Home away from Home

I have been living in The Netherlands for 5 years and still counting. It got me thinking what kind of insights do I get from the Dutch people so far? There are intelligent ones, surprising ones and there are also some notably leaving you wondering why. Essentially all are unaccustomed meme to me when I first arrived and worth mentioning in this write up that would make me ascribe them as typical Dutch.

 The flow of this write up will be presented in a way that matches the normal routine from the start and throughout a normal working day.

A typical Dutch breakfast is a slice of bread with a nice spread of chocolate sprinkles or hagelslag in Dutch and the kids are lovin’ it.

Hagelslag on bread – Photo credits to De Ruijter

2. Cycling
With its renowned cycling facilities in this flat land, it has made cycling as its main means of transport. Cycling is safe, comfortable and time saving as part of the routines. It is common to have primary school kids and working adults cycling to their respective destinations despite the rain and wind. Not only that, it is also capable in bringing kids to school, pets for a walk and also house moving. The Dutch called them bakfiets. This could be the reason for level of obesity in the country remaining at low key. On the other hand getting this two-wheel is equivalent to purchasing any other types of assets in a household where insurance services are available. After all, there is a saying that goes “You’ll only be dutch-ified when your bike is stolen once”.

Bakfiets spotted in Amsterdam

3. Lunch
No warm-lunch-fantasy, but sandwiches. It is all up to your creativity on how you want your bread is stuffed, be it smoked or cured meat, cheeses, spreads, salads and etc. because they do offer a wide range of choices for these fillings in the supermarket. Wondering why supermarkets? Because it is normal to bring your own lunch. Even if (most companies are) the company is providing lunch, options are thinkable a.k.a same. Some Dutch may also opt for fried croquette or schnitzel at the small cafeteria to go with their home brought sandwiches. Besides sandwiches, a cup of milk, warm soup, yogurt or fruits will be at sight.

Since lunch is not a major eating out event in the office, eating at your own desk is common or occasionally doing a lunch walk under the intermittent sunny weather is possible. Yes, eating, walking and bonding time with colleagues. Bear in mind lunch is 30mins at most! Wondering what’s the hurry? Dutch prefer to get their daily work done and be at home on time after that. Practical stuff. In terms of lunch I am very much accustomed to this.

Croquette Sandwich – Photo credits to Wikimedia

Too much coffee in a day. One local person told me that he could have only coffee throughout the working hours and most of them drink only black coffee. Gasp. Guess being simple is the new cool.

Douwe Egberts Coffee, a local brand coffee

5. By appointment, please.
In The Netherlands, everything works by appointment (op afspraak) from seeing your colleagues for discussion, doctor and dentist to informal dinner gatherings with friends. This practice is encouraging the entire society to be punctual because any missed appointments will be rescheduled to another free time in the near future. My experience is that most of the time people are pretty much prepared for meetings and appointment. Achieving the most using the least time, therefore efficiency attained albeit working fewer hours.

6. Flat hierarchy
Regardless your position in the office, colleagues call one another by names. There are times when your boss will be bringing you coffee and also times when you caught yourself using your boss’s cup without much notice. New employees are encouraged to bring in new ideas and also to challenge existing ones, speaking up in the meeting is not considered as going overboard. Having this mentioned, there is a clear liberalisation and respect for each other in the office all the time.

7. Commuting after work
Strangers in train are common and boring. In order to counter that, Dutch are begrudgingly eavesdropping and showing less shame by joining-in the conversation without invitation. Asking questions, sharing opinions and very quickly they make friends in the train. This is a surprising habit that I don’t understand at all.

Commuting – wind mills-

8. Dinner at 6’o clock sharp
After working hour’s activities are not common and less appreciated because most of them are still keeping the dinner-at-six-tradition active. After dinner will be mostly family or sports time and they drink/eat lightly thereafter. By the way, if you happen to be at a Dutch home for visit close to dinner time and you’re not invited to dine in, it is considered rude to stay through the dinner time, please make your way politely.

 9. Happiness
The Dutch definition of happiness is pure simple. Give them sunshine, beer and free time, they will be entirely happy. Simple and doesn’t require a lot of money. That’s why I love the way they think so much.


10. Three Kisses
This is a complicated stuff. It took me a long time to learn to whom and how many times should I kiss in The Netherlands. Apart from relatives, women air-kiss both women and men on the cheeks three times (right-left-right) as a symbol of greeting while men do handshakes. Kisses are meant for close and good friends. It might be awkward and wondering kiss or no kiss, well, it really depends on the relationship. All I can say is that, be prepared when someone’s head is too close to your head asking for kisses. LOL.

Among others, these are some of practices that I have actually seen, learned and adjusted myself to some of them by some degree. Dutch can be direct and humorous at the same time but they are less complicated in a way that they always inform you about their opinions explicitly.

Looking back, we are indeed adventurous moving to this foreign land without much knowledge about the country and also people. Following the new environment and cultural exposures, we have seen acculturations in both of us. It is definitely less enigmatic to us by now but we still find ourselves exploring and understanding the rich cultures from time to time. Thanks to the cordial Dutch along with its dutch-ness, this will be a home far away from home for us at this moment.


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