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TexasDude's avatar

What should I know about Dutch culture?

Asked by TexasDude (25184 points ) September 30th, 2010

My grandparents lived in The Netherlands for a while about 45 years ago. While they were there, they babysat a young girl. Fast-forward to today. Said young girl is now the mother of a 23 year old young woman who is coming to the US to live with my grandparents for three to four months.

They have charged me with being her “American attendant” of sorts while she is here. We’ve talked extensively on facebook and become good friends her English is impeccable and she is very Americanized and interested in American culture. However, I’d like to make her as comfortable and at-home as possible while she is here, and I’d like to be a good host and show her that I am informed and aware of her home country and culture.

Knowing this, Fluther, what are some Dutch customs, phrases, traditions, etc. that I should be aware of to make her American adventure more comfortable and fun? General facts about Dutch culture and history are also welcome. Thanks in advance!

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53 Answers

Brian1946's avatar

I’ve read that the Dutch don’t recognize Halloween, so you might want to consider that if you broach the subject with her.

bob_'s avatar

301,000 people (3.45% of the population) died in World War II ~

crisw's avatar

I have been reading up on this quite a bit as I plan a trip to the Netherlands in the future. Here are a few sources I found good:

The Netherlands: Etiquette
Expat Focus- The Netherlands
Learning Dutch

iwamoto's avatar

ahem, well, the dutch are a bit weird, and it’s kind of important from what region she is

that said, dutch are pretty used to the american way of life, since a few years we celebrate halloween as well, we’re kind of influenced by you guys. i don’t think there’s much that’ll be a culture shock.

rebbel's avatar

If you still have some time before she comes, you could consider to buy or lend this book, The Undutchables.

rebbel's avatar

When you asked for phrases, did you mean you wanted things like this:
“Thank you” – “Dankjewel”?
If so, i can give you some usuals and some others.

SuperMouse's avatar

I have a very good friend who is Dutch and he is an very normal person. When is your friend coming? If you are interested I can ask him if there is anything important about the culture that you should know.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I. Love. The. Dutch. I should have been born in Holland.. the universe got it all totally screwed up somewhere..

@rebbel is the local Dutch expert, so I will defer to him to give you the most factual information. I’ve been to Holland about 4 or 5 times, my longest stay was two weeks. I found the Dutch in general to be friendly, open, easy-going, amazingly fluent in English, interested in the US and the world, and very fond of having a good time. My kind of people. :)

TexasDude's avatar

@Brian1946, interesting. She has asked me about Halloween and what she should dress up as, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. Thanks, though.

@bob_, and many of them still hate the Germans to this day. well, she doesn’t, but she knows a lot of people who do.

@crisw, those are great links, thanks!

@iwamoto, she’s from the south. I can’t remember the name of the town she’s from. She seems very “Americanized” and she is extremely open and interested in American culture. I just want to show her that I’m genuinely interested in her culture, and as a history guy, I think it would be good to be familiar with the background of her homeland.

@rebbel, I was hoping you’d show up! Thanks for the link and the phrase. I’ve learned a few phrases, and if I can think of any specifics, I’ll be sure and ask you. Thank you.

@SuperMouse, she’s coming in three weeks. I’d definitely be interested!

@MissAnthrope, haha. I like them too. She and her family are extremely friendly and warm people. Thanks.

rebbel's avatar

Let me pay for that! – Ik betaal wel!
Ja natuurlijk, jij mag ook betalen als je er op staat. – Of course, if you insist you can pay.
We hebben een rechtse regering sinds vandaag. – As of today we have a right wing government.
I will be the designated driver. – Laat mij de BOB maar zijn.
How much does that cost? – Hoe duur is dat/Wat kost dat?
Zo duur?! – That much?!
Nee, niet alle Nederlanders blowen en/of snuiven… – No, not all Dutch blow and/or snort…
Yes of course it’s legal to do euthanasia/ to do same-sex marriage/ do drugs in Holland. – Ja natuurlijk mag je in Nederland euthanasie plegen/ trouwen met iemand van hetzelfde geslach/ drugs gebruiken.
We hebben de finale verloren. – We lost the final As opposed to: We were runners up/ we are vice world champions
The weather is okay today. – Het is aardig weer.
Ja, maar morgen wordt het weer slecht. – Yeah, but starting tomorrow it’s gonna suck again.
I love you! – Ik hou van je!
Nee, over mijn salaris doe ik geen uitspraken. Voor de meeste Hollanders salaris is een taboe onderwerp – No, i won’t tell you about my salary. For most Dutch salary subject is taboo
Ik heb gister een vibrator gekocht! Zo niet sex-gerelateerde onderwerpen – I bought myself a vibrator yesterday! As opposed to sex-related subjects

Anytime, @Fiddle.
Ask me.
You are welcome!

