Lunch break, Dutch style

09 July 2012, by

A typical Spanish lunch break means a long, hot lunch with two main dishes and a dessert, a regular Chinese lunch break means a well-prepared, hot meal (sometimes followed by half an hour nap at home), and a Scandinavian lunch typically includes a full hot meal, with sidedishes of small salads and dessert.

What about the typical Dutch lunch? For those who are used to having long lunch breaks with hot dishes from back home, here in the Netherlands you probably have quite the opposite experience.

A typical Dutch lunch consists of an individual portion of cold meals, such as sandwiches filled with slices of meat and Dutch cheese or sweet assortments, accompanied by milk or juice. It looks more like a second breakfast; easy to prepare, easy to pack and easy to finish.

Some people prefer hot meals for lunch, such as broodje kroket or rookworst with toast, and maybe some instant cup-a-soup.

Most Dutch take a packed lunch to work. They enjoy a simple menu during a 30-minute (or even less) break at their desks or in the office canteen, and when the sun is shining, in the park or at the nearest bench. It is likely that people here spend the least time on lunch compared to other countries.

lunch break dutch style
Photo by Edwin Smits


The Dutch kind of lunch is best for productivity. Because of the light and less extensive menu, people do not feel sleepy after lunch and are able to go back to work immediately.

Furthermore, the time spent for the break is relatively little, so people tend to finish work and go home earlier, allowing them to have more time with family or just for relaxing.

Cost-friendly & Healthy

Taking a packed lunch to work is undoubtedly more cost-friendly and healthier compare to buying food at the office canteens (which are usually quite overpriced) or at restaurants.

lunch break dutch
Photo by Flickr user miss.libertine

Rapid eating

Dedicating too little time for lunch leads to rapid eating, which is not good for your health. As doctor Patrick Serog told Le Figaro, the French newspaper, "When we eat quickly, we don’t have the time to feel satisfied."

Taking a proper break of 45 minutes to an hour is best, according to doctor Odile Renard. Without this break, stress can accumulate.

Less social interaction

A quick lunch break means reduction in social interactions, which is quite a crucial part of professional culture. As social interactions during a working day can only take place (comfortably) during lunch break, the shorter the break is, the less time you have to socialise with your colleagues.

Emotional well-being

Research has shown that a hot meal is better for your well-being and happiness.

Would you rather have a long lunch break while savouring hot food like Southern Europeans do, or a quick one with a simple menu like the Dutch do?

In any case, long lunch or short, hot or not, lunchtime is the time of the day most people anywhere around the world look forward to.

Besides, you can always be creative with the various kinds of bread the Dutch supermarket offers. Check out these lunch break ideas for inspiration. Have a nice lunch break!


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Comments arranged by date (Total 2 comments)  
July 09 2012, 10:18AM

When you're a vegan, it's really tough to depend on Dutch cafeteria food. Every lunch consists of some bread (often containing milk or eggs) with sliced meat and/or cheese, and then they drink milk or buttermilk with it - tough to find soy milk anywhere either, except for Starbucks. Even the 'broodje gezond' usually contains cheese, meat, or eggs.

I usually bring my own salads from home, made from a variety of plants: Lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, chick peas, beans, cooked grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and anything else that's vegetable, together with a little jar in which I mix my vinaigrette. They don't even offer broodje met hoemoes (hummus sandwich) or gegrilde groente (grilled vegetable sandwich) in Dutch restaurants.
There was a great initiative by Sarita from Lekker vegetarisch eten to offer a vegan option in HEMA restaurants: She made it to the final 3, but her broodje will very likely be discontinued because most Dutch people just think they need meat or cheese for lunch. It's sad.

July 19 2012, 05:45PM

As an American working in a Dutch office, I am actually surprised by how many colleagues take the time to eat lunch in the canteen. I've eaten countless lunches sitting at my desk, so I've actually had to get used to the idea of taking a break and socializing. I'm still not very good at it, but am trying to use the time to practice my Dutch...

About the Author
Ayu Mashita

Former Lifestyle Editor of IamExpat, music enthusiast, social media aficionado and brand strategist ...



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