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10 Normal Dutch Things That Are Abnormal To Americans

Dutch-American Heritage Day is Nov. 16, a day we set aside to honor our heritage here in America. We can think of no better way to do that than explain to our American friends just how normal we are.

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1. A government that doesn't meet in our capital

The capital of most countries is the city in which the government meets, but we Dutch folks like to do things a little differently. Amsterdam is our capital, and has been since the 19th century, but our government meets in the Hague. Confusing? Nah, it's normal.

2. Three kisses

No, not the Hershey’s kind. We’re talking genuine kisses on the cheek. Well, more like air kisses near one’s cheek. See, when we Dutch greet each other, especially good friends or family we haven’t seen in a while, we kiss each other three times on the cheek. We normally go left, right, left, but every now and then you find a rebel who goes right, left, right, and throws everyone off their game. That's still normal.

3. Happy birthday!

Most Americans have been called into the breakroom at work on at least one birthday in their lives only to find a gaggle of co-workers wearing silly party hats and waiting to serve a cake. But we Dutch know that’s backwards. When it’s your birthday in the Low Countries, you’re the one who normally brings the cake to your co-workers to celebrate the day. Party hats are optional.

4. Sprinkles on toast

Some Americans call these little drops of sugary heaven sprinkles. Others call them Jimmies. Either way, Americans love to put sprinkles on ice cream, doughnuts, cookies, cupcakes … just about any dessert you can imagine. But we Dutch like to put sprinkles, or hagelslag, as we say, on toast. No need to sweeten what’s normally sweet, right?

5. Gin in tulip-shaped glasses

The Dutch invented gin, under the name Jenever, as a medicine in the late 16th century. Of course, we’ve long since realized that the only ill it cures is a dull party. A traditional way to enjoy Jenever is in a tulip-shaped glass filled to the brim. What else would you expect from the Dutch?

6. Speaking of tulips

If you know anything about the Dutch, you probably know of our fondness for tulip. But did you know this beautiful flower didn’t originate in the Low Countries? No, the Dutch imported tulips from the Ottoman Empire and popularized them in early 17th century. The Netherlands is now the world's largest producer and exporter of tulips.

7. Gay marriage

More and more states in America are legalizing gay marriage, something the Netherlands did in 2001. In fact, the Low Countries was the first in the world to allow gay marriage. If you want to marry a man, go right ahead. Prefer a woman? No problem, that's normal too. We’re just happy you found someone with whom you’d like to share the rest of your life.

8. Herring

Soused herring with onions and pickles is a national dish. Granted, raw herring isn’t for everyone, but it's perfectly normal for us. To each their own, no?
Roel1943 via Flickr

Soused herring with onions and pickles is a national dish. Granted, raw herring isn’t for everyone, but it's perfectly normal for us. To each their own, no?

9. Full-body rain suits

It rains a lot in the Netherlands. We also ride our bikes a lot, but holding an umbrella while steering a bike through Amsterdam is a feat worthy of an acrobat. Instead, people often wear a full-body rain suit, a “regenpak,” as we call it, while we bike to school or work. We may not sing and dance in the rain, but ride a bike? Of course, that's normal.

10. Giving birth at home

PeteNeens via

Childbirth is a natural part of life, and the Dutch treat it that way. In fact, about one-third of all childbirths happen at home, not the hospital, and most are without an epidural. Yes, childbirth hurts Dutch women as much as other women around the world, but that’s normal, and little is as important to the Dutch as being normal.

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