What you need to know about Labour Day in the Netherlands

It’s Labour Day in the Netherlands. Yes, people, gather round! It’s the universal holiday on which we celebrate labour? (I guess). You might have missed the significance of it, especially if you have spent Labour Day in the Netherlands.

Perhaps you’re so well integrated that you’re not even sure what Labour Day is! 😉

Geen problem, let’s catch you up on what you need to know about Labour Day in the Netherlands.

What is Labour Day?

Labour Day (or International Workers Day) originates from the ultra-communist nation of the United States of America. Bet you didn’t see that one coming ey?

So what happened in the USA? The Socialists and Communists chose May 1 as the date for International Workers’ Day to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago on May 4, 1886. Labour Day is celebrated by 80 countries that usually take the day off to protest.

Labour Day in the Netherlands

However, in the Netherlands, Labour Day actually isn’t usually a day off for most workers, in fact, it’s not celebrated much at all here. 🤷‍♂️

Political parties and Labour Day

Generally, most of the celebration happens amongst left-wing party workers and members. Parties such as Labour (PvdA) and the Socialist Party (SP) will usually celebrate by doing things such as visiting memorials that are important to them and singing “The Internationale.”

If you’re feeling particularly energetic this Labour Day, you can always join in.

What about regular folk?

Outside of these political parties, some public workers have the day off, the stock exchange is closed, and there are some marginal socialist meetings.

Also, May 1 is a day somewhat in between the very few non-Christian holidays in the Dutch calendar. These include King’s Day (which used to be on April 30 until a few years ago), Remembrance Day (May 4) and Liberation Day (May 5). So lots of people get in their caravans and make a dash for a holiday in France or Germany.

And the French come to us… although accidentally.

Apart from this though, more or less nothing happens here on Labour Day. Chances are that you won’t notice anything, spend your whole day grinding away at the office, or you’re simply unemployed (but can’t be bothered to vigorously protest that on Labour Day).

So what the hell Holland? I thought we were the shining beacon of socialism in Europe, that’s at least what Fox News taught me. So, why aren’t there any protests on Labour Day in the Netherlands?

Why is Labour Day not widely celebrated in the Netherlands?

The answer can be found in the Dutch model of consensus politics: the Polder model. If you’re new to the Netherlands, listen up, it’s essential for understanding our political culture and history. The Dutch model of government is centred around consensus-based decision-making.

In history countries such as Russia, Germany, and France communist movements fought vicious street battles with other political groups. The sharp edges of the socialist uprising were not seen in the Netherlands.

A consensus was needed but hard to come by since Dutch society was “pillarised” into various pillars of political viewpoints. As a result, socialism was just one of many different political beliefs.

Another reason you may not have heard of it is that the Dutch predominantly celebrate Christian holidays. Also, we’re capitalist enough in the sense that employers will never ever give us an extra day off. 😔

Should there be more happening on Labour Day in the Netherlands? Tell us your thoughts in the comments, below!

Feature Image: FNV Bondgenoten/Flickr
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2015, and was fully updated in May 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Flickr
Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱
Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱http://www.abuzervanleeuwen.nl
Abuzer founded DutchReview a decade ago because he thought expats needed it and wanted to make amends for the Dutch cuisine. He has a Masters in Political Science and IT but somewhere always wanted to study history or good old football. He also a mortgage in the Netherlands and will happily tell you too how to get one. Born and raised in Rotterdam, Abuzer now lives in Leiden but is always longing back to his own international year in Italy.

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  1. What a bs, it doesn’t mean anything in the Netherlands because of the poldermodel and capitalism? Why isn’t it something: because we already had our shit (partly) sorted and we’re capable enough not to protest against nothing..we would rather celebrate the rights of workers than have random protests just to get a day off

    • AS IF worker’s rights in the Netherlands weren’t precarious! With all the temporary contracts and companies that fire people just not to give them indefinite contracts. Companies not being obliged to pay for lunch or transportation… Yeah, right, you totally got your shit sorted.

  2. Actually, Labor Day in the USA is always celebrated the first Monday in September, and it is a paid national holiday.

  3. It’s always so funny that when Dutch read smth “negative” about their country have to directly give an excuse and pretend that all works great here…so done with this mindset…🙄
    Yes, 1st of May should be celebrated, it means a lot for all the world.


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