Inburgering with Dutch News: the first 50 lessons

Have you been following Dutch News’s very own inburgering course? It’s our essential guide to all things Dutch, from snack bar delights to death, from tall things to literary gems. Here’s a round up of the 50 lessons so far.

Lesson 1: An introduction to Dutch history
Being the well organised folk that they are, the Dutch have drawn up a list of 50 key events and periods which shaped the country and made the Netherlands what it is today. This mighty list is known as the Canon of Dutch history and forms the basis of history teaching at primary schools.

Lesson 2: 10 delicacies to order from snack bars
The Dutch call it een vette bek halen – literally ‘to get yourself a greasy gob’ or pigging out on fried food. So here are some of the most popular Dutch snack bar treats. Please note, the Dutch often use the diminutive form for their snacks – a kroketje, a sateetje, a patatje, in an attempt to minimise calorific value.

Lesson 3: Dutch tribes
If you are Dutch yourself, or have been here for some time, you know that the typical Dutch person does not exist. Here are 12 of the numerous tribes you may spot in the wild.

Lesson 4: What you need to know about Van Gogh
This list of facts about Van Gogh is easy to memorise. Drop them into the conversation and become an instant and valued expert!

Photo: de40plusvrouw via Pixabay

Lesson 5: Biscuity things to have with coffee
Koekje erbij? The Dutch will ask you this as they wave the biscuit tin under your nose. Here’s a variety of baked goods which may accompany a cup of tea or coffee in the Netherlands.

Lesson 6: Clogs
Nothing says ‘the Netherlands’ or rather ‘Holland’ more clunkily than clogs, even if no one apart from the odd farmer wears them any more. But this iconic form of Dutch footwear is both enduring and endearing, so here’s what you need to know.

Lesson 7: Essential facts about tulips
Here are some facts and figures about the Netherlands’ iconic flower – which actually originated around the Mediterranean.

Lesson 8: Eight steps to understanding gezelligheid
At one point you could hardly move for books and articles singing the praises of hygge – the Danish art of getting snug and cosy at home. We think the Dutch version – gezelligheid – although a similar nightmare to pronounce, has been unfairly overlooked.

Even a cactus can be gezellig. Photo:

Lesson 9: The tallest things in the Netherlands
Coming to the Netherlands can make the average person feel vertically challenged. Yet, the Netherlands is not a country of soaring skyscrapers and mountain peaks. Our list shows the good old Dutch trait of moderation is also apparent in architecture and nature.

Lesson 10: 11 Dutch local delicacies
There are lots of places in the Netherlands that have their own culinary speciality. And so as not to allow any misunderstanding as to their provenance, they tacked the name to the product. Here’s 11 local delicacies from all over the country in no particular order of preference.

Lesson 11: Key facts about the girl with the pearl
Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) has been voted ‘the most beautiful Dutch painting’ and described as ‘timeless, like Mona Lisa’. She’s also a massive money-spinner and features on everything from bikes to baggage.

Lesson 11: The herring
The new herring season starts in June and every year the fish is described by experts as being ‘lekker vet’ (nicely fat) and ‘of good quality’. Here are some key facts about this Dutch delicacy.

Queuing up to buy herring?

Lesson 12: Broodjes
The classic Dutch broodje is a soft, white stick-to-the teeth bun, filled with anything that can be tucked more or less securely between the two halves, only one of which is usually smothered in margarine pretending to be butter. A broodje, possibly accompanied by a glass of milk, is the traditional lunch fare in the Netherlands, as many a foreign business person has found out to their dismay.

Lesson 13: 11 old things
Being built on a swamp, where wood was the building material of choice, not much remains of the prehistoric Netherlands. Even the Romans avoided much of the country because of the risk of wet feet. But here is a list of 11 really old Dutch things.

Lesson 14: Windmills
This lesson covers some facts and figures about the Netherlands’ most enduring industrial monuments.

Lesson 15: Protected foodstuffs
You thought the Netherlands was all mashed potato dishes, cheese and herring when it comes to traditional food? But there are a fair few Dutch items on the EU’s official lists – even if rather a lot are cheese.

