Invader Stu: How to identify a Dutch circle party

07 May 2012, by

Anyone who has lived in Holland long enough has been invited to the dreaded "Dutch Circle Party."

But what about the people who have hosted one themselves? Sometimes they are unaware that they are throwing a Dutch circle party or maybe they are actively trying to avoid their party turning into one.

Either way, here are some of the warning signs to look out for.

Are there chairs?

This should be your first warning sign. Even if you have not arranged the chairs in to a circle yourself your Dutch guests will slowly re-arrange them into the "optimal party seating arrangement" as they arrive (it is part of their natural instinct).

A simple solution for this problem is to hide all available seating. However, be warned, Dutch guests have been known to re-arrange any furniture they can find which can be sat on and / or lean on in order to form their own circle.

Are there drinks?

Tea does not count. If guests start turning down tea because they have reached their limit your party most likely turned into a circle party sometime ago (between the 2nd and 3rd cup). If you have been serving slices of cake with the tea the problem is even more serious.

Don’t be fooled by small presents of alcohol at your party. Two guys using the opportunity to drink beer responsibly while their wives are distracted by someone else’s baby does not make a wild party.

Spiking everyone’s tea will soon liven up your party.

Is there music?

At a circle party there is often a lack of music so guests can hear each other "talk." If there is music it is often very quiet or worse... Dutch.

Turn on some loud music to drown out the sound of guests talking about their mortgages.

dutch circle party

Is everyone congratulating each other?

If guests start congratulating each other for your achievement (as if they are saying: "Well done for putting up with him for another year") then your party could be a circle party (or simply very Dutch).

The best solution for this problem is to be as attention grabbing as possible and remind everyone that it is your day and it is you and only you they should be congratulating (However, this may lead to a real feeling of "Do we have to put up with him for another year?"). Plan a suitable entrance and party attire.

Are there guests from three generations?

If someone’s grandmother is chatting with someone’s two year old second cousin, something went wrong with the party invites. It’s too late to do anything about it unless you hire a bouncer.

Still not sure? Then why don't you print out the handy flow chart below?

Invader Stu is an accident prone Englishman who has been suffering from Dutch culture shock for the last ten years. Enjoy his stories, more of which can be found on Invading Holland.

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Comments arranged by date (Total 11 comments)  
May 07 2012, 07:59AM

Now, it makes sense. And I was wondering if I had lost my party skills. All these chairs.. :)

May 07 2012, 12:38PM

The chairs suck the life force out of the party :p

May 07 2012, 08:14AM

Funny also if you think that Dutch schedule these "exciting" parties in their personal agenda weeks ahead!

May 07 2012, 12:39PM

Sometimes months ahead

May 07 2012, 09:29AM

I don't think this is entirely a Dutch thing. I've been to plenty of family birthday parties, BBQs, gatherings etc back in the US that are a lot like "Circle Parties." They tend to be dull, dry more ways than one (i.e. no booze). Everyone sits around making polite chit-chat and everyone's bored to tears with, the lone exception(s), being all the kids running around in the yard and glued to the nearest TV with a Nintendo.

The BIG difference is that the Dutch invite their friends and colleagues to these things, which are typically family-only affairs in other countries. It's a bit odd but my theory is that it goes along with their general openness and the "gezelig" thing.

May 07 2012, 11:52AM

You must've had some boring friends in the US. I'm American. Birthday parties I went to were typically celebrated outside the home in a club or park and had something going on other than taart and talking about people's respective jobs. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

May 07 2012, 12:00PM

Heavy emphasis on "family" in that sentence, KerryO. I wasn't talking about parties with friends and colleagues, just family-dominated birthday parties, BBQs, etc. Maybe your fam is more interesting than mine but they're pretty boring ala Dutch circle parties.

May 07 2012, 12:40PM

I think the key thing is you know they were boring. Not many Dutch people do :p

May 07 2012, 11:50AM

Love the diagram.
The hardest part is when you first come here and don't speak the language. Staring at the wall. Trying to seem interested when you've not got a clue what's being said. Torture. The only reprieve is going to the can with your smart phone to look at something that you can relate to.

May 07 2012, 12:41PM

And I have done that so many times. Surprisingly no one has questioned why I go to the toilet so much at circle parties yet.

May 23 2012, 06:54PM

Funny - why don't you write an article on what to do if you have been invited to a circle party and as an expat are obliged to spice it up. Show club orange how it really should be.!

About the Author
Stuart B

An accident prone Englishman living in Holland since 2001. Still not great with the language but fin...



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