To start, I need to put this into context for people who have not attended an English birthday party: You go to the birthday person’s house (laden with booze) or to a bar. You get drunk, dance, tell bad jokes and possibly pass out on the floor somewhere. There might be a few nibbles, namely cheese & pineapple on sticks and possibly a few sausage rolls. But mainly… it’s about the drinking… or as we say “partying”.
Dutch birthday parties on the other hand are a whole other kettle of fish…
1. Arrival and greetings
Upon arrival (probably by bike, if you live in the neighbourhood) you need to greet the birthday boy or girl. You don’t say “Happy Birthday”, but “Gefeliciteerd” (meaning “congratulations”) and give them 3 kisses. It’s a hard word to pronounce for English speakers, but don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of practice as you’re also expected to congratulate the family of the birthday boy/girl as well! Yep – really! So for example “Gefeliciteerd met je zoon” (“Congratulations with your son”) and don’t forget the 3 kisses! (I should probably do a post about the 3 kiss thing as well, but in short, if you know the person well – 3 kisses, if not – shake their hand.)
You also have to greet everyone at the party individually. For this, a simple “Hallo, ik ben Hayley” (Hello, I’m Hayley) will do – with a handshake for strangers and 3 kisses for people you know. (Obviously don’t tell people you already know your name – or they might think you’re a bit mental.) Dutch people love introducing themselves and children above a certain age (don’t ask me the age – what do I know about kids!?) are also expected to introduce themselves. Personally, I think this is a wonderful thing – encouraging kids to be sociable – but once they’ve shaken your hand they’ll go back to playing their video game or watching TV. Ah well, at least they tried…
2. Coffee and Cake
Greetings done, you’ll now be offered coffee/tea and some cake. Yes, you read that right – CAKE!!! At the beginning of a party – surely that’s a dessert!?
3. The Circle of Doom
Chairs are arranged into a circle formation and people chat politely about the weather and so on for several hours or until the cake is gone.
4. Alcohol – woo hoo!
Then it’s time for an alcoholic drink. Woo hoo! Party time!!!!!!!!! Right!? Wrong. There’s no music and you continue to sit in a circle and chat with your circle party neighbours.
At this point there might be some food. If it’s winter you’ll most likely get… wait for it… SOUP! How on earth do you eat soup whilst holding a drink and a conversation at the same time?? Commenter Imelda adds: “you know why we serve soup at parties, right? Because its cheap 😉” Her words, not mine.
Kids will probably be served broodje knakworst (a hotdog in a bun) and chippies (a cute word for crisps). In summer there will probably be bread and leverworst (liver sausage) and hopefully some oude kaas (literally: old cheese) Yum!
5. Go home
Then, come 6pm it’s time to leave. Yup, the Dutch have start and finish times for their parties!
Could it have something to do with the fact that it’s the birthday boy or girl’s job to buy all of the food & drinks for the occasion? And while we’re on the subject… Work in an office? You’ll also need to buy cake for the whole workforce. Happy bloody Birthday!
Have you been to a Dutch birthday party? What did you think?
Ps – If you want to read more about Dutch birthday parties… here is Invader Stu’s Guide to Dutch Circle Parties.