Lesson 16: Cheese
There is more to Dutch cheese than the plastic versions of Gouda and Edam you tend to find in foreign supermarkets. Here are some of our favourites.

Different ages of cheese. Photo:

Lesson 17: ‘Games’ involving animals
The Spanish chase bulls in the streets, with or without their horns on fire, the Brits used to stuff ferrets down their trousers and the Belgians swallow live fish, all in the name of tradition. So what do the Dutch do to animals for a bit of ‘harmless’ fun? Here’s a few examples, past and present.

Lesson 18: Literary gems
Here’s a list of nine great Dutch reads in translation to expand your literary horizons.

Lesson 19: Seven Dutch artists
Dutch artists were pioneers of artistic techniques and evolving aesthetics long before Dutch designers took centre stage in the 20th century. Here is our list of seven key artists who had a major impact on the art world.

Lesson 20: Unesco heritage sites
Unesco experts have decided two new Dutch locations should be included on the world cultural heritage list – the Lower German Limes and the ‘Colonies of Benevolence’ in Groningen and Drenthe. Here’s a round up of all 12.

Lesson 21: Births
The Netherlands is notorious for its painkiller-free home births. But there are lots of other essential things you need to know to make sure you have a baby the Dutch way.

Lesson 22: Marriages
Planning to marry a Dutchie or attend the wedding of Dutch friends? Here’s a few key facts and other things you ought to know first.

Lesson 23: Deaths
Enough of the jollity and fun. Never let it be said we shy away from difficult topics. So here’s some useful information about death in the Netherlands.

Lesson 24: 10 films you must see
The Dutch are world famous for their documentaries and animation films, and over the years some of their feature films have also had an international impact. Here are 10 films which encompass the history of Dutch cinema.

Lesson 25: Dutch wine
Is ‘good Dutch wine’ a contradiction in terms? Is it possible to produce a full-bodied red or a twinkly white in the Netherlands? Can the Dutch attitude to wine still be summed up in the phrase ‘as long as it has alcohol’? Questions, questions. Here are some facts & figures about wine, yes wine, from the Netherlands.

Lesson 26: Beer
Beer brewing in the Netherlands dates back to the 9th century, though craft beer has recently experienced a considerable resurgence in the country. Ever since Heineken won the gold medal for its pilsner at the World’s Fair in 1889, the Dutch have been known for that brewery and style, but brewing in the Netherlands is much more than that.

Lesson 27: Supermarkets
Foreigners always complain about Dutch supermarkets – not enough choice, too many queues, no-one to pack up your groceries etc etc – so here are some tips to survive them.

Lesson 28: Potatoes
You cannot have failed to notice that the potato has a key role in the Dutch diet. But to be properly ingeburgerd, there is a lot to learn about the humble spud. The Netherlands produces some eight million tonnes of potatoes a year, of which around half will be eaten, 30% used to produce starch and 20% used to produce more potatoes.

Lesson 29: The 11 cities of Friesland
What better way to pass the winter than brushing up your knowledge of all things Dutch? Tuesday marks 25 years since the last Elfstedentocht took place, the gruelling 200 kilometre skating race held over natural ice between the 11 cities of Friesland.

The Waterpoort in Sneek. Photo: Holland Media Bank

Lesson 30:  How to be polite
The Dutch have a reputation for being blunt and direct to the point of rudeness. But there is such a thing as Dutch etiquette.

Lesson 31: Birthdays
Dutch birthdays can be a complete shock to the uninitiated, but there are few simple rules on how to deal with them – from how to cope with circles of chairs to cake.

Lesson 32: Debunking the myths
If you believe the tourist industry and tabloid newspapers, the Dutch like nothing better than to race around on bikes in clogs, eat cheese, smoke weed and kill off their old folk. Not true.

Lesson 33: Normen en waarden
Normen en waarden – when the Dutch aren’t arguing or worrying about them, they’re telling everyone else to observe them. They are frequently mentioned during election campaigns but nobody seems to be quite sure what distinguishes the normen from the waarden.

