5 clichés about the Dutch that are absolutely true

There are many clichés and stereotypes about the Netherlands and Dutch culture, from clogs to cannabis. Although some clichés can be damaging or just downright wrong, some of them have come from some grain of truth.

After living here for a year, I have narrowed down five clichés about the Dutch that are (in most cases) absolutely true.

Frugality

Ever heard the expression ‘going Dutch’? While not all dates turn out this way, you are more likely to end up paying for at least some of your own meal if you date a Dutchie.

This has not only been noticed in English-speaking circles. The Belgians and Germans love to have a good joke about it too. (Although the Dutch do give as good as they get. And indeed, most neighbouring European countries like to have a good joke at their neighbour’s expense!)

Nonetheless, being goedkoop (cheap) is frequently seen as a big selling point for many products in the Netherlands. Dutch people love a bargain (who doesn’t?) but sometimes this trait doesn’t always come across so well if you are seeing it from an outsiders perspective.

One study has shown that Dutchies spend less than any other European nation on holidays and festivities. However, some people might just see this as being more frugal and less materialistic than other nations. And indeed, it certainly doesn’t have to mean that they have less fun! Perhaps not spending as much money leaves more room for other ways of enjoying life, such as…

bike-on-amsterdam-canal
Image: StockPhoto/Pixabay

Bikes

Ahh yes, the bicycle is another cliché about the Dutch. Although not invented by the Dutch (in fact, it was German inventor Karl Drais who invented the precursor to the modern bicycle in 1817), the two-wheeled mode of transport is a hallmark of the Netherlands. Perhaps it’s because it’s so small and flat and therefore relatively easy to manoeuvre with two pedals. Or, perhaps it’s because bicycles save space and are environmentally friendly. It’s all, of course, complete conjecture. But the point is, if you want to fit into Dutch life, you should probably get a bicycle.

What is quickly becoming noticeable, though, about this cliché is that bikes are modernising, and fast. Although you will still see many of the clunky, heavy, back-pedal brake models that you would associate with being Dutch, do not be surprised when you are overtaken by a silent, sleek-looking bike with a not-so-new looking owner. Electric bikes are rapidly becoming more popular, and more difficult to distinguish from regular bikes.

This can be a good thing if it is making exercise and freedom more accessible for those who are less mobile. It also means that older generations are suddenly much speedier than they’re used to, so keep your wits about you! (For more cycle safety tips, see Jordy Steijn’s article).

Frankness (Dutch uncles!)

Ever heard of a Dutch uncle? No, I don’t mean a tall distant relative called Jan or Matthijs. This is another stereotype from abroad, which is noticeable if you come from a polite-to-the-point-of-passive-aggressive culture like the UK. The Dutch are frank, blunt, no-nonsense people. They won’t pretend to like something just because they think it might offend you. On the one hand, it is very ‘refreshing’ — you will know exactly where you stand — but it can also come as a bit of a shock. Much like a plunge into icy water can be ‘refreshing’ if you’re a bit hungover. Perhaps that’s a little harsh, but then maybe you should get used to it if you plan to spend any amount of time in the Netherlands!

 dutchdirectmeme

 

Cheese

I love cheese. I have always said, “I could be a vegan if it wasn’t for cheese.” Maybe I thought I would fit right in, and in many ways I do, particularly when it comes to kaas. But be warned, if you are a strict vegan, the yellow stuff is everywhere! From delicious kaassouffles to boterhamen, you’d better get used to it because the Dutch put it in pretty much everything.

Being tall

This is probably the most obviously apparent one of clichés about the Dutch when you arrive in the Netherlands. But still, sometimes I am shocked at how tall some people are here! In the UK I am slightly above average height. But here, well… I am probably one of the shorter ones in my class at university. And I am not just basing this article on spurious first-hand accounts, oh no! The Dutch are officially the tallest nation in the world!

 

 

There you have ’em! Any clichés about the Dutch that I left out but are definitely true? Would love to hear about them in the comments!

Feature image: Rex Roof/Flickr. CC2.0.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2016 and was fully updated for your reading pleasure in October 2020. 