TexasDude's avatar

@rebbel, haha, those are awesome. Thanks!

Brian1946's avatar

Another thing I’ve heard is that the Frisian dialect of northern Holland is very similar to the earliest version of the English language (5th or 6th century AD).

TexasDude's avatar

@Brian1946, that’s pretty cool actually.

GeorgeGee's avatar

Weed, prostitutes… coffee.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Another thing I love about Holland is the expressed appreciation and love for art and culture. I truly mourned the loss of the guilder. I have never seen more colorful, beautiful currency in my life. Wandering around Amsterdam, the statues are more likely to be poets, writers, or musicians than they are to be of military heroes, as it is here.

MissAnthrope's avatar

This one was my favorite. (You can click on the photo to see the back side).

Brian1946's avatar

@MissAnthrope

With the sunflower motif, that guilder looks like it was designed by Vinnie V G himself. :p

TexasDude's avatar

@MissAnthrope, We actually have a pretty decent art scene in my town, and I’m a bit of an artist myself, so she should appreciate that. Their currency was pretty awesome.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

3–4 months is a long time, and she will soon get acclimated. If you really want to help her feel comfortable, keep in mind that it is the minor details that the hosts take for granted that can really throw a person off at first.

When I went to stay in England with my SO, I felt like a child. He had to show me how to use the shower system, explain why there were no electrical outlets in the bathroom, teach me how to make a meal using their measurement system, show me how to use the transportation system.

When out, I’d ask people to be patient with me as I counted out money in unfamiliar currency and try to explain what raisin bran is when looking for something comparable in the grocery store.

Language is a whole other matter. She may speak English, but we all know that there words vary by country and even by region. They don’t teach our southern words and dialect in other countries.

I sure you’ll have a blast doing this. I can just imagine that you will both be constantly asking questions of each other as a learning opportunity.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I am half Dutch. My parents, they were Stoomers, emmigrated from Holland to the Seattle area in the 20’s. Grampa came ahead first. Gramma came over on a steamer ship with 6 kids under the age of 8. By herself. (I think they started out with 8 kids, but were down to 6 by the time they landed. Such is life.) They had three more kids once they got to the New Country. Mom was one of them. They were dirt poor dairy farmers, until the day they died, of overwork. There is a Stroomer Dairy farm paving block in the Pikes Place fish market in Seattle, down by The Docks.

My X came from Dutch background too. His father and uncle were raised in Holland.

With the Dutch, it’s either right or it’s wrong. There is no in-between, there is no compromise. And usually you are the one who is wrong…..even after after you’ve proven you are right you are still wrong. Everyone around them is an idiot.

They fight bitterly among themselves, but if they are threatened as a people they become an impenetrable fortress. They will kick your ass.

Mom went to visit relatives in Holland in the 80’s. She said they eat strange (to us) food, like sauerkraut on pancakes and mashed potatoes. She said that if there were no restroom available, they didn’t think twice about urinating behind a bush or a tree in public, even women, and there was no law against it.

They have this thing about windmills.

They hate the Germans with an unbelievable, demonic passion, especially those who went through occupied Holland in WWII. Don’t even THINK of suggesting that their language sounds a lot like German. Don’t do it if you want to live.

They’re opinionated, volatile, incredibly hard working and unbelievably tough. I mean, who else would even CONSIDER wearing WOODEN SHOES???? Yes, I’ve tried it! Hurts like hell! Mom said, “But, they wear really, REALLY thick socks.” Fine. Gimme my Converse back.

They have a lot of Indonesian blood running through them, due to Holland’s occupation in Indonesia, when ever that was. Those folks are referred to as “Black Dutch.” My mom is Black Dutch, but it wasn’t as pronounced in her as it was my sister, who was often asked if she was American Indian. My other sister and I, on the other hand, have blond hair and (I’ve been told) “startling” blue eyes.

My X had some serious Indoesian blood in him (his great grandmother was born there) and as a result my daughters look like Island Princesses (picture is 13 years old)

All of this may sound kind of negative, but they are not a soft, gentle people. These are people who waged a constant war against the ocean, literally stealing their land from the sea. They fought hard. Still do, I imagine, even with electricity and all. Which explains their thing for windmills.

