Gift-giving rituals in the Netherlands

Gift-giving rituals in the Netherlands

December has come and gone. No doubt you did some gift-giving during the holiday season. When it comes to the ritual of giving and receiving gifts, every country has its own cultural ways. The Netherlands is no exception! 


If you invite a Dutch person to a birthday party, chances are that you may be asked if you have a gift preference! This is because, in my experience, the Dutch are very “down to earth” when it comes to gift giving. It is all about giving something that is useful to the receiver. From the practical point of view, this prevents a gift from being “unwanted junk”, which may just end up cluttering your house or being thrown out.

However, this approach of asking for a preferred gift may kill the thrill of hunting for an appropriate gift for the gift-giver, as well as receiving an unexpected and surprising gift for the gift-receiver.

Mind you, you don’t always end up with what you asked for. It also doesn’t mean that you are obliged to ask the same question when it is time for you to buy a gift. If you prefer to surprise the person with a gift of your own choice, by all means, feel free to do so.


If you are trying to raise a child with the awareness of being content and happy with a gift, regardless of the content, you may be dismayed to discover that asking for a preferred gift also applies to young children. If you still prefer to safeguard your own line of upbringing, you could provide a list of things that your child loves doing and in doing so, you leave the choice of finding the right gift to the giver.


On an invitation card for a Dutch wedding, you may notice, at the bottom of the card, the words “gift suggestion or tip” followed by a drawing of an envelope. This means that a “cash gift” would be a welcomed, practical gift for this occasion.

Receiving gifts, the Dutch way

Contrary to the “down to earth” approach to gift giving, receiving is a totally different experience! If you are from a culture that expects gifts to be left untouched till the guests have left, the Dutch way of receiving gifts may be a totally mind-blowing experience for you.

Once you have handed over a beautifully wrapped gift to a Dutch person, chances are that you have the following experience: on seeing the wrapped-up present, the receiver is suddenly filled with a gust of curiosity that he / she cannot contain. In the blink of an eye, the gift wrapping is ripped open, the contents laid bare and admired with full-throttled enthusiasm!

It can even go as far as putting the gift on if it happens to be something that one can wear, and a catwalk show will take place for the rest of the guests!!

So, in the Netherlands, it is possible that by not opening a gift you risk giving the impression that you are not interested in the gift or the person. So, by all means, if you receive a gift from a Dutchie, just rip it open, admire it and be genuinely surprised.

What are your experiences with gift-giving and receiving in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!

Kirtika van Hunen


Kirtika van Hunen

Kirtika van Hunen is a certified intercultural trainer, writer, coach and founder of Between2Cultures Through her trainings; 'Leading Across Cultures', 'Working effectively with the Dutch', 'Intercultural Awareness and Communication',...

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Amir Ben-Amram 10:42 | 26 February 2019

Dear Kirtika, thanks for a very helpful post. I wonder if you could be more specific regarding cash gifts for a wedding. Any advice on how to figure out a reasonable sum? (We are two family members invited to a wedding of a great nephew of one of us; we have not been living in the Netherlands, while the wedded couple are local.)

KvHunen 14:24 | 4 March 2019

Sorry for my late reaction, I was on vacation Amir Ben-Amram. To answer your question, if the couple have asked for money, the amount is up to you. what you would like to give, it is the gesture that matters. If they have mentioned what the money is for, may be you can estimate an amount. Success.