Are Dutch people really stingy?

When the Dutch queen – who’s Argentinean – emigrated to the Netherlands, an interviewer asked her to describe the Netherlands. With a cute Spanish accent she answered in Dutch: ‘’the Netherlands is tea with one cookie and big windows without curtains, so that everybody can take a good look inside.’’ In my opinion she hit the nail on the head, but the Dutch weren’t so happy with her answer. That’s not because of the part about transparency and openness of course. Dutch people are known to be stingy. Ask an expat and he’ll confirm. The term ‘’going Dutch’’ wasn’t picked out of thin air you know. But ask a Dutchman if it’s true that Dutch people are stingy and he will most likely say: ‘’No, we’re misunderstood!’’ Are the Dutch really just misunderstood? Let’s have a closer look.

Stingy or thrifty?

Dutch people say they are thrifty. That’s true. They don’t waste their money. ”Why drive when you can cycle? Weather or no weather, I’m not made of sugar! And why buy lunch when you can bring lunch from home? Why buy a luxurious car when you can buy a less expensive car? Why throw out expired food when it still smells good?”  I used to have a wealthy teacher (teaching was just something he did on the side) who always asked supermarkets for expired food. ‘’The expiration date is just the end of their warranty, but it can still be good.’’

While I think it’s useful to know that you don’t have to waste food that’s still good, I think this was a bit extreme, seen the fact that this was a wealthy man. And that’s the thing: their thriftiness can be a great value, but they often go too far, leaving the rest of the world thinking ‘’what a cheapskate’’.

I actually don’t mind the way they are thrifty or stingy (you choose) with their own purchases and personal choices. What bothers me is the fact that sharing is not part of this culture. It bothers me because generosity and empathy are related to compassion (rahma) – and you know how much I value compassion. But I understand why they don’t share.

The Dutch mindset

I am in the position that I am part of the Dutch culture while I can also look at the Dutch culture with foreign eyes. I understand that Dutch people don’t think they are stingy, because that’s simply how they were raised and how everybody around them behaves. I suspect all the wars and crisis in the past (WWI, WWII (especially the Dutch famine) and the crisis in the 1930’s) have to do with Dutch thriftiness. What’s also important is that the Dutch culture is focused on individuality. It’s about working hard and taking your own responsibility. You first, then your neighbor – and the neighbor should actually just have his stuff together.

That’s the mentality here. What may seem selfish to a non-Dutch person is only normal to a Dutch person, and that is why they don’t get why the world thinks they’re stingy. You have to know that they don’t mean to be selfish. Their standard is just different from most people. They think they’re thrifty, while others think they’re just stingy.

To illustrate what I mean with sharing not being part of their culture I will describe some of my experiences during high school. None of these people were poor. In fact, some were quite rich.

The names are fake but the situations are 100% real.

There is no sharing; only borrowing and trading

  • I ran into Nicole, who told me she was going to buy a box of popsicles and asked me if I wanted one. ‘’Sure,’’ I said. She came back and we ate popsicles at school with four other classmates. The next day she came to me and said: ‘’hey Lina, you still owe me 40 cents for that popsicle, because the box was €2,40.’’ Apparently I missed the part about the deal I signed. I gave her the 40 cents and learned my lesson, namely to never expect something for free.
  • Back in the days before we had a scannable public transport card we had a paper card with fifteen strips that needed to be stamped. You needed to stamp at least two strips to go anywhere. Sarah was one strip short and Lynn had an empty card, so Lynn said: ‘’you can have a strip of mine if you give me the money for that strip.’’

They just don’t get the idea of sharing. When you have a bag of candy and you open it and put it on the middle of the table, they won’t get that you meant they could eat with you. You need to explicitly tell them they can eat with you. They often try to trade with you, like one potato chip for one candy.

Sometimes they won’t even loan you money

  • Sarah was telling me about her day at the mall with Ellie. They went to McDonalds to eat. Ellie ordered food and said she would look for a table. When it was Sarah’s turn to order, the girl behind the register told her she can’t take cards because of a technical problem. Sarah never has cash on her, so she walked over to Ellie and told her she couldn’t use her debit card. ‘’Oh.’’ *Ellie continued eating* Sarah was really hungry and told her those fries looked really yummy. After Ellie was full she said: ”ok you can have some fries”. Sarah didn’t tell me this as a way to complain about Ellie. She was just explaining that it sucked that she couldn’t use her card and therefore remained hungry.

Sometimes they even sell their food

  • I went to the supermarket with Sarah. On Fridays they had a special offer on croissants: 4 for €1, instead of €0,70 each. She bought four croissants, but she figured out four would be too much for her. ‘’I will eat two, save one for my sister and then there will be one left. Maybe I can ask Lynn if she wants to buy it from me for 25 cents.’’

They freak out when you borrow money

  • My friend was 60 cents short on something and so she borrowed 60 cents from this girl. She had never borrowed something from her before. Three days later (there was a weekend in between) she opened her mail and saw two emails of that girl, reminding her not to forget to pay her back.
  • Dave and Ellie are talking: ‘’Ellie, you still have to transfer €1,50 to my account. You still haven’t done it! I want you to transfer it today, with 10 cents interest.’’
  • They always tweeted each other things like ‘’you still owe me X, will you bring it to school tomorrow?’’ and ‘’I won’t see you tomorrow, so will you transfer it to my account?’’.

As I said, these are experiences from high school. I get that high school kids have less money than adults, but adults aren’t actually that different. I’m in college now, I’ve had internships and I see people around me all the time of course. I know the way Dutch people think. Sometimes couples argue at the cash register over who will pay – just saying.

What to keep in mind

If you ever visit the Netherlands keep the following rules in mind when dealing with Dutch people:

  1. Always pay for yourself.
  2. If you must borrow money, pay it back as soon as possible – even if it’s just a few cents. If you don’t do that they may not mention it, but they will definitely die inside.
  3. Try to use your stuff only. Make sure you always have your own pen and paper or whatever. A lot of people hate it when you ask to borrow their stuff.
  4. Don’t expect them to share anything. It doesn’t mean they hate you. They just have a very individualistic culture. Try to understand that.
  5. You can take one cookie, unless they really insist you take another one.
  6. Gifts are not over €15 (I’m talking about adults).
  7. You can’t eat over. They count the potatoes. Seriously, they make food for exactly the number of people at home, so you shouldn’t expect to get food unless you were really invited for dinner.

So are the Dutch stingy? It depends on whether you’re Dutch or not, because the Dutch seem to have a different definition of stingy from the rest of the world. If you’re not Dutch, then yes; they’re stingy. If you’re Dutch, then no; the rest of the world is just too generous.

Agree/disagree?

24 thoughts on “Are Dutch people really stingy?

  1. I know what you mean ! well this guy i know was flemish but he was so stingy…it was unbeleivable…he said he would jump over the metro station scanner to save €1 and on vacationwould not do laundry at rented apartments and do it in hostels to save €2 !!! and he was money minded as fuck too lol

  2. Wow. I was in the EXACT same situation with my classmates. One day they asked me if I wanted to go the cinema, 15 minutes before it was starting. They said that they had a spare ticket. So I said sure, and we went and saw it. Next morning I receive a message saying “You can send me 7.69 Euro to my bank account”.

    Well stingy fuck, if I didn’t agree to come the extra ticket you had would have gone to waste. And from now on I am extremely careful with money around Dutch or Belgian people. Most of my best friends are American, Indian or Turkish expats, and we all share stuff with each other and pay for each others’ drinks and food. It’s not even mentioned, if someone’s your friend you just take the bill one day, the other day he takes it or whatever. Fighting over 50 cents is what Dutch couples do, jesus christ that is toxic. Even poor people who make less than a dollar a day in India or Africa are more generous and will open their doors to you than the Dutch who earn helluva lot more.

  3. I wouldn´t call them simply stingy, they have a very unhealthy relationship with money, I find it sick.

  4. Sighs. I’ve been talking to this Dutch guy for some months and we’re making plans for me to relocate to the Netherlands. I hope he is an exception to this rule because I cannot abide stingy people.

