Three very important differences between Britain and the Netherlands

An expat Brit recounts the most important differences between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. 🇬🇧⚡️🇳🇱

Having landed in the lowlands way back in 2016, I thought I became seamlessly in tune with the varying differences between my beloved homeland and the not-so-distant Netherlands after a couple of months.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

Trying (and failing) to become Dutch

I had gotten on a bike for the first time in 15 years and managed to navigate city cycling without killing myself — or others, for that matter. Succes!

I tasted and incorporated stamppot, bread, cheese, and copious amounts of stroopwafels into my diet and adjusted my weekly gym routine accordingly. I used to be taken aback by the infamous Dutch directness, but have now come to love and appreciate it.

READ MORE | That time the Dutch conquered Britain (ja, we’re serious)

So after 4 months, I was feeling like a Dutch pro — until my parents came to visit. I had the pleasure of showing them around, who saw the Netherlands through fresh, glittery eyes and pointed out the nuances I had either gotten used to or subconsciously dealt with while mastering bigger obstacles, like biking.

The following differences are actually three of the most (stereotypically) important, dare I say, institutions of Britain — and below is how they differ, for better or worse, from the way things are done in the Netherlands.

Differences between Britain and the Netherlands

1. To queue or not to queue?

🇬🇧 What the British do

Queueing is what the British do best. It gives us a sense of order and civility, and we’ll be damned if someone jumps the line we love oh-so-very much.

Even in the midst of the horror that is Christmas shopping, if you mistakenly join the queue at the incorrect point, then expect to feel the scorn and shame of the entire store as some smug shopper will drag you out and “politely” show you the “proper” end of the line.

🇳🇱 What the Dutch do

Here in the Netherlands, it can be a very different tale. Take the buses, for example. Firstly, everyone mooches around the stop in a queue-like fashion, personal space is maintained, and there is a distinct acknowledgement of who arrived first.

As soon as the bus pulls in, however, it’s a free for all! The last person to join the crowd often gleefully steps aboard, leaving any anxious, dazed, and confused Brit to shuffle on last, completely bewildered at the savagery that had just occurred.

2. Fish and Chips vs. Kibbeling

picture-of-a-box-of-kibbeling
Is it the British Fish and Chips, or the Dutch kibbeling? Image: Depositphotos

🇬🇧 What the British do

As far as being quintessentially British goes, fish and chips are up there with the Queen, talking about the weather, and having a pint in a pub. The national dish is cherished, loved, and staunchly defended by the masses.

The only food not to be subjected to rationing in WWII, paper-wrapped fish and chips have been a familiar go-to dinner since the mid-19th century in Great Britain.

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Typically flavoured with salt and vinegar, the nation’s favourite is often consumed on rainy days by the seaside, at lunchtime for the rebellious teenagers straying from school, and of course for Friday supper after work!

🇳🇱 What the Dutch do

Having travelled far and wide, I never came across another dish that rivalled the sentimentality attached to fish and chips from back home. That is until I stepped foot in Groningen.

Since then, I genuinely look forward to queueing or pushing my way to the counter of the Dutch fish truck just to place my order: “Een portie kibbeling met saus, alstublieft“.

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For the most part, the principle is the same as fish and chips: battered fish cooked before your eyes and served to the masses.

However, kibbeling comes in smaller, more accessible pieces, often beautifully dusted with some mysterious spice that gives a flavour leaving you wanting more. It is also served in a handy tray with a nice space for some garlic-based sauce. Delicious!

3. Tea vs Thee

woman-with-red-finger-nails-holding-cup-of-tea
Black tea with a splash of milk — an English national treasure. Image: Pexels

🇬🇧 What the British do

Confession time. I am British, but up until recently, I have not loved tea. 🪦

I know, I’ve burst many friends’ ideas of what it means to be a true Brit by forgoing a lovely brew for some O.J. or a good ol’ glass of water. My parents, on the other hand, are staunch tea supporters and rarely travel without their treasured Tetley Teabags or Yorkshire’s finest.

The classic brew (admittedly a widely debated topic) involves said teabag, hot water, removal of the teabag and the addition of milk and sugar to taste. In that order.

🇳🇱 What the Dutch do

While the Dutch do have thee in abundance, it is normally fruity, green, or minty. Now, this thee is something I can get on board with. I mean, who doesn’t love a good cup of Bosvruchten (forest fruit) in the morning?

My poor father, however, found this fundamental difference out the hard way. After leaving his beloved Yorkshire Gold behind when visiting, I offered him a cup of thee. Unfortunately, my favourite Yorkshire man could not find peace with his citrusy cup of steaming Pickwick.

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In an attempt to make things better (against my advice), he followed the institutional method of tea making and removed the lemony tea bag to add a splash of milk. As one can imagine, this didn’t go down well. Unless you count the sink.

Some final words of advice to incoming Brits

Too many of these differences may be futile, but when your national stereotype is largely centred around the above three things, any small alteration in how such things are eaten, drunk, and organised can be catastrophic.

So, here’s a warning to all incoming Brits: bring your own tea bags, take Valium when embarking on public transport, and prepare to take a step back. Most importantly, swallow your pride and accept that the Dutchies do battered fish way better than we do.

Were there any other noteworthy differences between Britain and the Netherlands I left out? Leave ’em in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2016, and was fully updated in September 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Samantha Tinsdeall
Samantha Tinsdeall
Originally from the UK, Samantha has pursued her love of travelling. A graduate of English Literature, she is now focusing on 'what she wants to be when she grows up', whilst finding her feet in the Netherlands after being side-tracked by a Dutch man she met in Budapest.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Yes the main difference is that the Dutch are humourless calvinists who think they are morally superior but are often just dim wankers that know nothing about the rest of the world…

  2. I’ve had two neighbours in Bondi Beach Australia ?? that are Dutch… So don’t believe they like us…. yet the Dutch do love success beaches and our life style… Am finding very self centred… Really selfish not selfless …. which is different… Act geniue yet ya can tell even if they ask a question… just always move on… so ignorant I think.. Hey if ya not honestly kind person don’t try cause we notice.. Sorry yet just seem to be Dutch.. ✨?✨ oh ps have cousin in law that’s Dutch yet so so not what I’ve experienced here in Bondi Beach ✨?✨

  3. I found this very funny and interesting. I also live in the Netherlands but have never been to the UK. For some reason I would have never thought that British people were more orderly or respectful to one another in traffic situations. I don’t know why but I think this prejudice stems from the scenes of British football hooligans I have seen in the past on television (since childhood). Apparently I subconsciously assumed that Brits must be less ‘civilized’ or generally more aggressive than the Dutch. Of course most Brits are also alcoholic and love fist fighting in pubs, right? 😉

    • Must see their football hooligans haha, Abuse on women skyrockets in the UK whenever England loses in the EK and WK

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