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#1 Parties take place in a circle

If you begin dating a Dutch person (or simply become close to a Dutch friend) and they invite you along to their birthday celebrations, be prepared for the Dutch birthday party circle.

At birthday parties, the tradition is that everyone sits around the room in a circle, drinking tea or coffee and eating cake - so if your idea of a birthday party involves drinking spirits and a bunch of people dancing or beating up a pinata, you may be in for a shock.

When you enter these parties, you are expected to greet EVERYONE - not just the birthday person. You should make your way around the circle, telling everyone “Gefeliciteerd”. Rather than introducing yourself, you’re actually congratulating them all. And they will congratulate you too. It is unclear why everyone is being congratulated for one birthday, but hey! The happier interactions, the better.

#2 You buy your own birthday cake

While we’re on the topic of birthdays, it’s important to know that in the Netherlands it is customary for you to buy your own birthday cake to share with friends and colleagues. So, if you have a part-time job here in the Netherlands, don’t expect to walk into your workplace to hear singing and eat cake - but do remember to turn up with some cake to share with others.

#3 Chocolate is a breakfast food

The Dutch have a lot of unusual traditional foods, particularly of the fried variety. But one Dutch food tradition that you should definitely know about is the Dutch love of chocolate in the morning.

Don’t be surprised if you stay at a Dutch person’s home only to be served chocolate paste, chocolate sprinkles or chocolate shavings on your bread in the morning.

#4 Everybody loves orange on 27th April

...or the 26th April if Koningsdag falls on a Sunday. Koningsdag literally translates to ‘King’s Day’. It’s been a tradition since 1890 and was originally known as Queen’s Day (Queen Wilhelmina was on the throne at the time).

In support of the royal family aka The House of Orange-Nassau (or maybe just as an excuse to have a bit of fun), Dutch people will dress up in orange clothes, buy orange food and drinks as well as banners and decorations - some may even dye their hair orange. You’ll see a lot of this in Amsterdam, in particular. But every town will have its own celebrations. Some people may wear a small token of orange, such as a hat or hairband.

And while the Dutch circle birthday party may not be filled with alcohol, now is the time to grab a cold beer. You can bet that everyone will be drinking heavily on King’s Day.

#5 New Year’s is explosive

Everyone loves fireworks on New Year’s night. But forget about the organized firework displays that may be popular in your home country. At the stroke of midnight in the Netherlands, everyone will run out into the street, light a match and let off their fireworks. The whole sky is lit up with beautiful explosions - and won’t likely go quiet for at least two hours.

#6 Sinterklaas is celebrated on December 5th

Christmas day is less of a big deal in the Netherlands than it is in other places in the world. Instead, December 5th, the day Sinterklaas comes, is one of the biggest traditional celebration days in the country.

Unlike Father Christmas and Santa, Sinterklaas brings children gifts from Spain (not the North Pole) and sales to the Netherlands by steamboat. Every year, there is a huge outdoor celebration where the children go along to watch Sinterklaas arrive in a city by boat.

You should also be aware of Zwarte Piet, the helper of Sinterklaas, who has become a controversial figure in recent years. Many people dress up as this character by blacking their face, a tradition that is now being called out as racist but defended by some Dutch people as part of the tradition. Every year there are protests and the rules have become much stricter on those dressing up in the racially offensive costumes.

#7 Schoolbags on flagpoles

At some point, you may notice a schoolbag hanging from a Dutch flagpole outside someone’s home. At first glance, this could seem like the result of some mischievous behaviour but if you look around, you’ll notice many more.

When high school leavers in the Netherlands get their final grades in June, they take part in this fun Dutch tradition. If the child that lives in the home has passed their final exams and finds out they are graduating, the family will raise a national flag on a pole outside the house and throw the child’s schoolbag up in celebration.

#8 Borrel culture

Dutch friends may tell you that they are having something called a ‘borrel’ - you may also see the word on various supermarket snacks.

A borrel is basically a social gathering with friends, where everyone eats traditionally Dutch snackfood (usually deep-fried) like bitterballen, kroketten and ‘borrelnootjes’, which are deep-fried nuts. So, if you’re invited to a borrel, grab a bottle of wine and start socialising.

Now that you know these top Dutch traditions, let us know your thoughts! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and tell us your favourite Dutch tradition