Meeting your Dutch partner’s parents: all you need to know

Meeting your partner’s parents can be nerve-racking at the best of times. However, meeting them in a foreign country where you don’t know the language and local customs is a whole other ball game. 

As an international, you might feel nervous about meeting your significant other’s Dutch parents. What will you say to them? Will you be able to communicate? Will they like you? If you’re feeling a little lost and unsure, we’ve been there: so we gathered some tips to help you prepare!

The practicalities of meeting your Dutch partner’s parents 📚

Introductions can be a bit overwhelming, especially when it concerns the (potential) love of your life. Here are the main things we think you should be prepared for: 

How to nail the Dutch greeting 😙

First things first, the greeting. If your partner’s parents lurch forward and try to plant a kiss on your cheek upon arrival, never fear — this is a normal part of Dutch culture. In the Netherlands, people typically greet each other with three kisses on the cheek (left-right-left). If you don’t get a kiss, you can expect a firm handshake.

Should you bring a gift? 🎁

A gesture is appreciated but isn’t mandatory. If you’d like to bring something, flowers, chocolates, or biscuits are always a good bet.

If you’re holding the meet-up in your own home make sure to provide everything — unlike in some cultures, it’s not a custom to bring a dish, dessert, or wine to lunch or dinner at someone’s house. That’s not to say it never happens, but play on the safe side and don’t assume. 

What should you call your Dutch partner’s parents? 👋

In most cases, Dutch people are quite casual. Therefore, you can expect to be addressing them by their first names pretty quickly. 

Married or not, the Dutch regularly refer to their partner’s parents as their “in-laws” — weird right? So your mother-in-law is your schoonmoeder, and your father-in-law is schoonvader. To make things weirder, the Dutch translations are literally “clean-mother” (schoonmoeder) and “clean-father” (schoonvader).

What will you talk about with your Dutch parents-in-law? 🎙

You can be sure that your partner’s parents will be curious about their child’s international partner. Dutch people are known for being pretty open-minded and tolerant, so if you’re concerned about your cultural background, it’s probably not necessary.

When you sit down for your meal or refreshments, prepare to be bombarded with questions: Where are you from? How long have you been in the Netherlands? What brought you here? What do your parents do? Have you learnt any Dutch yet?

At first, the conversation might be a bit laboured. But as you each become more comfortable with each other, you’ll find common ground and be chatting away in no time.

READ MORE | Dating in the Netherlands: 6 things about dating the Dutch

As an international, being able to communicate effectively with your partner’s parents and family is a great incentive and reward for learning Dutch. Speaking the language will also help you to feel more comfortable and integrated into the family, especially if you’re in it for the long term.

At the very least, you’ll all have something to laugh about when the family inevitably asks you to demonstrate what you’ve learnt so far at the dinner table. There’s also a strong chance that your partner’s mom will offer you her kid’s old storybooks to help you practice your Dutch — Jip en Janneke here we come!

What to expect when meeting your new Dutch in-laws 🔮

The Dutch are very family-oriented. If you’re in a relationship with a Dutchie, you’re likely to spend quite a lot of time with their parents, and will probably be obliged to attend many family events — so you better get comfortable. 

Truth be told, meeting your Dutchie’s parents may not all be smooth-sailing. We’ve heard some horror stories of people struggling with cultural differences, awkward small talk, and being forced to eat food that they’re not comfortable with — like boterhammen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

READ MORE | Dating a Dutchman! 13 reasons why it’s a good choice

Nevertheless, we hear far more stories of great kindness and hospitality. Besides, in all likelihood, you’ll get to see cute and/or embarrassing child and baby photos of your partner — and who doesn’t love that?

Overall, it’s good for both you and your partner’s parents to get to know each other and learn about your different cultures. Our best advice is to be open-minded and make the most of the experience. And remember — your partner’s Dutch parents might just be nervous too!

If all goes well, they’ll be your schoonfamilie in no time. 

What was your experience of meeting your Dutch partner’s parents? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Image: Pressmaster/Depositphotos

Jen Lorimer 🇿🇼
An avid tea drinker, Jen was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She moved to Utrecht in 2017 to pursue her history degree. She loves people-watching, canoeing the Utrecht canals, and observing how the Dutch come alive in summer. Having been traumatised by a Dutch circle party, Jen wants to help equip other internationals with tips and tricks to survive and thrive in this wonderful flat country.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Quite opposite experience overall about being bombarded by questions about me. Did I find the weird ones or there is something I should be worried about?! Ahahahaha

  2. As in many languages words can have different meanings, depending of their context.
    A bit simplistic to translate the word ‘schoon’ to ‘clean’, since here it means ‘mooi’ which in medieval Dutch can also mean ‘honourable’ , as a sign of respect.
    It is actually a translation from the French ‘belle-mère’

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