Three very important differences between Britain and the Netherlands

Brit in NL here! 🙋‍♀️

Royal families, English language and football fanatics — Brits and Dutchies have lots in common. But as for cultural differences? Yeah, there’s a fair share of those too. 🇬🇧⚡️🇳🇱

When I first landed in the lowlands way back in 2016, I thought I was in tune with the ways my beloved homeland differed from the not-so-distant Netherlands I now call home.

That was only a few months in. And boy, was I wrong.

Brit attempts Dutchification

Before we dive into the cultural clashes, let me set the scene for my initiation into Dutch culture.

I was busy dealing with the big culture shocks at hand: getting on a bike for the first time in 15 years and navigating city cycling without injuring myself or anyone else. Succes!

@dutchreview It takes a while… 🤕 #dutchlife #thenetherlands #cycling #dutchmemes #expatlife #expatsinthenetherlands #learndutch #dutchreview #meme #memecut ♬ son original – Caroline #prendresoindesoi

And after initially being taken aback by the infamous Dutch directness, I soon came to love and appreciate it. I even incorporated stamppot, bread, cheese, and copious amounts of stroopwafels into my diet (adjusting my gym routine accordingly).

It’s safe to say I was feeling like a Dutchified pro — until my parents came to visit.

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

Sure enough, showing them around my new home revealed nuances that had escaped my attention as I focused on mastering bigger obstacles like biking and cuisine.

Three of these are among the most (stereotypically) important institutions of British culture. So here’s 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.

Especially in the midst of the drama that is Christmas shopping, expect scorn and shame if you mistakenly join the queue at the incorrect point. One smug shopper will no doubt “politely” show you the “proper” end of the line.

🇳🇱 What the Dutch do

It’s a very different tale in the Netherlands. Take the buses, for example. Everyone mooches around the stop in an attempted queue-like fashion: personal space is maintained and there is a distinct acknowledgement of who arrived first.

But when the bus pulls in, it’s a free-for-all.

Often the last person to join the crowd gleefully steps aboard, with confused Brits left in a daze. They shuffle on last, completely bewildered by the savagery that had just occurred.

2. Fish and Chips vs. 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 King, talking about the weather and having a pint in a pub.

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

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

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

But having travelled far and wide, I never encountered a dish that rivalled the sentimentality attached to fish and chips back home. That is until I stepped foot in Groningen.

Now, I genuinely look forward to queueing (of course) at the counter of the Dutch fish truck just to place my order: “Een portie kibbeling met saus, alstublieft“.

READ MORE | The Dutch have finally got their head around British sport (watch inside)!

The main difference is the smaller pieces of kibbeling that are dusted with some mysterious spice, served on a tray instead of in paper and with a nice space for some garlic-based sauce. Delicious!

3. Tea vs Thee

Black tea with a splash of milk — an English national treasure. Image: Pexels

🇬🇧 What the British do

Confession time. I am a Brit who was not always a tea-lover. 🪦

I know, I’ve burst many ideas of what it means to be a true Brit by forgoing a lovely brew for 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.

READ MORE | Here’s the tea: Dutchies have no idea how to drink it

The classic brew (though widely debated) 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 also have thee in abundance, it is normally fruity, green, or minty. This was something I immediately got on board with — 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.

READ MORE | 5 personality traits that the Brits could learn from the Dutch

After leaving his beloved Yorkshire Gold behind when visiting, I offered him a cup of thee. Unfortunately, my favourite Yorkshireman could not find peace with his citrusy cup of steaming Pickwick.

In an attempt to improve things (against my advice), he followed the institutional method 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.

Parting wisdom for incoming Brits

Such differences may be futile, but when your national stereotype is largely centred around these three things, any small alterations become significant.

Incoming Brits, beware: 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!

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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What do you think?

  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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