This post is not written to make fun of Dutch people (I love them!) but to spotlight some idiosyncrasies of the Dutch culture that I find amusing and interesting. Of course commentaries like this are juxtaposed with my own background as a Filipino. What I find interesting might not be interesting to another person from a different cultural background.

So here are some stuff Dutch people like that I observed from my Dutch friends and traveling a number of times in Netherlands.

The Quest for Gezellig

Ask any Dutch person for an untranslatable word in Dutch and for sure they will all come up with one word: gezellig (pronounced heh-SELL-ick). There is no exact English translation for this word but it connotes a quaint, fun or cozy atmosphere. It also connotes belonging, time spent with loved ones or a general sense of togetherness.

It is a word that encompasses the core of Dutch psyche and culture.

Since it’s difficult to translate, the photo below is a perfect example of gezellig: picnic in Vondelpark with the gang, grilling barbeque, laughter (seen later), bikes, Heineken bottles (hidden) and a nice, warm sunny day. A bum devouring a Mcdonald’s quarterpounder on his way to work is clearly not gezellig.

The quest for coziness is the overriding vibe in Netherlands. And I like it. The Dutch seem to create cozy, delightful moments every chance they can. They chat with their friends in outdoor cafes. They take their families to a picnic in the park on a nice, sunny day. They enjoy a boat ride though the canals as the sun sets.

These are not rare moments. This is how they live.

Even in my short stay in Netherlands I found myself in various gezellig moments. For instance, my friend taking me to a funky, bohemian restaurant overlooking the sea, eating good food and drinking a perfectly-chilled bottle of Heineken. And another friend taking me on a road trip across northern Netherlands, pigging out on herring and enjoying a simple home-cooked dinner by the garden while watching a helium balloon soar higher.


But you know this already. Right? Anyway. There are twice more bikes than humans in Netherlands. Fact.


On my second morning in Sneek, Netherlands I woke up to a breakfast table with a box of chocolate sprinkles. Confused and a bit embarrassed because I didn’t know what to do with it, I asked my friend Arnoud why this was on the table.

Is he going to serve me ice cream and sprinkle it with these? For breakfast? I thought.

He didn’t say a word and took a slice of bread and showed me how instead. He smothered butter on the bread and then sprinkled copious amount of the stuff on my bread. “Here, try it” he said, smiling. I giggled to myself while I took a bite. It was sweet and nice but not something I would eat for breakfast.

That was my first hagelslag moment (yes, there were others).

Hagelslag is the Dutch version of sprinkles. Apparently it comes in different varieties. There’s the classic chocolate-flavored hagelslag, fruit-flavored hagelslag and the weird licorice-flavored hagelslag (Dutch people love licorice). Imagine grown-ups having licorice-flavored sprinkles on their toast for lunch. You read that right.


Even before traveling in Netherlands, one of my good friends joked that Dutch people smell like milk. Why? Because they drink milk like soft drinks. From cartons. Even inside trains. They are crazy over milk and other dairy products. This is probably why they are so tall. The average height of an adult in Netherlands is 6 feet and 1 inch. Want to blend in? Buy a carton of milk and carry it around with you as your choice of refreshment while going around the ‘dam.

What’s for breakfast? Milk, Gouda cheese and Dutch sausages ohyes.

Not a big fan of curtains

The first thing I noticed when I was in Netherlands was that most people have big glass windows with no curtains or if they own one, it’s just used as a decor and its split to the sides, almost nonexistent. You can practically see everything inside the house.

Are Dutch people voyeuristic?

Well I am, so on nights that me and my friend have dinner at home, I can see across the street that Marten and his family are watching Dancing with the Stars. And just below them Jochem in his orange shorts and his two kids are having chicken curry for dinner. Yes it’s that detailed! So next time you take a stroll in Amsterdam, don’t be shocked by the resolute lack of curtains (and privacy) of Dutch apartments.

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Have you been to the Netherlands? Did you notice any weird things about Dutch culture or customs? Did you see how crazy Dutch men are with hair gel? Why do they say congratulations on your birthday?!? Join the conversation in the comments section.


DJ Yabis is the poster boy of Dream Euro Trip and a modern day renaissance man. Originally from the Philippines, he loves throwing dinner parties and stalking rock stars in music festivals. Subscribe or follow his adventures LIVE on Facebook or Instagram. Learn how to plan your own eurotrip.

What do YOU think?

29 Responses to “Stuff Dutch People Like” Subscribe

  1. Travelogged November 4, 2013 at 11:07 AM #

    I don’t think I could ever live in the Netherlands. I hate bikes & milk. I’d be a total outcast! I love the idea of sprinkles on bread though…

    • DJ Yabis November 4, 2013 at 5:56 PM #

      Why do you hate bikes?

