The Dutch people 

The Dutch are a modest, tolerant and independent people with unique customs and cuizine. They like to be self-sustaining and enterprising. In the Netherlands, education, ambition and competence are regarded as important, valuable traits. ‘Doe normaal’ (just act normal) is a frequently used statement. Flamboyant behaviour is generally not appreciated. In the Netherlands, people prefer behaviour according to the rules of what is ‘normal’. For example: the Dutch find it unpleasant when people show too much emotion in public. Openness is certainly appreciated, but one should not attract too much attention displaying emotions concerning certain matters. This rule is not strictly observed in smaller circles.


Dutch people are quite direct in their contact with others. They will appreciate it if you take the first step in establishing contact with them. When greeting someone for the first time, you shake hands. This is common practice for men, women and children alike. You introduce yourself by stating your first name or first name and surname. It is also customary to kiss acquaintances three times on the cheek (left, right, left). This is generally the case when two women greet each other, or a woman and a man. Male acquaintances usually shake hands. An often discussed Dutch trait is straightforwardness. In the Dutch culture, it is common to share one’s opinion, even when it is not asked for. Hence, the Dutch are sometimes regarded as ‘busybodies’. You can expect a Dutch friend to stick up for you when you are being wronged! Dutch people are happy to help others, though this characteristic can also be experienced as annoying.

In the Netherlands it is customary to use the formal ‘u’ (‘you’) when addressing a senior person, it shows respect. When addressing an acquaintance or younger person, the Dutch will generally use an informal ‘jij’. In the Netherlands, people tend to regard others as equals. Although people do take an interest in jobs and status, these are not significant subjects in informal settings. The Dutch often have a busy agenda and scheduling is important to them, as is being punctual. Being late is not appreciated, even when it concerns a casual appointment. When someone invites you, it is always a good idea to ask what time you are expected. Public transport is expected to be punctual in the Netherlands. Delays in public transport generally cause annoyance and lead to complaints.

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The Dutch are casual dressers. Looking the part is important, though most Dutch people prefer not to draw too much attention with their outfits. In the business world, for executive positions or positions that require regular business to business contact, men will usually wear a suit and tie, and women tend to wear a (ladies) suit. Examples of typically Dutch (clothes) shops are: Hema, Bijenkorf, C&A and Hunkemöller (lingerie). The number of Dutch high fashion clothing brands is ever increasing. Visit our shopping page to find out more about shopping in the Leiden region.

  • The Dutch are a very open-minded people and they will not be easily offended if you do not behave according to the typically Dutch conventions. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, the Dutch people will understand as you are a foreigner. To help you understand the Dutch a little better, we will give you some examples of typically Dutch (cultural) behaviour.
  • The Dutch generally avoid superlatives. Compliments are offered sparingly, and to say that something is ‘not bad’ is to praise it.
  • The Dutch speak directly and use ample eye contact.

The Dutch generally call in advance to make appointments with friends. It is not very common to just drop by.

Decoding double dutch. From the wise to the weird, supermodel and Vogue Netherlands cover star Doutzen Kroes explains the turns of phrase which make her homeland so unique.