And…they are seafarers. They messed with Indonesia, and the Dutch founded NYC…the area that is now known as Harlem, originally spelled “Haarlam.” ‘cause they gotta throw extra ‘A’s’ into all their words. Seriously. I don’t get it, but they do.

Fillisplick is Dutch for ‘dustpan.’ And I have a song I could sing to you in Dutch, but I won’t.

Other than that, I really don’t know a thing about them. But I’d sure like to say hi to your friend!! :)

bob_'s avatar

@MissAnthrope With all due respect, but the Deutsche Mark totally kicked the guilder’s artsy ass ~

TexasDude's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer, excellent reply, thanks for sharing your experience. It gives me a bit of perspective. She’s actually interested in and learning about Southern dialects, so that’s not much of a problem. I’ve been careful with my English around her. I know that they tend to be straightforward and may not understand many American colloquialisms and that sort of thing. I started out with simple sentences, but she very quickly adapted.

@Dutchess_III that’s absolutely awesome, thank you for your perspective! I’m semi-fluent in German, and she and I spoke German back and forth a bit. she and her family don’t seem to harbor the hatred towards the Germans, but she did mention the same thing you did. You make them sound like total badasses, actually, which is totally okay with me. This girl is pretty cool anyway. I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes when she gets here. Thanks again!

woodcutter's avatar

the pot is good?

TexasDude's avatar

@woodcutter, hehe, probably.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I recall that when I spent some time there some of the locals that I worked with thought that it was really strange that I would put meat and cheese on the same sandwich. It really kind of blew their minds, for some reason. (And I don’t think they were Jewish.)

The word for “please” and “you’re welcome” is the same: alstublieft.

Most of the Dutch that I meant spoke better (more grammatically correct) English than most of the Americans that I’ve known. (And spell much worse. And their English is really Anglicized—British English.) But their grasp of American idiom is sometimes a bit lacking. When I took a class there in Oracle database management, and our instructor (an American), in describing the many ways that a certain task could be done, said, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” My Dutch partner started flipping through his dictionary to put together how skinning cats had any relationship to managing a database.

So I turned to him and asked him, “Jeroen, do you like fish?”

“Sure,” he said. “All Dutch like fish.” (They’re often very emphatic about things.)

“Well,” I asked him, “Do you know many ways to prepare fish?”

“Of course. You can grill it, bake it, fry it, poach it, make stews and chowders…”

“Well, what the instructor was telling us, in effect, is that ‘there’s more than one way to cook a fish’.”

“Oh,” and I could see the light dawning in his eyes. And then he was cross. “Why didn’t he say that, then?”

I love the Netherlands, and all of the Dutch that I’ve met so far.

TexasDude's avatar

@CyanoticWasp, interesting… that may come in handy. I didn’t know that about please and you’re welcome, either… that’s also interesting. Her English is very good, but she definitely doesn’t understand a lot of the idioms I use, so I try to avoid them if at all possible. She’s learned a few though, which is cool.

Thanks for the answer and the story!

Fyrius's avatar

Dutch person here.

@CyanoticWasp
“I recall that when I spent some time there some of the locals that I worked with thought that it was really strange that I would put meat and cheese on the same sandwich. It really kind of blew their minds, for some reason. (And I don’t think they were Jewish.)”
We’re a bunch of stingy tossers. It’s normal not to use more spicing-up than a bare minimum. Not so much because we literally can’t afford to use both cheese and meat, and often not even because we actually want to save money; just because it’s “not necessary”.
It’s often referred to as a Calvinist mind-set, a Protestant doctrine saying it’s normal to be miserable on earth so we can go to heaven when we die.
I think this might also be part of the reason why traditional Dutch cuisine is so bland and uninspired, and we all put up with it anyway and think nothing of it.

This is one of the things I rebel against. :P

Fyrius's avatar

@Dutchess_III
A few notes. :)

“Mom went to visit relatives in Holland in the 80’s. She said they eat strange (to us) food, like sauerkraut on pancakes and mashed potatoes.”
Sauerkraut on pancakes? That’s new to me. Fortunately.
Classical Dutch warm meals are usually made up of three components: boiled potatoes, vegetables and meat. My Italian friend @Thammuz was a bit weirded out by that, thinking of potatoes as just another vegetable.

