We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.

In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:

A primer on how to avoid mistakes in Netherlands

Netherlands Culture photo

Photo by Martin Beek

he Dutch are among the most informal and easy-going people in Europe, and there are not many strict social taboos to speak of. It is unlikely that Dutch people will be offended simply by your behaviour or appearance. In fact it is more likely that visitors themselves will be offended by overly direct conversation.

Nevertheless, the standards for overt rudeness and hostility are similar to those in other western European countries. If you feel you are deliberately being treated offensively, then you probably are. The exception to this openness is personal wealth. It is considered vulgar to for instance reveal the height of your salary, so asking somebody about this will be considered nosy and will probably just get you an evasive answer.

Likewise, it’s not advisable to be forceful about your own religion or to assume a Dutch person you’ve met is a Catholic or a Calvinist, since most people do not adhere to any faith at all, and the country has a long, proud history of cultural and religious tolerance. In urban areas it is not considered rude to ask somebody about this, but you’ll generally be expected to be entirely tolerant of whatever the other person believes and not attempt to proselytize in any way.

Openly religious behaviour is usually met with bewilderment and ridicule rather than hostility. An exception is the Dutch Bible Belt which runs from Zeeland into South Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland, and consists of towns with many strong Dutch Reformed Christians, who are more likely to be insulted by different religious views. Openly nationalist sentiments are likewise viewed with some suspicion among the general public, though there are a number of nationalistic celebrations like King’s Day (Koningsdag, April 27th) and during football championships. Mostly though, these nationalistic celebrations are mostly used as an excuse to party together rather than being true “nationalistic” events.

With this, you had the primer on key facts about Netherlands, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Netherlands food and drinks:

Local food you should try in Netherlands and No miss drinks in Netherlands.

Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Netherlands? Please comment below.