Typical Dutch

Congratulations all round

In my country it is the custom to congratulate the person who is celebrating something. In the Netherlands, however, guests at a party congratulate practically everybody in the room.

Illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek

I was invited to a Dutch birthday party. When I arrived, I congratulated the ‘birthday girl’. I gave her my present and sat down to wait for the other guests to arrive. When people came in, they congratulated their host too. But the funny thing was that they also congratulated the other family members who were present. ‘Congratulations on your daughter’s birthday,’ they said, and ‘congratulations on your sister’s birthday’. They even congratulated her boyfriend: ‘congratulations on your girlfriend’s birthday’.

Guests at a Dutch birthday party congratulate practically everybody in the room

This seemed really weird to me, since in my country we don’t congratulate someone on someone else’s birthday. We leave it at saying ‘happy birthday’ to the person in question. When I asked my Dutch friend, she said congratulating the person’s relatives and friends is customary here. I think that’s funny but it’s a nice tradition.

Sastrin Negara, MSc Student of Animal Sciences, from Indonesia

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NL: Gefeliciteerd met…

Ze had de jarige al gefeliciteerd en een cadeautje gegeven en nu zat Sastrin Negara uit Indonesië te kijken hoe de andere gasten binnenstroomden. Dat ging grotendeels zoals ze gewend was, totdat de Nederlandse gasten de andere aanwezigen ook allemaal de hand gingen schudden. ‘Gefeliciteerd met uw dochter.’ ‘Gefeliciteerd met je zus.’ ‘Gefeliciteerd met je vriendin.’ Sastrin keek er met verbazing naar. ‘In mijn land feliciteren we niet iemand met iemands anders verjaardag. Een vreemde traditie. Maar wel leuk.’

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