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Customs

Meet and Greet

When you meet someone for the first time, you will shake hands (both men and women) and say your name. You need to take the initiative for introductions, rather than wait to be introduced. For example, at work or in a new neighborhood, Dutch people usually wait for you to take the first step.

Use sir (meneer) or madam (mevrouw) when talking to an older person, anyone you don’t know, or a person with authority. In Dutch, you use the word “you” in different ways, formally and informally: “jij” or “je” are the informal uses, and “u” is the formal use. Use “u” in case of an older person, someone you don’t know well, or a person with authority. They will let you know if they want you to use the informal. The Dutch tend to do this fairly quickly.

It is important to look someone in the eyes when talking, but keep in mind that Dutch people like their personal space. They are maybe a bit more distant than you are used to, literally and figuratively.

If you know someone better, you will be greeted by kisses on each cheek, sometimes two kisses, but usually three. It is fully accepted to show affection in public.

Dutch people are very outspoken and brutally honest, and sometimes this might be interpreted as being rude. In an informal conversation, they don’t avoid any subjects except for what one earns. Most people speak English, but some may choose not to, especially if they are older.

There are three words that are typical for the Dutch language:

Gezellig – Cozy, (sometimes) social

Lekker – good, nice (food)

Leuk – nice, fun

Don’t be surprised when, if you want to organize a get-together, Dutch people pull out their agenda (diary) or smart phone to plan the date, sometimes weeks in advance.

In the Netherlands, people tend to dress more casually than in other countries when they walk on the street, go to a restaurant or theater, etc.