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Being lactose intolerant in the Netherlands is immoral. It is a crime against culture, a sign of evil and completely socially unacceptable.
Well at least it seems so at first.
I recently moved to the Netherlands with my mind filled with idealistic images . I saw myself frolicking through tulip fields in clogs, cycling past windmills and sailing through cosy canals. But something was lurking in the corners of my Dutch life fantasies. Something creamy. Something that sprinkles perfectly over pasta. Something that can be matched perfectly with a nice bottle of red wine.
That something was cheese.
Dutch people are in general very proud people. They are proud of their culture, proud of their great artists, proud of their language and proud of their cheese. Dutch people also like to ‘say it how it is’. You can trust a Dutch person to be straightforward and let you know when something is irritating them.
I learnt quiet quickly that lactose intolerance irritates people. A lot.
To understand the Dutch inability to accept lactose intolerance you have to be aware that Dutch people have the lowest lactose intolerance rates in the world. Apparently only around 1% of the nation have a biologically bad relationship with the primary ingredient of the nations favourite food. Dutch people live and breath dairy, and many believe it is the cause for their claim to fame as the tallest people in the world.
Dairy is not just a food group in The Netherlands – it is a way of life. Dutch people love the stuff. Every kitchen I have entered in the country has a cheese cutter alongside knives and forks, grown men in offices wearing suits slurp on glasses of milk with their lunch and the cheese aisle in the supermarket might as well be a nation of its own.
How can you possibly try and integrate in a country where you are biologically incapable of the most fundamental lifestyle element of all? How can you possibly live dairy free in a land of milk-sipping giants?
Dairy is the way to a Dutch persons heart and without the digestive capacity to bond over a nice piece of gouda my love life is certainly suffering. I have attempted to find Dutch culinary alternatives but it is not quite as romantic to flirt while sliding a slippery raw herring into your mouth…
But fellow lactose-intolerantees bound for The Netherlands do not fear. There is one big benefit to your dairy-free dilemma – It is the perfect excuse to skip one of the most ridiculous meals of the day. Most of the world are aware that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but from watching my housemates start the day with chocolate sprinkles on toast I think The Netherlands missed the ‘breakfast of champions’ memo.
I’m not joking. Fully grown adults do this here. It’s completely normal and called “hagelslag”. It looks like the kind of snack you would serve at a children’s party where I’m from, but hey – I’m lactose intolerant so it’s not my problem.