Gouda town hall and tree. Photo:

Lesson 34: Christmas
Like most other places where they celebrate Christmas, the Netherlands does tend to grind to a halt until the New Year. But what else should you be aware of about the festive season in the Low Countries?

Lesson 35: New Year
New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands is celebrated in a most untypically over-the-top  way. Here are 10 things you must do to fit right in.

Lesson 36: The flood of 1953
In 2023 it was 70 years since a devastating storm wreaked havoc along much of the North Sea coastline. This is what you need to know about its terrible consequences for the Netherlands.

Lesson 37: Easter
There are lots of peculiarities you need to know about celebrating Easter in the Netherlands. For a start Easter Monday is a public holiday but Friday is a normal working day, apart from government workers, lucky things.

MC Escher working in his studio. Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões via Wikimedia Commons

Lesson 38: MC Escher
In 2023 it is 125 years since the birth of MC Escher who is considered to be one of the world’s best graphic artists. This lesson covers what you need to know about his life and work.

Lesson 39: Restaurant and bar talk
If you work in a bar or restaurant and your Dutch is rudimentary, why not curry favour with your clients by learning a couple of stock phrases that will go down a treat? And who knows, you may even develop a taste for the language.

Lesson 40: reasons to be cheerful
Politicians may wax lyrical about the way the Netherlands used to be, but nostalgia for the 1950s is largely misplaced. Women were stuck at home, it was perfectly legal to discriminate against gay people, we were less well educated and even though there were far fewer cars, we were more likely to die in a traffic accident.

Lesson 41: Dutch places not in NL
Those Dutch got, and continue to get, everywhere. New York, New Zealand, Tasmania, a whole bunch of places in South Africa… Here are some of the lesser-known places around the world with a touch of the Dutch.

More tulips in the US. Photo: BazookaJoe at Wikipedia

Lesson 42: Types of foreigner
To properly know your place in Dutch society it is essential to work out what sort of foreigner you actually are. Here are the official, and not so official, definitions.

Lesson 43: Key moments in Dutch LGBTQ+ history
Same sex sexual activity was legalised in 1811 when the Netherlands was ruled by Napoleon’s brother and adopted the French legal code. But what has happened since then? Here’s a round up of key dates.

Lesson 44: Dutch scandals
Politics, history and corruption – yes they all have a role in the Netherlands’ rich history. From missing receipts to drugs shipments and childcare benefits.

Lesson 45: The biggest Dutch political parties
You probably can’t vote, but you do need to know who is who. BBB, PvdA/GL, SGP… it is a bewildering range of abbreviations and ideas. Here’s a quick guide to all the parties likely to win at least one seat in the 150-seat lower house of parliament (in alphabetical order, so you know we are not biased).

Lesson 46: Football clubs with very weird names
The Dutch, as we know, are a sensible folk. But not when it comes to naming their football clubs. In most countries football clubs have really boring names like Manchester United, Barcelona or Paris Saint Germain. But we have NAC, Go Ahead Eagles and the mighty ZSGOWMS. To be truely ingeburgerd in the Netherlands, you need to know the meaning of at least some of them.

The parliamentary complex in The Hague. Photo:

Lesson 47: How the Dutch political system works
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy and the king (or queen) is the official head of state. There are four layers of government in the Netherlands: local councils, provincial councils, the lower house of parliament or tweede kamer and the upper house of parliament or senate. The water boards are also directly elected as a sort of side step, as is the European parliament.

Lesson 48: Scandals part two
More politics, history, corruption and even a little tipple as we check out even more scandals that have enveloped Dutch public life.

Lesson 49: Right royal scandals
They are less juicy and certainly less frequent than the scandals that have plagued the British royals but the Dutch royal family has had quite a few upheavals and peccadilloes of its own, a surprising number of which, for various reasons, almost spelled the end of the House of Orange.

Lesson 50: The Dutch are revolting
Lots of people seem to think rioting is something very un-Dutch. But nothing could be further from the truth. Put your helmets on for a choice selection of street battles through the ages .

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