Western World habit of wiping our butts with a piece of paper tissue. This results in spreading all your doo doo over your butt, often leaving brown tracks on your underwear. Many other cultures perceive that as gross, and actually wash their butts with water at each toilet outing. So, fellow Dutchies, please relax, have a borrel, and take the observant critiques in stride.

    • That’s not at ALL how tp works. If you’re left with a doo-doo smeared butt, and skid marks in your underwear, you’re DEFINITELY doing it wrong. O.O

  11. This is not the only true things around here. They don’t care about the hygiene AT ALL. I never in my life I hade shame to work like a cleaner until I started to work for a company in Netherlands, that was to work like a cleaner in the private houses of the Dutch people. If I didn’t need urgent money to pay my studies, I have give up from the 1 day. Not to say the females from here are even much gross than the men if is possible. In every house, like literally, EVERY house, the bathrooms where disgusting. Tampons full of blood, for days throw it under the bed, toilet paper with shit let it besides the toilet, funny thing, the garbage basket was all the time empty but the used things throw it everywhere. I don’t want to say nothing ab the fridge and the food that they eat, and let it there expired. Garbage under the tables let it for months that even spiders make houses. I don’t even want to mention the rats. Even the animal pillows where they slept it was much more clean then their beds. The make-up used and let it throw everyone, the beauty sponge that the girl used, I have seen kitchen sponges looking better that that. The dirt…OMG, they have dirt even in the closet.
    I never in my life I hade to vacuum in a CLOSET! until a came here. I worked like this for 3 years. ALL OF THEM are like this. Doesn’t matter if it is the average class or if they are rich. They present themselves in the public eyes totally different that the way the they truly are. Not to say that are one of the most fake and racist people that I have meet, and I have lived in other 2 country’s to. Nothing is true. They expect that you will be always in time, but they almost never are. I never meet a dutch to be straight in the one face, I wished to be like that than the fakeness.

  12. I’m sorry… but finger licking and spoon licking is disgusting? I’m American, and I do that! EVERYONE DOES. Whoever wrote this article clearly was raised in a strict, posh household…

  13. Tsking off your shoes without asking permission is considered EXTREMELY rude in the Netherlands. It’s basically saying you have no intention of leaving and this is your house now.

  14. Still, the Dutch are among the cleanest, most prosperous, and socially advanced people in the world. Every country seems to have similar, if not worse ‘violations’ of ‘propriety’, as well. So, is this just a case of jostling those doing well?

  15. If anyone said this kind of rubbish about a noon European country they would be considered racist or worse. What a discussing article. It isn’t even funny.

  16. Bon il y a certaines choses vraies,mais je crois que l`ont en fait tout un fromage pour pas grand chose.A comparer avec le reste de l`Europe il n`y a pas de vainqueurs.Car rien que sur la France ont pourraient en parler pendant longtemps !!!

  17. On a train, change a dirty baby nappy on a normal regular commuter seat because the train toilet is busy. Clean dirt from under fingernails, file fingernails, brush hair, pick food from teeth, spray perfume on self liberally, in a restaurant restroom or train. Simply poor hygiene and lack of manners. Absolutely something to miss, self indulgent, and rude.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related posts

Latest posts

Dutch Quirk #44: Wear way, way, way too much orange

POV: you wake up on the morning of King's Day. You think you see an army of Oompa Loompas marching down the city streets....

Salaries in the Netherlands: the ultimate guide to Dutch wages

Thinking of taking a job in the Netherlands? Good for you, that’s a courageous move and I'm proud — now let’s get down to...

Forget camping in France: these destinations are increasingly popular when travelling from the NL this summer

The insurance company ANWB just surveyed nearly 2,000 Dutchies with a singular goal in mind: figure out their holiday plans. The result? A whopping nine out...

It's happening

Upcoming events

The latest Dutch news.
In your inbox.