“She said that if there were no restroom available, they didn’t think twice about urinating behind a bush or a tree in public, even women, and there was no law against it.”
There is a law against public urinating now, at least in the cities. You’d get a fine.

“They hate the Germans with an unbelievable, demonic passion, especially those who went through occupied Holland in WWII. Don’t even THINK of suggesting that their language sounds a lot like German. Don’t do it if you want to live.”
Haha, I do hope this has largely blown over by now. Some of the old people might still have their scars of the war, but my generation and that of my parents don’t hate the Germans any more.
@ragingloli is German. He’s also one of my closer e-friends.

“They’re (...) unbelievably tough. I mean, who else would even CONSIDER wearing WOODEN SHOES???? Yes, I’ve tried it! Hurts like hell! Mom said, “But, they wear really, REALLY thick socks.” Fine. Gimme my Converse back.”
Oh come on now, they’re not that bad. ;)
Make sure you get a pair in your own size. Too small clogs really hurt, but if they’re large enough they’re not all that uncomfortable.
Not that it’s still normal to wear clogs here.

“Fillisplick is Dutch for ‘dustpan.’”
Did you mean “vullesblik”? That’s a rather old-fashioned, informal term.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Oh, now that I’ve been reminded: mayonnaise on french fries. I can accept it intellectually, but I still can’t watch it or imagine it.

I’m also impressed with the intelligence that every Dutch kid has. Imagine: they grow up already knowing a foreign language! Pretty impressive, eh?

Fyrius's avatar

French fries with mayonnaise are delicious.

Switching to language nerd mode:
It’s actually very easy for little kids to learn foreign languages, if they’re raised bilingually. Any kid will pick up languages with ease in their first six years or so, whether it’s one language or three.
It’s not all that common for Dutch children to be raised bilingually though. In my generation we started officially learning English near the end of grade school (around age 10) and French and German in high school (age 12). As a result we’re still kind of clumsy at our second languages unless we actively practise them.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Fyrius Re public peeing…this would have been in the 80’s, if it’s true. It’s just what my mom told me from when she visited there. But, knowing my Mom, perhaps all she saw was one guy peeing behind a tree or something!

Re hating Germans….true—it’s fading. But my X had an uncle who was, like, 8, during the occupation. He said one time a German soldier shoved him up against a wall, pointed a gun at him and said he was going to kill him. No reason. He was just having fun with an 8 year old. Yeah….most of total reference on the feeling toward German was from him. One time I pointed out that his last name was German and…OMG!! I thought I was a dead woman! He was a very, very bitter and angry person in general, and it probably wasn’t all due to the German occupation…but it was bad. When mom visited she said that older generation would talk of the things the Germans would do, like tying the legs of a woman together when she was in labor. Just to see what would happen. But…that was an older generation. AND I’ve known Raggie since Wisdm, and then Inquire. I know she’s German. She’s also, like 17 and a big PIB!!!!!

Re: wooden shoes. The only pair I ever tried to wear were decorative ones we had in the house. Rough cut. But even if the were smooth cut, and fit, I would think it would be like trying to walk with boards on their feet. WHAT EVEN MADE THEM THINK OF DOING SOMETHING LIKE THAT?! It’s not like they didn’t have access to leather!

Re: Fillisplick is Dutch for ‘dustpan. _’Did you mean “vullesblik”? That’s a rather old-fashioned, informal term. I dunno what I meant! That’s just the only Dutch word we ever used in the house! Obviously it’s what my grandparents called it, but what do I know!

Ok, I heard the audience clamoring for me to sing the Dutch song I know, so here goes: “Skippa da stain avack! Skippa da stain avack! A wurmala turmala hoop sa sa! Skippe da stain avack! YA YA!!!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you vera much. YA YA!!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

The only time I ever saw people wearing wooden clogs while I was in NL was watching some road workers once. The first thing you’d need to know is that a lot of roads, even modern roads, are cobblestone or tile set in sand. (It makes for quicker and simpler road repairs and utility work when the road has to be torn up and redone.)

The workers were on their knees (on kneepads) and had on clogs to protect their toes and so that leather shoes wouldn’t be worn out in a day of working that way. Pretty clever, I thought. (The workers’ ‘regular’ shoes were all lined up by the benches where they took breaks.)

TexasDude's avatar

Thanks for all the great replies, guys, especially to you Dutch jellies. I can assure you all that I absolutely love mayonnaise on my french fries.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard that’s not an assurance. I have serious reservations about your taste now.