    • foujay June 11, 2014 at 2:37 AM #

      well there are also people who hate milk we drink it soooo much cause we have a lot of cows in the netherlands about 1.5 million and we doo use biikes a lot hehe

  2. Sharon @ Where's Sharon? November 4, 2013 at 5:45 AM #

    Straight after reading this, I went on instagram and the first pic that came up was from a dutch friend with only the comment – “gezellig” lol.

    • DJ Yabis November 4, 2013 at 5:47 AM #

      HAHA. I told youuuuuuuuuuuuu!

  3. Tom @ Waegook Tom November 4, 2013 at 1:58 AM #

    I didn’t notice any of this when I was in the Netherlands, but that was because I was rebounding and spent most of my time making out with cute Indonesian guys…

    Aaaanyway, hageslag sounds odd! I’d like to try the chocolate one, but I can’t imagine eating liquorice sprinkles on bread.

    I’ve heard the word gezellig before, and it’s a really nice concept. I may well try and use it from now on, although without a Dutch person to guide me, I’ll probably use it incorrectly.

    • DJ Yabis November 4, 2013 at 2:19 AM #

      HAHA of course YOU were helping yourself with all the Indonesian hotties there lol.

      Yeah hagelslag is pretty odd. I think eating eat with licorice would ruin my day.

      I love gezellig! <3

  4. Terry at Overnight New York May 15, 2013 at 1:27 AM #

    The sprinkles are a hoot. And yikes, all that milk. But curtains are dustcatchers — I’m with them on that one.

    • DJ Yabis May 16, 2013 at 5:48 AM #

      Haha. But I love curtains. They help create a room’s ambience ;P

  5. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas May 13, 2013 at 4:00 PM #

    I noticed the curtains on my first trip to the Netherlands, too. My host explained that it was due to the Calvinistic culture that touted honesty and transparency, so everyone could know your business! In Spain we use industrial-like curtains to block out the sun and cosy neighbors!

    • DJ Yabis May 16, 2013 at 5:55 AM #

      Spanish people are tsismoso y tsismosa!

  6. Larissa May 9, 2013 at 10:08 PM #

    I first discovered Hagelslag after a friend of mine visited the Netherlands. . . I figured any country that sprinkled chocolate on their breakfast toast was OK in my book 🙂

    • DJ Yabis May 10, 2013 at 4:03 PM #

      HAHAHA. It was weird but I guess it works for people with a sweet tooth ;P

  7. Ann May 9, 2013 at 4:38 PM #

    Not that you were at all negative, but one big positive is that the Dutch do a wonderful thing of speaking your native language (in my case, English) without making you feel inferior for not knowing theirs.

    • DJ Yabis May 10, 2013 at 4:02 PM #

      Very true and yes don’t get me wrong, I love the Dutch! ;P

  8. Penny May 9, 2013 at 10:08 AM #

    Fun story DJ. I haven’t been there yet. I think I may need be bring my own food though. What do vegans, and lactose intolerant people eat?

    • DJ Yabis May 10, 2013 at 4:00 PM #

      Not really sure but some restaurants are vegan friendly ;P

      • sil December 17, 2013 at 9:37 PM #

        supermarkets sell soy milk, rice milk and lactose free cowmilk 🙂

  9. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family May 8, 2013 at 7:54 AM #

    I dislike curtains too! I’d be happy to sleep with the windows wide open but my husband loves the dark. Maybe I should move us to a rental property in Holland that conveniently lacks curtains!

    • DJ Yabis May 8, 2013 at 8:16 AM #

      Maybe you should do that hahaha. You’ll have a convenient excuse to not have curtains ;P

  10. Nigel Clifford May 3, 2013 at 2:50 PM #

    I love finding words in other languages that don’t translate into English, it gives you a real insight into a unique aspect of the culture.
    In Portuguese the word “saudade” has no direct English translation and it describes “a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone”. Beautiful

    • DJ Yabis May 8, 2013 at 7:28 AM #

      Me too. Another one you can add in your repertoire is the Swedish word “lagom” which means something like “just the right amount”. It is a word that encompasses the core of Swedish psyche and culture. ;P

  11. Julie February 24, 2013 at 7:46 AM #

    Nederlandse volk misschien leuk rare dingen!
    Dutch people might like weird stuff!

  12. Mido June 28, 2012 at 8:41 PM #

    Why do they say congratulations on your birthday?!? * Everybody over the whole world says congratulations at your birthday, don’t they?

    • DJ Yabis September 19, 2012 at 9:21 PM #

      No we don’t. We say “Happy Birthday!”

  13. krzy May 28, 2012 at 5:03 AM #

    When my host in the Amsterdam served me sweet breakfest I wasn’t really impressed as I found it very popular in whole Europe before. Bikes are of course nice but the best thing for me is that Dutch people are really open-minded so I felt so relaxed there 🙂

    • DJ Yabis May 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM #

      Hahaha true story. They’re pretty liberal and open-minded.

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