Do's and Don'ts in Netherlands

Netherlands Etiquette Tips

Flying to Amsterdam? There are many different types of traditions that are very important to the cultural heritage of the Netherlands. Below is a list of some do's and don'ts to make your trip more enjoyable.

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO wear a two-piece suit for normal business events. Ties are beginning to be worn less, after the late Prince Claus of the Netherlands took his tie off at a fashion show and declared that it was, “A snake around my neck!”
  2. DO wear casual clothing for a day of sightseeing, as long as it is not business-related. Shorts are also fine for casual occasions when the weather is warm.
  3. DON'T wear sneakers, unless you are partaking in sports. Sneakers will make you look like a tourist, and tend to be a giveaway for pickpockets. Instead, wear a pair of comfy walking shoes.

2. Table Manners

  1. DO expect to “go Dutch” when dining out (they call it “Going American” in the Netherlands). Unless you were invited to a meal and the host told you that it was their treat, you should pay your portion of the bill or expect the bill to be divided up evenly.

3. Tipping

  1. DO leave a restaurant tip if you feel that the service was outstanding. Legally, the service charge for restaurants is included in your bill, but for good service you may want to leave a 10% tip.

4. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DO give gifts such as high-quality chocolate, a plant, book, or flowers.
  2. DO give flowers in odd numbers, except for unlucky number thirteen. Avoid white lilies or chrysanthemums, because those are generally for funerals.
  3. DON'T give wine as a gift if invited to dinner, because your host might have already bought wine for the meal.
  4. DO open your gift when you receive it.

5. Body Gestures

  1. DON'T tap the center of your forehead with your index finger. It's the sign for “crazy” and is considered an impolite gesture.

6. Greetings

  1. DO shake hands upon meeting someone.
  2. DO introduce older people first, as it is a sign of respect.
  3. DO stand when someone is being introduced to you.
  4. DO kiss three times on alternating cheeks (left, right, left) when greeting someone as well as bidding farewell. This is a custom typically for people of the opposite sex, although some people of the same sex do this as well. Familiar business partners also greet each other in that fashion. Even if you feel uncomfortable partaking in this greeting, you should go along with it because it could be seen as insulting if you refuse.

7. Language Etiquette

  1. DO try speaking Dutch if you wish, but note that according to a census, 85% of Dutch people can speak a reasonable amount of English.

8. Business Meeting

  1. DON'T drop by a colleague's workplace. The Dutch do business only by appointment. Schedule an appointment in advance.
  2. DO be on time. Punctuality is important to business.
  3. DON'T make small talk once the meeting has begun.
  4. DO expect meetings to be conducted in the office, as opposed to a restaurant. Business meals are usually a break from a meeting or to celebrate.
  5. DON'T use hyperbole or make your business associates feel pressured.
  6. DON'T cancel or attempt to reschedule your meeting at the last minute.

9. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO give your host a gift if invited to a Dutch person's home.
  2. DO arrive on time. Being on time indicates proper planning. Do not arrive early, either.
  3. DO call your host if you expect be more than five minutes late.

The Netherlands is a country rich with history and culture, and the Dutch are very traditional people and proud of their heritage, so be sure to respect their etiquette. Keep the general etiquette guidelines in mind throughout your visit, and enjoy your trip!

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