Etiquette in the Netherlands

The Netherlands, often referred to as Holland, is a European nation on the North Sea.

The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. English is widely understood and the Dutch are among the most accomplished linguists in Europe.

The Netherlands is a Unitary parliamentary representative democracy under constitutional monarchy. The monarch is the head of state, equipped with limited constitutional powers.   The head of government is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who often is the leader of the largest party of the coalition.

The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries in Western Europe, with reportedly fewer than 20% visiting church regularly. Currently, Roman Catholicism is the single largest religion of the Netherlands with around four million registered adherents (about 24%) The Protestant Church of the Netherlands represents 16% of the population.

Both the Euro and U.S. Dollar are accepted currency.

Netherlands: Greetings & Gesture Etiquette

Everyone in the Netherlands shakes hands firmly, even with children. Aside from handshakes, there is very little public contact, although close friends or relatives may offer a brief hug.

Upon introduction, repeat your last name when shaking hands. Other pleasantries, such as “How do you do” are not common, although they may offer one to make foreigners feel comfortable. If you are not introduced to everyone at a business or social gathering, take the time to go around the room and introduce yourself to avoid making a bad first impression.

The Dutch have several gestures to indicate thoughts and behaviors:

  • a bent-arm gesture that involves tapping the underside of the elbow is a serious accusation of unreliability
  • sucking one’s thumb says “I don’t believe you.”
  • Gliding your forefinger up and down the bridge of your nose indicates someone is miserly or cheap.
  • Tapping your finger on your forehead or brushing away imaginary insects from in front of your face indicates that you believe someone is deranged.
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