Food, Typically Dutch

8 Tips for Dining Out in the Netherlands

Having had yet another below par lunch at a local restaurant last weekend I thought I’d share some tips to get the most out of your dining out experience in the Netherlands.

I ordered a burger. It was cold in the middle. It was taken away with a ‘jeetje‘ uttered in surprise. It came back and I sat and ate some of the burger whilst my family watched as they were already lang klaar with their food. Then I discovered this burger wasn’t exactly steaming hot either.

In short, eating out in the Netherlands is hit and miss – like elsewhere- but here are eight tips that may help.

8 Tips for Dining Out in the Netherlands

1. Don’t Ask to Sit in a Quiet Part of the Restaurant

This is a selfish request so please don’t make it. It requires the waiting staff to walk further than strictly necessary to serve you.

Sit with the crowd and enjoy your meal.

In fact, most of the Dutch clientele think it is gezellig to seat themselves at the table positioned 10 centimeters from yours, despite you being the only customers in the restaurant. Squeezing past each other’s chairs to visit the toilets is a kind of national pastime.

2. Expect to Take Your Time

Don’t expect to grab a quick meal and head off somewhere else. If you want quick, try McDonalds or Burger King (and even then you might be pushing your luck).

The ordering process, as well as the delivery times of your meal to your table is ‘relaxed’ in many Dutch eating establishments.

3. Get Your Drinks Order in Whilst you Can

You just never know when you will be able to attract your server’s attention again to get a second drink. People have died of thirst trying.

4. Enjoy the Overview

Don’t have high expectations that glasses and bottles will be cleared away as you empty them. That is needless extra work for the serving staff.

Relish the challenge of creatively rearranging your table at every course to ensure you can fit your food on the table.

Think about stacking high, as well as across the table, and don’t be afraid to extend to the Dutch group’s table next to you – they wanted your company after all.

Look on the bright side – you can easily keep track of your alcohol consumption this way.

5. Two Fingers to the Two Finger Rule

When you order a beer from the tap, your glass will comprise 2/3 foam and 1/3 beer. Not the other way around.

6. Be Sure to Let the Staff Know if Your Meal is Cold or Under-cooked

If you are not happy with the temperature of your meal, or the degree to which it is cooked, start trying to attract your waiter to let them know.

They will gladly (read: with rolling eyes) take your plate back to the kitchen to deal with the offending item by blasting it in the microwave and then returning it to you on the same plate that was taken away from you 15 minutes previously.

Yes, your salad will also have been nuked.

7. Use Your Feet to Get the Bill

You may notice that most Dutch customers get up from their tables and make their way to the till at the end of the meal; this is because they know. They know there is no point sitting and waiting and trying to get a waiter’s attention to get the bill.

And in any case, if you are lucky enough to attract enough attention to ask for the bill, this is just step one of three.

Getting the bill to your table is trickier than asking for it. And then getting your money or card processed is even harder. You could be there hours, by which time it is time for your next meal.

We actually gave up once and just left the restaurant. We asked. She walked away. We asked again. She walked away. And then, fifteen minutes after asking a second time, we noticed all the staff huddled together on a smoke break. So we left. Bite me.

8. Leave a Tip

Yes, the service may have been slow, your table a mess throughout the entire meal and you had to use your feet to get the bill paid, but you are still expected to leave a tip for your waiter or waitress. They were in the restaurant whilst you ate weren’t they?

Last Words

Of course, there are actually hundreds of great places to eat in the Netherlands, where service excels and the food is scrumptious. There’s a place to suit for every budget – from your local snack bar to top notch Michelin star restaurants such as De Librije.

6 thoughts on “8 Tips for Dining Out in the Netherlands”

  1. Sadly, the same story could be written about restaurants in France, the USA, and other places I’ve lived. I once was given a half-rotten lettuce salad in France, and the waiter said I was just imagining it… Oh, I do have real horror stories, but won’t tell them here 😉

  2. I’m a Dutch expat and where I live, it’s exactly what makes my hair stand on end: one is still chewing the last mouthful and the waiter/waitress already yanks the plate from under your nose, leaving you desperately scrambling to put your knife and fork back, because otherwise, well, what are you going to do with them?

    And I can’t even begin to count the number of times I was all happy having found something on the menu, only to be told that “only today” (yeah, rrrrright) it isn’t available.

    So despite the fact I’m living in a reasonably big city with a lot of restaurants, I tend to stick to 3 or 4 of them because I know they deliver what they promise, the food is good, and they don’t stare at me in utter disbelieve when I tell them I want my steak done rare.

    The good thing here: the amount on the bill is the same as in the Netherlands, only the currency here is worth more than four times less.

  3. This was interesting! I like cosy atmospheres in eating places but don’t like when it’s too noisy or you’re sitting really close to other people. Not to be unfriendly, I just think it can give a stressful feel to a place. I’m generally quite careful about where I eat out and reheating food and putting it in a microwave isn’t just a thing in the Netherlands unfortunately. If done properly it’s ok but you never know what goes on in restaurant kitchens. If it was meat that wasn’t hot in the middle I would be completely put off eating somewhere for sure. I’ve had an experience like that before somewhere and I simply couldn’t eat the burger because when they gave me the replacement one that was supposed to be hot, it wasn’t hot either!

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