A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Congratulations on your birthday!

So my Dutch housemate had her birthday last week. I had already prepared a present for her a long time before that and I was quite excited to give it to her the day before her birthday. As the day approached I was suddenly worried if it would be rude to wish her happy birthday early because, well, Dutch culture is… unique and you will never know if sometimes they do things differently than other people 😛 It was this little occasion that I got to learn more about Dutch birthday customs, which turn out to be quite interesting!

First off, no problem with early presents! I guess there are no utterly strange things about the way Dutch people celebrate their birthdays, but indeed there are a few things they do quite differently 😀

  • I think almost everywhere in the world we say “happy birthday” to to birthday person right? But in the Netherlands people often say “congratulations” instead, as in congratulations for being born to the world. The interesting part is that you will have to (my housemate stresses this) say this to everyone in his or her family as well. Like I meet my housemate’s mother and I should say “congratulations to your daughter’s birthday” and then I meet her father I should say the same thing and so on. Isn’t it quite bizarre? But your birth definitely brings delight to your family, so why not 😛


  •  My housemate threw a mini birthday party at our place so technically it’s not very Dutch, but she told me usually the Dutch will sit in a circle and have the birthday cake together. It’s very important that you don’t break the circle and form small groups. What does that say about the Dutch? 😛


  • Another thing that my housemate told me that the Dutch always open the present as soon as they receive it, and that means right in front of the givers. Does that happen in your culture as well? Because in mine, or at least for me, I prefer collecting all the presents and open them after the guests have all left 😛 But this is to say that if a Dutch friends give you a present you should open it right away as well!

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2015 by in Living in Holland.

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