Let’s face it. Dutch people are weird. It’s not the first time we’ve said it, it’s not even the second time, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the last time either. The Dutch just have some very odd Dutch quirks.
It’s also what makes the Dutch so lovable (most of the time) and, frankly, it’s what makes the Dutch…well, Dutch! So here are a few more lovely Dutch quirks.
On average, a Dutch person speaks more languages than most. In fact, an EU report shows that 77% of the Dutch speak at least two foreign languages! The only country higher than that is Luxembourg (84%).
Of course, if you’re a foreigner in Holland trying to learn Dutch, it’s a curse as much as it’s a blessing. Want to try practising your Dutch by speaking the language with a Dutch person? Think again!
They’ll just reply in English because why bother listening to you struggle through your non-fluent Dutch?
It’s true, the Dutch seem to have an unspoken rule that they will refuse to speak Dutch with anyone whose Dutch isn’t at least at a conversational level.
Even will all my Dutch experience, I still haven’t figured out why. Perhaps it’s an ingrained genetic need to show-off our foreign language capabilities. Or even just a desperate desire to make all those years of studying other tongues in school worth it.
It could even just be an act of pity, trying to put the would-be Dutch language student out of their misery. Who knows? All I know is that it makes learning Dutch a hell of a lot harder.
Of course, it can be very simple — all you need are seven words!
When it comes to odd Dutch quirks, one of the strangest (in my opinion), is that of hospitality. The Dutch are not inhospitable, not by a long shot; however, to the untrained eye, they can often appear so.
The Dutch are happy to sit down for a coffee or tea with almost anybody, often even a random stranger, but it almost always has to be on their own terms.
They’ll happily invite you into their homes — but again, only on their terms, and that’s where the Dutch get odd. While as an invited guest, you will receive all the pleasures of a king, if you’re not invited, then….well then you’re subtly and “politely” removed from the household.
There is perhaps no better example than the dreaded 6 PM dinner. It’s a staple even at every traditional Dutch household. 6 PM is dinner time and I mean EXACTLY 6 PM.
If you happen to be visiting a friend during the afternoon for tea and that clock is ticking steadily towards the universal Dutch dinnertime, then expect your host to be expectantly glancing at the clock and psychologically shoving you out of the front door.
After all, they didn’t plan to be cooking for you, and frankly, there’s not enough food for that one extra person. Of course, they’ll never say it outright, but if you hear a Dutch person start blabbering on about how they better get to cooking, you also better get going.
Even though I’m Dutch, I get annoyed by many of the Dutch quirks (perhaps even more so because I find myself adhering to them subconsciously), however, Dutch behaviour in waiting rooms is not one of them.
I love it, or at least, I love it as much as anyone can like patiently waiting. The Dutch are simply very good at waiting.
It all starts with the waiting room itself. Unlike the average American doctor’s office, where you can expect (if you’re lucky) a selection of magazines that somehow never caters well enough to your interest, the Dutch do not hold back when it comes to amenities for the patient.
Coffee, tea, and cookies all seem staple necessities for any Dutch waiting area. Whether you’re waiting at an office, or just visiting the barbershop, you’ll find no shortage of beverages to choose from.
And let’s not forget the behaviour of those waiting. Because when it comes to waiting, the Dutch are ideal. By which, of course, I mean that they will not bother you, they will simply mind their own business and you won’t have to deal with any disruptive, annoying behaviour during your serene and peaceful wait.
The only downside is that you rarely ever spend much time in those brilliantly designed moments of Zen. The Dutch love their efficiency too much, so chances are you’ve scheduled your appointment beforehand and you’ll be on the way to your appointment after only having waited a measly five minutes.
Ok, so water management doesn’t exactly sound like a Dutch quirk, does it? But I would argue that it is, because quite frankly, the mentality that goes along with Dutch water management has exceptionally far-reaching effects into Dutch behaviour.
It’s no secret that the Dutch are masters of water. We pulled up half of our country out of the sea, after all. Sometimes it helps to visualize things, and luckily the Archivists in Amsterdam have done exactly that.
Just imagine some of the conversations the Dutch have had in the past:
“I’d like to build a palace here.”
“But sir, there’s a river.”
“So what? Let’s move it. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s just make a river that connects the port directly to the ocean, that seems like it could prove useful.”
I mean, when you have the technology to literally shape the land in any which way you want, it’s no surprise that Dutch have taken on a certain defining Dutch mentality.
It’s really quite brilliant, and probably the reason that we’ve managed to achieve so much, despite being such a small country. It’s the opposite of saying, ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.’ It’s saying, ‘We can improve it, so let’s improve it.’
After all, we didn’t NEED to move that canal a meter to the left to make the sidewalk slightly bigger, but we CAN, so let’s do it.
What other Dutch quirks have you come across? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2017, but was fully updated in April 2022 for your reading pleasure.