Strange Things the Dutch Don’t Do


The Napkin

A few weeks ago a beam of sunshine cracked through the thick layers of gray and we celebrated by going out to a cafe. Our son ordered a tosti (a diminuitive of the grilled cheese sandwich) and Chocomel (chocolate milk that is so well branded, it dominates the market, and is a staple in every restaurant). Our son’s tosti arrived on a plate with the napkin placed under the sandwich.

“Why do they always do that?” my son asked, annoyed that a string of melted cheese had soiled the napkin. I’ve run into this scenario time and time again; food placed on top of a napkin, negating it’s function, rendering it useless.

We are napkin users, my son and I; breakfast, lunch and dinner a cloth napkin is placed beside our plate. And we use them to wipe our faces and our hands. My Dutch husband, on the other hand, uses a napkin so rarely that I’ve stopped placing one on the table for him. Only in extreme cases, such as sauce dripping down his hands, will he ask for one.

My husband’s napkin patterns seem to be representative of the Dutch. If you go to an upscale restaurant, the cloth napkins are a compulsory part of the set up, but the Dutch let them lie on the table. Dinners with friends are napkinless. And if my son or I ask, our hosts head bewildered to the kitchen, going through drawers in search of fancy paper napkins left over from an event a few years back, or if these are not to be found, guiltily hand over a paper towel. When did napkins go by the wayside?

Peanut Butter and Jelly

When I was staying with my brother and his family in the U.S. last summer, there was one morning ritual that brought joy to my heart; a hot cup of coffee or tea, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on toasted bread. This combination was a staple in my childhood diet, the theme of 6th grade science camp campfire songs and on many kid’s menus in restaurants.

But what do the Dutch think of our prized PB &Js? I was working with a group of Dutch people in the church setting up a big event. When we sat down together to take a lunch break, everyone got out their sack lunches. I retrieved my PB & J and started eating. Several people asked about my sandwich and when I explained, they looked at me like I was crazy. They certainly take jam on their bread, and kids usually like peanut butter on bread, but never shall the two meet–unless that bread is in the hands of an American. Do Canadians, Australians, Brits or others also know the joy of a PB & J?

Published by kristininholland

I believe in living with integrity and in choosing a lifestyle that shows respect for our environment. Although continually attracted to the idea of imminent success with the publication of my two novels, I am also greatly drawn to living simply and living well: loving my family and friends, and being aware and present for those moments in life--a spontaneous hug from my son, a smile to a stranger, moments of insight--that define real connection and success with peace, love and happiness.

5 thoughts on “Strange Things the Dutch Don’t Do

  1. So spot on! My Dutch partner never fails to give me a weird look or comment on it when I eat a PB&J, and no one seems to know about them here. But, of course, you know eating a raw fish whole with raw onions on top is completely acceptable 😉
    I love it 🙂

  2. Oh the herring! Yeah. I’m still not used to that one Julie! Glad to have another PB & Jer here on Dutch soil with me!

  3. I don’t understand the napkin thing at all. How can they not use one? Drives me crazy, but I am learning to adjust.

    A PB&J is not something I eat often so I have never had anyone give me weird looks, but I might try it just to see what happens!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: