Dutch, the official language, is spoken by around 90% of the population. Around 453,000 people, or 2.2% of the population, speak Frisian as their first language, mainly in the northern province of Friesland, where it is recognised as an official language. There are several dialects of Low Saxon, recognised as regional languages, in the north-east and Limburgish, which is actually many different dialects, is another regional language spoken in the south-east. Turkish and Arabic are also spoken in the Netherlands, each by over 0.6% of the population. All this makes the Dutch culture rather diverse.
English is an official language in the special municipalities of Saba and Sint Eustatius (BES Islands). There is a tradition of learning foreign languages in the Netherlands: about 89% of the total population have good knowledge of English, 70% of German, 29% of French and 5% of Spanish. The great thing is that if you have children they do seem able to absorb languages easily, and unless your Dutch is very good they will soon be translating for you.
Tulips, licorice, cheese and bikes: These are some typical features of the Dutch culture. But what traditions are there in the Netherlands?
Traditions in Holland
The Elfstedentocht is a skating event through eleven cities in Friesland (province of Holland) with a length of about 200 kilometers. Every year it is questionable whether this tour can be held. It depends on the weather conditions: there should be enough ice on the water and not too much snow. The last tour was held in 1997. Every year a lot of Dutch people are rooting for colder weather.
Croquettes and frikandels out of the wall
Typical Dutch snacks are croquettes and frikandels. These snacks can be made at home or you can order it at the bar. Many Dutch pick up a croquette or frikandel out of the wall. This is a kind of vending machine which is present in a number of snack bars and streets. It can operate automatic for some hours per day.
In the Netherlands there are many fish stands and you will always find a tasty herring there. Dipping Dutch herring in a sauce first and then eating the fish by holding it in your hand with the tail.
Dutch are known for their techniques for saving money and it is therefore not surprising that saving supermarket stamps is a true understanding in the Netherlands. In shops you get a number of supermarket stamps, and these stamps can save you money when buying a particular product.
Stroopwafels and drop
Two other delicious snacks in the Netherlands are waffles and drop. Many people from other countries aren’t used to the taste of this licorice (drop) and find it therefore not at all that tasty.
Fries with peanut sauce, mayonnaise and raw onions = patat oorlog
‘Patat Oorlog’ is obviously not typical Dutch, but fries certainly are. It is normal to order this for dinner. In the Netherlands they also sometimes eat fries with applesauce or apple sauce and mayonnaise. (crazy, I know!)
A typical Dutch dish is stew. With this dish potatoes and vegetables are cooked and mashed together. This dish is normally served with a smoked sausage, meatballs or a bacon steak and in the middle they make a hole for the gravy.
The bike is a typical feature of the Dutch culture. In the Netherlands there are even more bikes than people. They often use the bike as they have to get somewhere. A familiar phenomenon are the bike trails and tunnels all around the city. Even in primary school (groups seven) the students need to pass a nationwide traffic exam by bike.
A typical holiday in the Dutch culture is King’s day. Celebrating the birthday of the king is a big event and almost everyone wears orange this day. Several festivals are organized and you can see in all the towns and villages of the so-called free markets. Everyone gets a free day off work to celebrate this popular birthday.
If you want to know all the national holidays keep reading. Another great national holiday is Carnival. Seven weeks before Easter there is this national parade called carnival. Everyone is dressed up and there are magnificent carnival floats, often with a specific theme through the streets.
- January 1 – New Year’s day. The day before is called “Old Year’s Day”.
- March/April – Easter Friday/ Sunday & Monday
- April 27 – King Day
- May 5 – Liberation Day
- 7 weeks after Easter – Pentecost – 2 days
- December 5 – Saint Nicholas’ Eve
- December 25/ 26 – Christmas
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