  5. Well, they are stingy af, but they always overcharge you about everything! They have insane registration fees in every single service! Even if you want to apply for something, they ask for a fee. In a few years we will pay monthly registration fee to the cafeterias so we can buy coffee. The worst thing, is that they have one of the best salaries worldwide.

  6. A friend of mines US visa expired and she had to move back to Holland. She invited me to visit her for her birthday and stay with her at her apartment and at her parents vacation home in Spain for two weeks.

    When we got back from Spending one week in Spain she had charged me for the utilities at her parents vacation home on a daily rate.

    I felt very blindsighted by this and didnt say anything to avoid an awkward second week in Amsterdam.

    After the trip I asked around if this was normal and all of my friends said that was absolutely ridiculous as No one I know has ever been charged utilities to stay at someone’s family vacation home that they were invited to.

    I explained to her how I was not expecting that and she told me that I am lucky she didnt charge me to stay in her apartment. I have also never known anyone to pay to stay in a friends apartment who invited them to stay there.

    This was very rude and insulting to me as I had spent a lot on a plane ticket and took off work for two weeks (without paid vacation like dutchies) just to visit my friend.

    I have never had this kind of non sharing friendship in my life and as soon as I explained my feelings to her she said she never wanted to see me again.

    I am definitely scarred by this kind of lack of generosity as I would never treat someone like this and the fact that it is a cultural norm is pretty fucking odd.

  7. If the Dutch do not see themselves as stingy, what is their definition of “stingy”? Please give an example also.

  8. I moved to UK now but grew in Holland. I have to confirm everything in this post is true. I was laughing so hard because it just reminded me of the stinginess.

  9. I am Dutch and yes, we are stingy. When I am on holiday, I always have the impression that people in other countries (like France) are much richer. There is no need to live at the minimum wage level when you earn twice that amount.

    On the other hand, when it comes to charity, we are not stingy.

  10. I am Dutch and while I wholeheartedly agree that we are a stingy nation who love to save and thrift, the examples you gave are blatantly ridiculous. If these are the peope you hang with, find some more normal Dutch friends. Nobody in their right mind would charge a couple of cents for some shared popsicles, or a single left-over croissant. And wealthy teachers begging for food past its sell-by date? Come on now.

    Either you made up those stories because you thought they made “cute” examples, or you hang with some very strange people….

    • well it does happen to me. not for a popsicle but for a fucking piece of paper in a class. Looks that more than 1 person have the experience. What will you say to that?

  11. Ha ha ha!!! This article has nailed it. I’m an American expat that has lived in the Netherlands for 5yrs. I can honestly say that the Dutch are incredibly stingy and individualistic. They will let you buy them beers all night and never think to buy you a round. They will take advantage of your generosity until it runs out at which time you’ll see their calls to ask you to hang out will also dwindle. If your low in cash they will not offer to buy anything for you, no matter how many times you’ve done that for them in the past. I would have no problem with their stinginess if it went both ways, but it seems like they are more then willing to receive just not reciprocate, that’s why I have stopped. I have lived in Southern European countries before as well, where people make a third of what the average ducth person makes, and you don’t see this type of behavior there, people are more then happy to buy a round, envite you to their home for dinner, and actually get upset if you don’t except their generosity. I personally believe that the reason for their stinginess is that they aren’t exactly workaholics and have to have their many vacationsthrough out the year, I have heard Dutch people repeatedly talk about how broke they are, and yet take trips to Indonesia, Greece, Spain, for a month and a couple smaller ones through out the year as well. Sounds great, but at what price? Cheese sandwiches for lunch everyday, or loosing peoples respect for you? To be fair, I have met some great Dutch people, that’s what keeps smiling in the Netherlands, but the majority, wow. I also never understand what they mean when they say that Americans are fake, because they’re extremely nice and have only just met you. That always puzzles me, because I come from the point of view that, if you’ve just met someone, you have no reason to not be kind. It seems that the Dutch all too often see common curtesy as fake. After 5 yrs, I’m still trying to figure them out. I fully realize, that every culture has their pitfalls, and well, this is theirs.

    • Yes, indeed, you’ve hit the nail on the head. They view common courtesy with suspicion because many are just damn rude, calling it ‘directness’ just to cover up the lack of manners.