14 COMMENTS

  1. I think an important one is missing: Dutch Stubborness – There’s no more stoic people than the Dutch. It’s “maybe” somewhat related to frankness but it goes far beyond that. If a Dutchman has set his (or her) mind to something, it’s going to happen. It’s how half the country was drained and made into a tiny, but sprawling, nation; how the Dutch kept an 80 years long guerilla war against the Spanish going until the latter said “F#ck it! Keep your soggy soil, flat piece of land then!”; refuse to accept common morality/ethics as the rest of the world and (thankfully!) stick to their own (gay marriage, soft drugs and so forth); most importantly – have you ever fought a Dutchman on any kind of issue they disagree with? It’s not just the frankness, you’d need a gun if not bigger to convince a Dutchie they’re wrong…

    OH! And the (arguably) disgusting food reputation we have, I of course love most of it, but to the foreigner it’s all a wee bit of a giant, steaming mess and from an international “haute cuisine” perspective they’re not wrong!

  2. Okay, as a Dutch person living in the States, can I just add that I have never, no NEVER seen so many dishes with cheese (disgusting cheese may I add) as here in the States? Cheese on a tuna sandwich? Something the Dutch would never do! But being tall, yes this is true. It took a move to another continent to be considered ‘tall’. I am the shortest in my family and not considered tall at all, but here in the US people call me tall even if I wear flats! I love it!

    • Edith schriever.. Some and I mean some americans in a dinner might put cheese on a tuna melt sandwich or cheddar on a tuna sandwich which is no worse then ALL dutch people do by putting disgusting tuna on a “SCHWARMA” Pizza which you guys actually believe is a pizza. Talk about down right disgusting. Sorry to say but dutch food is some of the plainest boring disgusting food in Europe and I have had them all. Its a absolute disgrace what you guys even call pizza! Its schwarma pizza its not even real pizza tomato sauce. Yet you guys are a few hours drive from the holy grail of pizza countries in the world. How can you screw up a pizza leave it to the dutch.. We wont even begin to talk about what the dutch call “MEXICANS” food.. You think putting paparika on a ground up deep fried piece of mystery meat is a mexican dish I have to stop from laughing. This is the funniest one of them all the Dutch actually dress up in their sundays best cloths and go to eat dinner at “taco bell” lol like its some fine dining experience or fancy place to eat! Its american fast food that poor college kids eat in the USA. Yet the dutch think they can brag to their friends that they ate at the local 3 or 5 taco bells that the netherlands has. Talk about cheese the dutch only know 50 kinds of cheese of the same variant nothing actually different from each type. They are all basically the same. The reason you call American cheese bad is because you most likely sound like some poor foreign student studying in the united states who eats at cheap Dennys restaurants or dinners on the east coast. Try going to a decent restaurant and eating better cheeses. Am I totally mean about the dutch no I will say they make dam fine bread or kibbling or pintakaas. Yes the dutch are tall and we know your tall so stop bragging your tall in the usa no one cares and if anything you stand out like stork lost in a sea of people.

  3. […] Second of all, you are probably going to have a much more “real Dutch” experience rather than a simply international one, compared to your exchange. Note that this is not a bad thing! Many of your colleagues are from the Netherlands, and maybe you have more dutch roommates than internationals, not living in an international student house anymore. This means you could be not exposed to new cultural differences every day, but on the other hand you will learn a lot more about culture, traditions and behavior of your second home. I promise that the many stereotypes (being cheap, or not able to flirt… ?) are not true. (Bluntness, on the other hand, is a real thing here!)  […]

  4. As a Dutch born, but now living in Canada, I like to mention the following. I’m a senior now but lived my first 28 years in Holland.
    Then, people were not tall. At least not a tall as I heard they are now. Sure, there were tall people, but the nation with the tallest people? No way…….
    I am talking about the 50’s – 70’s……….
    Heb een heerlijke dag allemaal………❤️??

  5. Pretty accurate. But I always thought the expression Dutch uncle in fact referred to a stereotype about Germans. They supposedly liked to tell you off. Not the same thing as Dutch bluntness.

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 HORECA rarely reprimanded for ignoring coronavirus measures

HORECA establishments aren't complying with the coronavirus measures, and municipalities are not giving them so much as a warning for this. On September 25,...

You’re under arrest: thousands of Dutchies targeted by phishing calls

Since August, thousands of Dutchies have received suspicious phone calls in which cyber-criminals try to get their personal information, such as citizen service (BSN)...

Nee, echt?! One of the wettest natural areas in the Netherlands is drying up

Nature lovers may already be familiar with the Dutch nature reserve called the Veluwe. The 91,200-hectare area is a popular recreational area that offers...

The latest Dutch news.
In your inbox.

 
 
X