TexasDude's avatar

@CyanoticWasp, I like ketchup toooooooooooo…...

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Mustard is the way to go with french fries.

TexasDude's avatar

@CyanoticWasp, I like mustard too. Especially spicy brown mustard. I’m a man of many condiments.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

In a word, a condimentopolitan, then.

TexasDude's avatar

Haha, I like that.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

While mustard is clearly the superior condiment, when I used to ski we would mix ketchup and mayo and use that for our french fries at the lodge. It was fantastic. Also, mustard is better with grilled cheese.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I think it is time for a new question/thread on condiments because I want more info. on these interesting combinations without derailing this thread.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@tragiclikebowie – That’s called ‘fancy sauce’. (from the movie Step-Brothers)

TexasDude's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer, I was about to say “ask and ye shall receive,” and post a link to a freshly asked question about condiment mixing, and then pat myself on the back for how quick and smart I am, but you beat me to the punch!

@tragiclikebowie, I’m gonna have to try that. I actually do like mustard with grilled cheese though!

Fyrius's avatar

@Dutchess_III
“Re public peeing…this would have been in the 80’s, if it’s true. It’s just what my mom told me from when she visited there. But, knowing my Mom, perhaps all she saw was one guy peeing behind a tree or something!”
Oh, no, that’s perfectly possible. I’m pretty sure the no-public-peeing law was instated well after the eighties. (Because I think I remember it, and I’m from ‘87.)

About what happened in war time… many sick things are done during wars. And that’s horrible. But I think it had more to with their position of power over people they didn’t really care about, than with any inherent property of the German people. It certainly doesn’t seem fair to hold it against their descendants.

“Re: wooden shoes. The only pair I ever tried to wear were decorative ones we had in the house. Rough cut. But even if the were smooth cut, and fit, I would think it would be like trying to walk with boards on their feet. WHAT EVEN MADE THEM THINK OF DOING SOMETHING LIKE THAT?! It’s not like they didn’t have access to leather!”
Leather is expensive though. And wood really does grow on trees.
Historically, clogs were worn by farmers, who were poor bums that couldn’t afford proper shoes, and who spent most of their time strolling through dirt anyway. They needed something affordable yet sturdy and reliable on their feet. I can see why they’d use wood.
I think they carved their own clogs themselves, too.

“Re: Fillisplick is Dutch for ‘dustpan. ’Did you mean “vullesblik”? That’s a rather old-fashioned, informal term. I dunno what I meant! That’s just the only Dutch word we ever used in the house! Obviously it’s what my grandparents called it, but what do I know!”
Hahaha, okay. Well, I can see grandparents use a word like “vullesblik”. Or maybe contemporary adults in some regions.

“Ok, I heard the audience clamoring for me to sing the Dutch song I know, so here goes: “Skippa da stain avack! Skippa da stain avack! A wurmala turmala hoop sa sa! Skippe da stain avack! YA YA!!!

Woo hoo! (applauds) Encore! :D

mattbrowne's avatar

If you are a pedestrian keep in mind that bikes do have the right of way.

TexasDude's avatar

@mattbrowne, I’m not going to The Netherlands. She’s coming here.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard In that case, let her know that bikes will flat run her down over here!

TexasDude's avatar

Today was day one.

She brought me a book on Dutch history and an English to Dutch dictionary. I made a deal with her that I’d learn a new Dutch phrase for every time I see her. She’s super awesome too and exceptionally beautiful. I can tell already that I’m going to miss her when she’s gone. I’m taking her to the mountains tomorrow :-D

rebbel's avatar

Impress her, Fiddle, and tell her that since last Sunday (10/10/10) the highest point in the Netherlands is no longer de Vaalserberg (322.5 meter), but lies now on the island of Saba, near the Antilles, and that is Mount Scenery (877 meter).
Bonaire, St.Eustatius and Saba gained Dutch municipality status October 10.
Curaçao and St Maarten, the larger islands of the Netherlands Antilles will become independent.

TexasDude's avatar

Thanks a lot, @rebbel. I had a great day with her today. Showed her the mountains and the woods and she taught me a few Dutch phrases. I’ll see what she thinks about these little facts next time I see her… Thanks!

dinadana's avatar

Dutch are very reliable and positive people. I lived there for 6 months and was shoked. (normally i’m living in Russia)

TexasDude's avatar

@dinadana thank you, and welcome to Fluther.

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