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June 11, 2019

Birthday guide: How to survive a Dutch birthday

Art & Cult

So you’re in Amsterdam and found yourself invited to a Dutch persons birthday. No big deal right? Wrong! You’re about to enter a snake pit of social awkwardness. But armed with this guide, even you can survive the Dutch ‘verjaardag’. Just follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Greeting

Arriving at a party and only greeting the birthday boy or girl? Forget about it. At a Dutch birthday, you are expected to shake hands with every single person in the room. A simple ‘hello’ won’t be sufficient. Instead of introducing yourself, you will congratulate everyone by saying ‘gefeliciteerd’. No matter what connection they have to the birthday person. Example:

You: Gefeliciteerd

The birthday person’s ex-coworker’s cousin: Gefeliciteerd!

Step 2: Kringetje

Well done, you made it through the awkward first phase. Time for the next one: the circle or kringetje. You see, the Dutch love a good kringetje so everybody sits in a big circle in the living room. Everything that even remotely looks like a chair is used to create this circle. And then you sit. Leaving you with no free choice to whom you’ll talk to and limiting yourself to the person on the left and on the right from you. However uninteresting they my be. Don’t underestimate the power of the circle, it is a quintessential part of the Dutch birthday. In some cases, brave people dare to break the circle by standing (!) and facing away from the circle (!!). How ever, we warn you: this is an expert move, don’t initiate this move unless you’re a b-day pro.

Step 3: Food & Beverage

Regardless of your age, there is one essential food-item: cake. It’s usually a big part of the party and everything else seems to revolve around it. It’s also conversation piece number one, so when in need you can always fall back to: ‘Lekker! Is this cake homemade? Is there apple in it?’ ect.  The rest of F&B repertoire commonly consists of cheese & sausage (kaas & worst), koffie, tea and beer. Do not, we repeat, do not go to a Dutch birthday party on an empty stomach.

Step 4: Leaving

Time to say goodbye. But, now that you’ve created a real bond with the guests at the party (listening to the birthday person’s sister-in-law speaking about their cat for 30 minutes straight etc), how do you do that? You’re past the handshake stage, so time for some goodbye kisses. Here’s some rules:

  1. Three kisses on the cheek in the norm.
  2. Women kiss often. They kiss other women and men.
  3. Men generally only kiss women (apart from their relatives). But always be prepared for a surprise attack.
  4. Wait-and-see. Don’t initiate goodbye kisses, just follow the other persons lead.

Best of luck!

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