Dutch Etiquette

Meeting and Greeting

The handshake is a common greeting.  The Dutch smile and say the person’s name whom they are greeting while shaking hands.  If you are seated, it is polite to stand up to shake hands. If you are a good friend, you may greet each other by air kissing near the cheek three times, first on the left side, then the right, and the left side. When you leave, it is important to shake hands again.

Most Dutch only use first names with family and good friends.  Otherwise, they use the first and last name.

When you come into the waiting room at a public place like the doctor or dentist’s office, you greet everyone there by looking at the people and saying one greeting of “hello”.

Gift Giving Manners

If you are invited to dinner or to a party, it is common to bring a small wrapped gift to the host/hostess.  This might be a box of chocolates, a plant, flowers or a book.  If you give flowers, it is common to give an odd number.  Do not give 13 flowers as this is seen as unlucky.

Dining Manners

Dining is formal.  You should not sit down until you are told to.  Men wait until women all sit down first. No one eats until the host/hostess begins.  Dutch people use silverware for most foods including sandwiches. Salad is not cut.  It is folded on your fork.  The host gives the first toast.  If you are a guest, you can return the toast later in the meal.

You should take small portions and try to finish everything on your plate.  Dutch people don’t like to waste food.  When you are finished eating, put your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.  If you are still eating, you can cross your knife and fork in the middle of the plate with the fork over the knife if you want to talk, rest from eating, or want a second helping.

If you are eating at someone’s house, it is polite to offer to help with the dishes or to clean the table.  Being on time is very important to Dutch people. If you are invited to dinner, plan to be on time.  In the Netherlands, you should visit people after you have called them and planned a visit.  It is not polite just to drop by.

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