Dutch Customs and Etiquette - Greetings


  • When entering a room it is customary to shake hands with everyone present, then to shake hands again on leaving. If there are too many people to shake hands with and the setting is informal, publicly identifying yourself will suffice. Usually an acquaintance will introduce a visitor to others; otherwise the guest introduces himself. The Dutch consider it impolite not to identify oneself.
    • When entering a doctor's office, a pharmacy or any waiting room where other people are present, the Dutch "greet the room" as they enter with a general "good day/morning/evening". The Dutch are very conscientious of who arrived in what order and will wait patiently to be served in that same order. Jumping line will lead to frowning and, most likely, a verbal reprimand on the spot.
    • When stopping in the street to chat with an acquaintance, a younger Dutch person especially will not take the trouble to introduce an accompanying friend, but the friend will usually do so him/herself.
  • Phrases saying hello or goodbye differ between regions, but are generally understood everywhere. However, the use of dialectal forms, for example the Brabantic "houdoe" and Gronings "moi", links the speaker to that region.
  • When introducing themselves, the Dutch shake hands and say their name (first and/or surname).
    • If seated, it is polite to stand up before shaking hands.
  • When answering the phone, the receiving party identifies him-/herself first either using their first (Jan), or last name (Jansen) or both (Jan Jansen). The name is usually preceded by "met", which means "(you're speaking) with". The caller is expected to identify themselves before asking to speak to another person or talking about something else.
    • Children tend to answer the phone with their full name (first + surname) to avoid being mistaken for their parents.
    • The identification of the receiving party is nowadays commonly skipped on cellphones which identify the caller. A friend may instead be greeted with a simple "Met mij" ("with me"). Among youths, a witty phrase may be used instead, such as "this is the police", which lets the caller know (s)he's been identified already, and need not introduce him-/herself.
  • Yelling to an acquaintance from a distance is considered impolite.
  • It is considered impolite (not to mention illegal) to enter a home without being invited. The Dutch consider it a gross invasion of privacy. This even applies to close friends and neighbours. Similarly, it is considered inappropriate to enter someone's garden except for the purpose of walking up to the front door.
    • This is slightly different in rural Twente, owing to the historical importance of noaberskop. A close friend and/or neighbour may enter the (farm)house through the back door and "greet the room". A similar practice exists in North Brabant.
  • It is polite to ask where to sit.
  • When meeting friends and relatives, the Dutch often kiss cheeks three times. Normally, the first kiss is on the right-hand cheek, the second on the left and the third again on the right (from the perspective of the person being kissed). This ritual is also often used when saying goodbye. Women will kiss women and men, whereas men kiss women but shake hands with other men, unless they are closely related, in which case kissing sometimes occurs.
    • Although some sorts of kissing in public (as a form of greeting), e.g. the aforementioned three kisses on the cheeks or a short kiss on the mouth, are seen as appropriate, french kissing in public is considered inappropriate, if not slightly vulgar.
  • It is polite for strangers to greet each other if they meet in a quiet location, especially in the countryside. This greeting is usually limited to a gesture or a simple phrase and rarely involves conversation. Likewise, on a country road, it is considered polite for drivers and pedestrians to make a greeting gesture when there is eye contact between them.
  • The Dutch use one hand to shake hands and typically let go after a very short time. Continuing to hold on to someone's hand is mostly considered inappropriate.

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