A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Dutch quirks you will inevitably encounter

If you are, like me, from abroad and you have never lived in The Netherlands before, there are a couple of curiosities in this country that never fail to amaze me. While some of them are just funny, others can be very confusing and good to know before you put your foot in your mouth.

And yes, that’s a saying. I didn’t know it either.

The Siren

If you only just moved to Leiden, chances are you haven’t heard the siren on every first Monday of every month. Trust me, when I first heard it, I thought the Spaniards were coming back to reclaim their homeland (Hobbit pun intended). I was utterly confused and to be honest, a bit horrified, but what was even more confusing was that no one else around me seemed to notice it. How could no one hear this rather scary screeching sound that was blaring all over the place? Obviously, I hopped onto the bandwagon and said nothing, but as soon as I was home Google told me that it’s just a scheduled test that the government runs every month. However, I’m still wondering what would happen if there was a real emergency on the first Monday at noon…

The Yoghurt Confusion

The second thing you need to know when you are new to The Netherlands is their special packaging of yogurt. Being from Germany, which is not that far away, I assumed that they would sell milk and yogurt how I knew it: the former in tall tetra-paks and the latter in tubs. Turns out that this is not the case (for some brands) and that both milk and yogurt are sold in tall tetra-paks which has often enough led me to come home from grocery shopping and groan in frustration because the milk I bought was actually yogurt. You have been warned. 

yoghurt milk

It’s yogurt on both sides…

If it isn’t fried, it isn’t Dutch

The third oddity I have to mention is the Dutch food. To illustrate this, I would like to tell the anecdote of when my grandparents came to visit me in Leiden, and after just one and a half days my granddad took me aside and quietly asked me under his breath whether there was a good Italian nearby, as he “could not see the fried food anymore”. And truth be told, most of the Dutch cuisine consists of fried goods. Not to say that it’s bad, I actually really like it, it’s just something one ought to get used to, especially when you’re from a country with a proud food history.

Some delicious bitterballen

Some fried foods you must try when you are new to the Netherlands are the Kroket, the Frikandel, Bitterballen, and Oliebollen.

The Window Trap

Casually walking down a street in the Netherlands can have very embarrassing consequences if you don’t adhere to the proper etiquette. When I first arrived in Leiden I, like many others, was astonished by the beautiful architecture of Dutch houses, including their huge street-level living room windows. Especially in the evenings, or at night, when it’s getting dark outside and the interior is brightly illuminated one’s gaze is involuntarily drawn to the inside of a stranger’s living room. I have sometimes even stopped walking to marvel at a particularly nicely furnished house. However, you might be better off not sticking your nose into a stranger’s home as it is very likely you’ll find yourself in a very awkward face-to-face interaction if someone happens to be inside. Trust me, I know of what I speak.


Can you resist the temptation to look inside?

There are many more quirks that make the Dutch the lovely nation that they are but mentioning all of them would go beyond the scope of this post. Have you experienced a funny, rather Dutch situation? Let me know in the comments!

Until then, Doei and Goede Dag!

3 comments on “Dutch quirks you will inevitably encounter

  1. David Ramos
    February 19, 2019

    LOOL The siren thing is so true!! I thought there was a terrorist attack or something the first time I heard it!!

    • Clara Diedrich
      February 19, 2019

      hahaha I know right!! So scary when you don’t know what it is 😂

  2. Esra@theleidener
    February 19, 2019

    I am so glad I am not the only one feeling the urge to look inside!

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This entry was posted on February 19, 2019 by in Clara, Culture, Local Customs, Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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