Dutch Quirk #30: Send people away when they’re about to have dinner

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #30: Send people away when they’re about to have dinner

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: 

  1. 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.”
  2. 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. 

READ MORE | Would you offer your guests dinner? Dutchies don’t, and the internet is mad (!)

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.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Juni Moltubak
Juni Moltubak
Juni moved to the Netherlands after realizing how expensive tuition fees in the UK are, and never regretted her choice of studying in The Hague. After three years of Political Science, she is ready for a new adventure — an internship at DutchReview! When you don’t see her typing on her laptop she can be found strolling around Haagse Bos or sitting in her lovely garden scrolling through interior design TikToks.
  1. I think it what really causes this behavior is shame: if someone is invited for dinner, Dutchies tend to try to impress their guests. They don’t want to serve what they usually eat, e.g. boiled potatoes with Brussels sprouts and a plain burger, or mashed potatoes with raw andive, cheese and gravy.
    The other option would be to order some food, but yes, that would be way out of line for the Dutch, on a regular weekday.

  2. I think the other way, it’s rude to come to peoples home just before dinner time thinking you can get a place at the table.

    • Wonder if the other way around would be the same. While you say it’s rude. … when you’d ask the Dutch to join you for dinner if it happen to be diner time, they will eagerly join saying lekker lekker instead of acting like its against their culture and act of rudeness to stay…

      • Well yeah, at that point it’s an invitation. The point isn’t that the Dutch will reject being invited to dinner, it’s that expecting said invite is rude. Being invited to dinner is perfectly okay, it’s just not expected.

  3. It was normal for the Lady of the house to do the shopping for dinner the same day and most would do the planning for one or two days in advance, I remember my mom going to the market on Wednesday and Saturday to get fresh groceries, fish or meat. Most houses had no fridge to keep their meat, fish or vegetables fresh. For the same reason there was never any left overs and you ate what was being served there was no other choices.

  4. I have eaten at family dinners in Holland, and it is true they are cheap skates. The bathrooms are cold. But I like the Dutch habits. Why not save money where you can. You will need it when you retire.

  5. Funny how you think you know the Dutch after living here for just a few years ( and assume they are all the same)
    I hereby invite you to my home. You can come whenever you want and you can eat as much as you want. There’s always plenty, so you can also bring friends. Welcome!

  6. It’s not just about money, but also intimacy. Dinner is a private time you enjoy with your family, or it’s a quiet time you can finally be by yourself after a long day of work. To intrude on that is beyond rude in our culture. It also means that being invited to stay for dinner is the ultimate form of affection, usually reserved for special occasions like Christmas or birthdays and only if you have a very close bond with the host.

  7. So true. My dad once brought a co-worker home for dinner. It was very short notice, so my mom had started cooking already. She totally paniced and felt so embarassed…
    There was not going to be enough food to serve a 5th person!
    Had only he told her earlier, so she could have run to the store for a 5th piece of meat and perhaps some salad to have a 2nd vegetable to share. Then she would also have peeled more potatoes….

    The only grocery store in the village was about to close, the potatoes she had peeled were about ready to serve already.

    My mom always planned our meals a week in advance. Dutch food used to be vegetable oriented. Say, Monday 1 couliflower to share with 4 persons, potatoes (about 3 for my dad, 2 for my sister etcetera) and a little sausage each. Tuesday, spinach weighed at the supermarket to serve 4, boiled potatoes and a boiled egg each.
    She got the groceries for these meals accordingly.
    There were never any leftovers in our place. My grandparents remembered being hungry during the war. So my parents were taught wasting food by cooking more than you would eat for dinner, was just not done.
    My grandfather expected us to scrape your plate and our dessert vla was poured on the same plate.

    My sister and I were allowed to bring a friend home to dinner, but not on too short notice. My mom wanted to be prepared. If possible, to be able to cook something the guest would like, as indeed we often had stuff like brussel sprouts.
    When a friend of ours joined, she would adjust the menu, check for preferences and allergies and prepare an extra nice desert. So not our usual vla or yoghurt, but icecream for instance.

    So in my view, she was NOT rude or cheap. She just wanted to be prepared and be able to offer our guest a nice dinner.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

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

More Dutch quirks