Have you ever had dinner at a Dutch person’s house? Then you’re one of the lucky ones. The Dutch have a tendency to send people away when it’s time to eat.
If you’ve lived in the Netherlands for a while, you’ve probably experienced it: the characteristic double-slap on the knees, the deep sigh, and then the inevitable “he-he”.
It’s time to go.
What is it?
Visiting a Dutch person can be quite the experience: from the birthday calendar in the bathroom and the poop shelf in the toilet to the immense stack of hagelslag in the cupboard and the striking amount of cheese and bread that’s served at all times of the day.
But most noticeable is the fact that it’s ingrained in Dutch hospitality culture to socially force their guests to leave just before dinner time.
Your Dutch host is likely to show you out in one of two ways:
- They’ll tell you straight up that it’s time for you to leave, like the direct folks that they are. They’ll probably say something along the lines of “well, it’s almost dinner time, so it might be time for you to go home soon.”
- They’ll indirectly push you towards the exit by saying something like, “well, it’s 16:30, so I was thinking I should get started on dinner in not too long…”
Now the second variant is particularly tricky to wrap your head around because to most non-Dutch people, it might sound like they’re inviting you to have dinner with them.
Make no mistake, they’re probably not.
@dutchreview Okay, we can take a hint. #fyp #dutchreview #expat #dutch #nl #dinner ♬ original sound – DutchReview
Why do they do it?
The Dutch are, as we’ve established here many times, extremely and overwhelmingly direct sometimes. The infamous Dutch directness can easily come across as rude, although Dutch people steadfastly claim they’re just trying to be efficient and economical with their words.
That the Dutch send their guests away before dinner might be just another expression of their directness — they’re simply saying or doing exactly what they’re thinking or feeling — for the greater good.
Another explanation for the Dutch tendency to send people away before they get food might be that the Dutch are great planners. If you’ve ever visited the Netherlands, you may have noticed how well-organised everything is.
The Dutch generally find it highly chaotic to include unexpected factors into their daily habits, and including more people in their dinner plans on short notice might feel just a bit too impractical for the schedule-driven Dutchies.
A final plausible option explaining this behaviour is, of course, the age-old habit of the Dutch being stingy. And, oh lord, are they stingy. Let’s not go into too much detail, but only highlight a few classics: broodje met kaas for lunch, sending tikkies for virtually nothing, and having ice-cold water in their bathroom sinks.
Let’s face it: the most likely explanation for why Dutch people send their guests away before dinner is that they’d rather save those extra few pennies.
Why is it quirky?
In most cultures, it’s considered rude not to feed your guests. That’s one of the perks of being a guest. But not in the Netherlands, no (and okay, some Scandinavians do the same thing). Here, it’s perfectly normal to send people off hungry.
@dutchreview Remember that time the Dutch ate their prime minister? #fyp #dutchreview #dutchhistory #dutchfunfacts #crazydutchfacts #netherlands #nederland #holland ♬ original sound – DutchReview
It’s strange, really, that Dutchies don’t keep their guests for dinner since they tend to eat ridiculously early (hello, dinner at 5 PM). There’s no risk of dinner lasting into the late night when you start that early, so the fear of guests overstaying until the late side of the night is not particularly present.
Should you join in?
In short, if you want to save every cent you can, you should consider joining in on this quirk. However, the Netherlands is a very international country, so you might want to reconsider if you’re planning on making any non-Dutch friends.
What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!
This article was originally published in August 2022, and was fully updated in October 2023 for your reading pleasure.