Eating & Drinking in the Netherlands


Local habits

Dinners at homes are served around 6pm and will only take half an hour. The kitchens in restaurants normally close at 9pm. At a restaurant, a tip of 5-10% is appropriate if the meal was good. When two people go out for dinner, they usually split the bill (‘going Dutch’). In a larger group, everyone pays their own share. If a Dutch person is to pay for the meal, they will let you know when you are invited.

In general, the Dutch have three meals a day. In the past, they had meat, vegetables, and potatoes for dinner, but nowadays, they are influenced by other culinary tastes. This is also reflected in the variety of restaurants. Lunch will normally consist of bread and cheese or light spread and will be taken between 12:00 and 1:00.

A very traditional dinner dish is stamppot - the name for several variations of a winter dish with mashed potatoes and vegetables, such as hutspot with carrots and onions, stamppot boerenkool with green kale, or stamppot zuurkool with sauerkraut. Erwtensoep or snert (two different types of pea soup) are well known and traditionally eaten after ice skating or working hard in the cold.

The Dutch eat a lot of cheese(on bread). Another typical bread topping is hageslag (chocolate sprinkles) that is not only eaten by children but by adults as well. A surprisingly wide variety of hagelslag is available in the supermarket.

There are vending machines built into the walls of snack bars where you can purchase a snack (kroketten, frikandellen, etc.) without a shop assistant. They call it “eten uit de muur” (eating from the wall).

Some other typical foods include:

  • Haring: raw herring; it’s seasonal and the first barrel in June is auctioned for charity. You eat them by hand with raw onion at stands on the street or at the fish shop.
  • Pofferties: mini pancakes. You can buy them at special stalls, and they are served with butter and icing sugar.
  • Pannekoeken: plate-sized thin crepe-like pancakes, with either sweet or savory fillings/toppings.
  • Drop: Licorice
  • Stroopwafel: Waffle cookies with a syrup or caramel middle.
  • Taart: typically fruit-filled pies with cookie-like crust.

Social Dinners - Dos and Don’ts

If you invite Dutch people for dinner, prepare your own type of food and style as they love to try something different. They are not used to potluck dinners and buffets. They will not help themselves to drinks as it is considered rude, unless specifically invited to do so.

If you are invited, make sure you are on time. If they say 8pm, they mean 8pm. Most of the time, they will only invite you when they know you well. It is very considerate to bring a small gift like a bunch of flowers, a bottle of wine, or a box of chocolates. They won’t open the wine, but they might serve the chocolates with coffee.

Don’t offer to bring a plate of food, to help prepare the meal, or to take a doggy bag home. Wait with starting to drink wine until the host has raised his or her glass. Only start eating when your host has taken the first bite. Expect that you will be offered seconds, but only after everyone has finished their plates.


The tap water in the Netherlands is of high quality and therefore considered drinkable.

After-work Drinks, or Borrel

The Dutch usually don’t socialize with other colleagues and will keep work and private life separate. They don’t like working late or coming in over the weekend as they like to keep this their personal time. They might go for drinks after work (borrel) but tend to go home after 1.5 hours for dinner. The drinks take place at a “bruin cafe” where they serve Dutch and Belgian beer, wine and spirits such as Dutch jenever, and of course, soft drinks. No meals are served, but snacks like “bitterballen” and cubes of cheese may be present.

Coffee and Tea Time

If people invite you for coffee, ask if they mean in the morning or in the evening. Coffee in the morning is around 10:00 - 10:30 and in the evening, at 8:00. Tea time is around 3pm. Be aware that it is not a light meal, but normally cake is served.


Welcome Guide to the North