8 ways to ‘go Dutch’

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(CNN) — Every April, the Dutch host the biggest street party in Europe. Previously Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) the festival is now Koningsdag (King’s Day) in honour of King Willem-Alexander.

If you’re a newbie to the Netherlands, below are a few Dutch 101 lessons to help you ‘go Dutch’.

1. Cycle everywhere

The Dutch love their bicycles.

The Dutch love cycling. They have industrial strength padlocks and wonderful cycle paths that run the length and breadth of the Netherlands.

The skill level of the Dutch cyclist is high. Many can cycle while carrying the weekly groceries, children or a ladder, handling tricky tram tracks and swerving around unexpected obstacles at speed.

It’s even more impressive when combined with a few drinks.

Most bikes look like black big-wheeled old-fashioned boneshakers with pedal brakes. Bike are practical rather than showy and thus less attractive to bike thieves. Until the recent advent of the cycle police, it was a source of national pride to cycle without lights.

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No secret that bikes are the ideal way for any visitor to enjoy their time in the Netherlands.

2. Obsess over the WC

These controversial urinals might be situated in Germany, but they were designed by Dutch designer Meike van Schijndel.

Though Englishman Thomas Crapper popularized the toilet, many modern toilet innovations are Dutch.

The famed old school Dutch toilet with an “inspection shelf” is less prevalent these days, but still available.

For women, the joys of a standing female urinal can be found in various popular locations. It’s claimed to reduce queues.

Masculine waywardness is reportedly a thing of the past, ever since the Dutch stenciled a large horsefly onto their urinals. It’s a model that has been exported worldwide and can be seen extensively in the toilets at Schipol Airport.

3. Eat more pastries

A worker oversees the production of traditional Dutch food known locally as “oliebollen” at a bakery in Beverwijk.

The most popular guy in town.

No event is ever complete without a cake or pastry.

The Dutch don’t just create any old pastries, though. They create works of art pimped within a millimeter of perfection.

There’s the appeltaart, the moorkop and the bosse bol, best as dessert.

Other Dutch culinary treats include frit and mayo, stroopwafels (ideal with coffee and sold fresh at most outdoor markets) or saucijzenbroodje (Dutch sausage rolls with high meat content).

4. Go sailing

A houseboat on the Amsterdam Canal.

The Netherlands is technically below sea level and stays dry thanks to polders and dykes.

The Dutch are nearly as obsessive about getting out on the water as they are about cycling — and they appear to navigate just as recklessly.

Many people own boats and it’s not unusual to live on a houseboat or see parties on a huge variety of vessels.

5. Pay only for what you consume

Go Dutch — and you might have a better chance of one day affording a canalside home.

“Let’s go Dutch” is probably the most misunderstood phrase associated with the Netherlands. To really go Dutch, you should only pay for what you eat or drink rather than split the bill equally.

In the Netherlands, service is included your bill. But it’s still polite to tip. Tipping isn’t really a big thing — most locals often only leave a token amount if they had a coffee and between $5.30-10.70 (€5-10) with a meal.

Tourists tipping at 10% are appreciated.

6. Get that ‘gezellig’ feeling

Sunbathing by a Dutch windmill = pretty gezellig.

You know you’re feeling “gezellig” when you skip work for a three-hour lunch.

If Buddhists aim to eventually achieve nirvana, then the state of consciousness the Dutch love most is gezellig.

But what exactly is it?

It’s a word or concept with no direct translation but many meanings. You’ll often hear gezellig referenced wherever Dutch people gather. The word roughly translates to cozy, quaint, familiar or friendly.

Every self-respecting Netherlander knows when they’re feeling gezillig (or, heaven forbid, if they’re not).

Tourists can feel it too — just kick back, relax and enjoy yourself and you’re most likely feeling gezellig.

7. Drink coffee with a special milk

Dutch king Willem-Alexander pours coffee into the mug of Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb.

Long before coffee became a fashion accessory, it was a national pastime in the Netherlands.

The Dutch have a special “coffee milk” — an acquired taste and definitely not advisable for use in tea or on breakfast cereal.

Dutch-style coffee comes with a biscuit on the side. Claims of the superiority of Dutch lovers and Dutch cheese also stretch to their coffee — Dutch coffee is, according to any local, the best in the world.

The national brand, Douwe Egberts, is found throughout the Netherlands (though the brand is now owned by a German company).

Equally, if you have the misfortune to try what most Dutch consider an acceptable cup of tea, you’ll soon understand why coffee is so popular.

The Dutch also like to drink “koffie verkeerd,” which literally means “coffee gone wrong.” It’s a poor man’s cafe latte with 70% coffee and 30% steamed milk stirred together thoroughly.

8. Go to a ‘brown cafe’

Dutch beer is about more than just Heineken.

Brown cafes are casual, often dark (brown) environments that support regional brewed beer and, in many cases, microbrewers.

Typically brown cafes serve: Amstel in the north Netherlands, Grolsch in the middle and Brand in the south. In summer, lighter, fruiter “witbier” (white beer) is the rage — served sometimes with a slice of orange or lemon that can be muddled to add to the flavor.

Most pubs also serve at least one Belgian beer on tap due to the enormous popularity of these heavier and stronger beers.

Every Dutch person has their favorite local brown cafe. And in spite of the 2008 no smoking laws, many brown cafes still allow their patrons to smoke indoors.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2013. It was most recently reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.

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