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The Netherlands - Living

Social Life

Of course, you want to make lots of new friends in the Netherlands, so it’s useful to know some things about the Dutch.

Whereas people from other cultures like to greet friends and family with one or two kisses on the cheek, the Dutch go for three. A man greeting a man is an exception, they will just give each other a firm handshake. In the working environment, shaking hands is the norm for greeting.

Dutch and Germans are alike when it comes to punctuality.  We both like to be on time! If you have an appointment or meeting at 10, it will start at 10. Efficiency is key.

The Dutch love the word ‘gezellig.’ It’s impossible to find an accurate translation for it. ‘Gezelligheid’ is a feeling that is a combination of cozy, social, homey, relaxing and fun. For example: a place that feels like home is ‘gezellig,' a person that is kind and tells funny stories is ‘gezellig’ and drinking wine with friends (in a bar or at home) is also ‘gezellig.’ Try to understand the word and use it in every possible situation, the Dutch will love you for it!

A Borrel is a mostly informal meeting to have a drink. For example, in many companies and organizations, Borrel is held Friday at noon, the so-called VriMiBo (VrijdagMiddagBorrel). It may be that each participant pays a small amount or someone (in turn) pays everything. Borrel is part of life and participation is certainly very important for networking, and for the Gezelligheid. It often offers beer or wine, but you can also without problems specify that you only want to drink soft drinks.

Thursday is the "stapavond" for students
Students in the Netherlands usually go out on Thursday evenings. Often there is (upon presentation of a student card) free admission to clubs or bars in the city. This Stapavond has a long tradition. The reason is certainly that many students welcome the weekend in this way. On Fridays, they often are free and go to their parents - with or without hangovers.

Who is the BOB?
Rijksoverheid uses the name Bob in campaigns against driving under the influence of alcohol. The person who does not drink alcohol and then drives is the BOB (Bewust Onbeschonken Bestuurder). The goal is to stay sober and bring your friends or family home safely by car. Maybe you'll be BOB soon?

Keep it real
Maybe you’ve heard of the Dutch saying: ‘Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg,’ meaning that acting normal is more than enough craziness. Dutch people usually don’t like fake or over-the-top behavior, no, they like to keep it real. Some say this Dutch directness is straightforward and honest, other say it’s rude and impolite. Anyway, don’t take it personal, the Dutch just speak their minds.

Split the bill
After a dinner with friends in Holland, it’s common to split the bill so that each friend pays exactly his or her part and not a penny more or less. In English, we call this ‘Going Dutch.’

Make friends
This is said more simply than done. But it's possible.
Sometimes you have to do a lot for it. Go to your colleagues' gatherings on Friday afternoon (Vrijdagmiddagborrel) and try to show interest. You can meet new people in sports clubs or other associations. Also check on the social media platforms whether meetings are being planned by foreign people. There you can easily and quickly find like-minded people. And don't forget the German-speaking community!

It is up to your staying power, and ultimately you will be rewarded with new friends and plenty acquaintances.