The Dutch are considered the most informal and easy-going people in Europe and there are few strict social taboos. It is unlikely that the Dutch will be offended by your behaviour or appearance alone. In fact, it is more likely that visitors themselves will be offended by too direct a conversation. Nevertheless, the standards for rudeness and open hostility are similar to those in other Western European countries.
The exception to this openness is personal wealth. For example, it is considered vulgar to reveal your wealth. So asking someone to tell you about it is considered an act of curiosity and you will probably only get an evasive answer.
Similarly, it is not advisable to talk pushily about your religion or assume that a Dutch person you meet is Catholic or Calvinist, as most people do not adhere to any faith. In urban areas, it is not considered rude to ask someone about it, but you are generally expected to be completely tolerant of the other person’s faith and not to proselytise. Overtly religious behaviour is met with perplexity and ridicule rather than hostility. An exception is the Dutch Bible Belt, which stretches from Zeeland to South Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland and consists of cities with many strong Dutch Reformed Christians who tend to be offended by other religious views.
Openly nationalistic sentiments are also viewed with some suspicion by the public, although there are a number of celebrations such as King‘s Day (Koningsdag, 27 April) and during football championships. Some people dress in orange and/or get drunk, but hostility towards foreigners is not to be feared.
In the Netherlands, kissing on the cheek is a common form of greeting for women and between women and men. Usually two men shake hands. Kissing is particularly suitable for informal occasions. For greetings, it is usually used for people who already know each other. It is also a common practice to congratulate someone and is also used for strangers. The handshake is more appropriate for formal occasions. Attempting to shake a person’s hand when offered a kiss or refusing a kiss may be considered strange or rude.
The Dutch kiss each other three times, alternating between the right and left cheek. This could lead to embarrassing situations for the British and many other Europeans who are used to receiving only two kisses. Also, you should always kiss on the cheeks instead of giving air kisses.
Gay and lesbian travelers
As mentioned earlier, the Netherlands is liberal towards homosexuality and is considered one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. The Netherlands has the reputation of being the first country to recognise same-sex marriage, and openly admitting one’s orientation would not cause many problems in the Netherlands. But even a gay-friendly country like the Netherlands can afford to criticise homosexuality, but this varies from country to country. Since violence and discrimination against homosexuals are rare and the legal status of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands is low, the country can be considered a gay utopia in any case and should be safe for gays and lesbians (except after big football matches or during demonstrations when violence in general occurs).
If you express your opposition to LGBT rights, it is unlikely that the Dutch will get angry, although they may make you understand that they disagree with your ideas. Don’t take it the wrong way when Dutch people use the word “gay” as a swear word, because in many cases it doesn’t mean they are against homosexuality. They just don’t want to take it too seriously. Recent polls show that more than 90% of Dutch people believe that homosexuality is moral and should be accepted.