Etiquette & Customs (in short)
The Dutch have a relaxed attitude to practices and attitudes.
Try to learn as much Dutch you can before you arrive, or at least so many simple words you can, like “Hello”: Hallo (HAH-low), “Thank you”: Dank u (DAHNK uu), “Goodbye”: Tot ziens (TOT seens)
This shows, that you are willing to learn their language and will be appreciated. You can learn more here.
- The handshake is the common form of greeting. It is firm and swift, accompanied by a smile, and repetition of your name
- Shake hands with everyone individually including children
- Very close friends may greet each other by air kissing near the cheek three times, starting with the left cheek
- Most Dutch only use first names with family and close friends
Gift Giving Etiquette:
- If invited to a Dutch home bring a box of good quality chocolates, a potted plant, a book, or flowers to the hostess
- Flowers should be given in odd numbers, but not 13, which is unlucky
- Avoid giving white lilies or chrysanthemums, as these are associated with funerals
- Gifts should be wrapped nicely
- Wine is not a good gift if invited for dinner, as the host may already have selected the wines for dinner
- Do not give pointed items such as knives or scissors as they are considered unlucky
- Dining is fairly formal in the Netherlands
- Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat. Men generally remain standing until all the women have taken their seats
- If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork in the middle of the plate with the fork over the knife
- Do not begin eating until the hostess starts
- Most food is eaten with utensils, including sandwiches
- Salad is not cut; fold the lettuce on your fork
- Always start with small amounts so you may accept second helpings
- Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate
Should you leave a tip in restaurants or bars?
You can leave a tip, but you don’t have to.
As in many European countries, the bill includes a service charge. So make sure to check the bill itself; there is no need to leave any extra tip in addition to this amount. A service charge is not the same as a tip.
People sometimes give 5 to 10% of the bill as a tip or round up to an even number. It depends on how happy you were with the service.
The Netherlands is generally a very peaceful country, but there can always happen thefts of mobile phones, cameras and other valuable things. Be aware of pickpockets around various sights – especially around cathedrals and other places where tourists gather.
Most travellers will not experience any issues or problems on their holiday in The Netherlands. It can happen, but it can also be prevented by some simple precautions as:
- Do not “flash” cash or expensive items
- Visit only the cash machines during the day or early evening
- Do not leave expensive items visible in the car
Places you should avoid in Amsterdam:
- Red Light district – Use caution, part of this area is not safe after dark
- Amsterdam Centraal (Central station) – Use caution, you do need to be careful after dark
Places you should avoid in Rotterdam:
- Zuid plein – Avoid day and night, part of this area is not safe
- Marconiplein – Avoid after dark, part of this area is not safe
- Spangen – Use caution, you do need to be careful after dark
- Claes de Vrieselaan – (Women) Avoid day and night, part of this area is not safe
Places you should avoid in The Hague:
- Den Haag HS (Station) – Use caution, you do need to be careful after dark
Emergency numbers in The Netherlands (free call)
In case of any emergency call:
- 112 – National emergency number
- 112 – Police
- 112 – Fire brigade
- 112 – Ambulance / First aid
The caller must:
- State the location where assistance is needed
- State their name and telephone number
- State what happened and if it is still happening
- State how many people need help
- State, if there are weapons involved