Posted by Marion de Groot on April 10, 2009

I often hear that the lunches in the Netherlands are quite typical. I used to work as a volunteer for AFS, an organization for intercultural exchange programs for highschool students. We organized a camp where the new students from abroad came to straight from the airport, where they had a few days to acclimatize before they were picked up by their host families. Every time at lunch I had to explain the students at the table how to eat a Dutch lunch (and not insult/annoy your host family).
* Take one (1) slice of bread
* Pick one (1) kind of topping, and take one (1) slice.
* Put the topping on one half of the bread
* Cut the bread in half, and put the empty half on top of the other one.
* Eat it
* Repeat from step one if still hungry.

What they did if I didn’t tell them anything
* One slice of bread
* Take all different toppings on the table in fairly large amounts
* Stack all the toppings on top of each other, no matter what kind, sweet, salty, everything
* Take another slice of bread and put it on top.
* Do your best to hold the whole sandwich and eat it without things falling out.

I used to explain them that we, the Dutch, don’t eat sandwiches. We eat bread with cheese. Or with ham. Or with chocolate sprinkles. It probably came across as very stingy. But many of the host families would otherwise have just thought that they were stuck with this greedy, malmannered teenager for a year.

Although I must say that good bread doesn’t need much. I haven’t had truly good bread outside the Netherlands.

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2 Comments to Lunchtime

  • What you say about Dutch lunches will come as a surprise to most Americans, who seem to think they’re Europeans (culturally, at least).

    Back in the 1990s, I worked with a project leader who was going to the British Isles for her vacation (or for her holidays, as I believe the English say). Before the trip, she was excited and talked about going for weeks; but on the day she came back to work, all she could do was criticize the English for not being like us. They apparently don’t even understand English, so she had to teach them: “THIS is a COOKIE!” (What we call a “cookie”, I believe the English call a “biscuit”.) She was so exasperated with them for not being just like us that I doubt she has ever wanted to go back, since it turns out the English aren’t Americans after all, and like all other foreigners, speak a strange language we Americans don’t understand.

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