There are some specific and quintessential Dutch traditions, surrounding gardens and curtains in the Netherlands. It is important to understand the etiquette as an expat, so that you can be respectful of your Dutch neighbors. To learn about the thinking behind those chocolate box flower beds and window displays, read on!

Dutch Gardens

Here are few key characteristics of the Dutch attitude towards gardens:

  • The Dutch are very proud of their gardens, be they postage stamp-size, or football pitch-size
  • They like to take particular care over their front yards
  • This is because the front yard is the part of the garden that the neighbors see
  • The Dutch love a ‘gezellig‘ neighborhood. The closest translation to ‘gezellig’ in English is ‘cozy
  • A neighborhood is considered to be gezellig if it is pretty. It should be covered in flowers, flowering bushes, little rock gardens and the occasional garden gnome or windmill
  • It is not without reason that Dutch flower bulbs are exported all across the world
  • The Netherlands is renowned as the flowering heart of the world
  • The hub of the world’s flower industry is located near Schiphol airport

Side Note

The Dutch and the Belgians

Ask the Belgians what they find typical of the homes of their Northern Neighbors, and they will mention two things:

  1. Gardens
  2. Curtains
  • The Belgians believe that family life is for the family
  • Hence, there are virtually no front yards in Belgium
  • The Belgians prefer to have their garden at the back of their house instead
  • They also like to have huge, no-nonsense window blinds
  • These go down as soon as the first lights go on inside the house
  • They are the opposite to their Dutch in this respect!

The rule of Dutch behavior is: 'Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je gek genoeg': Just act normal, that's already crazy enough!'

The Neighborhood in the Netherlands

You may well have noted how prim and uniform your new neighborhood is. This is no accident!

  • There are special rules about not building too many different types of houses on one street in the Netherlands
  • So, there are endless rows of well-kept, dime-a-dozen houses, with picture-perfect front yards
  • This is different in the very expensive areas of the Netherlands, where the houses tend to lie far apart from one another

Another key characteristic of a Dutch house is, of course, those big, un-curtained windows.

Dutch curtains

  • The Dutch do not feel self-conscious about what goes on behind their front door
  • Therefore, they feel comfortable leaving their curtains wide open
  • The rule of Dutch behavior is: ‘doe maar gewoon, dan doe je gek genoeg’. This means: act normal and you will be acting crazy enough’
  • This Dutch phrase is meant to advocate living modestly. It means that you should not buy expensive cars, not have any airs,never step out of line and you should decorate your home simply
  • If you close your curtains, the Dutch might assume that you have something to hide
  • If you leave your curtains open, everyone can see for themselves that you are totally ‘normal’
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