      • I have been a guest and host of around 50 people from different countries. Moreover l spent 4 years in NL with my Dutch girlfriend. I have had hundreds meetings.
        You have plenty of good behaviours and such a well organised country.
        But the stinginees of Dutch is abnormous to the utmost of embarass.

  12. I live in Canada and didn’t know of this stereotype until recently. I work in a ladies boutique and have had one Dutch couple come in twice over a nine month period. The wife has only ever bought one thing; a linen top that came with instructions to hand wash, which we also reminded people of when purchasing. 6 months later they come in telling me it’s damaged from putting it in the laundry multiple times, and they want me to have it repaired. The damage was a tiny unnoticeable rip along the seam, a hole that could be fixed with about 2 stitches. A tiny hole that I didn’t think anyone would bother making a trip to be fixed, let alone go to the store they purchased it from 6 months later. So I was nice and took it to a seamstress and paid the minimum repair cost of $4.00 CAD. When she came to pick it up she didn’t seem at all thankful, even though I had no obligation to repair it. She also mentioned that it took longer than expected to get such a small fix finished, which was about a week.

  13. Yeah, you are right the for Non-Dutch peoples like us, they are stingy or thrifty or whatever you may call it. Ironically, The Netherlands, in fact, is the country with the most charitable organization in the world, go check that out. So I don’t agree with your statement that they don’t understand the idea of sharing, because they are! They are refused to be part of beyond consumption society like American. I’m very impressed!

  14. I agree with you.
    Not by chance they have great banks.
    Their world seems to be all practical and functional.
    Is it really so?
    I grew tired when noticed that they are so parsimonious at their place where l adapted to their habits and on the contrary they take a lot from me when they were my guests in Sicily.
    Maybe they give for granted that non-Dutch are too generous then why not taking from me how much they don’t give?
    If l had to apply tat rule they call ‘win/win’, then l would be the loser.
    I must state that my parents in law were generous to me with food, borrowings and non material help.
    What remains after many experiences is that it’s great having bike ridings, adventures, and arrangements with the Dutch.
    But l would avoid to get deeper into friendship and sharing meals.
    In a recent experience, l harboured two adult friends of mine.
    I gave my house and grocery to them. I shared my car but they didn’t want to drive on the roads of Sicily. Then as to compensate the lack of transportation l drove them here and there.
    I didn’t ask them to pay the fuel or the service as chauffeur. Neither they offered me a dinner in return or a coffee in return.
    I find it embarrassing and l wish to not share my time with them anymore.
    We had, too, the times of the World War I and II like in the rest of Europe. But 70 years have gone since then and I think there are good manners to open up – with equality and no waste – that the Dutch can learn.

  15. Dutch culture is highly commercial and business-like. Everyone has to take care of their own business, and everything there (including higher education and research) has primarily to do with money. This has definitely made Dutch people and society more money-focused and highly individualist to the degree that many of non-Dutch people would deem to be selfish. People there have strong sense of entitlement and would argue/bargain over anything and everything, without considering much others feeling. One has to be really assertive to survive in that environment. Once understanding this, you will find most of the Dutch peculiarities (listed below) that foreigners often complain about actually make sense although still cannot be accepted by many of us.

    Cheap, stingy, selfish, loud, rude, like to squeeze and take advantage of others, fussy, argumentative, racist (e.g. Zwart Piet)….

  16. I agree the Dutch are so stingy to the point of being rude. I had 3 boyfriends here and they never paied anything, always shared every cent, even after a year of relationship… really weird. The last one even broke up with me when i became unemployed. Of course he didn’t say it was because of that, but it was very clear to me how his behaviour changed the day after I began staying home googling for new jobs. I can tell it was a very sad experience. The definitly don’t share anything, no matter how rich they are.

  17. I’m not from the NL but grew up in a “Dutch” family. My maternal great grandparents emigrated to Wisconsin. My family took much pride in being of Dutch decent. I grew up Calvinist to boot. For what it’s worth from this perspective, there is a stinginess and coldness in the Dutch. My grandma gave trick or treaters 5 pennies instead of candy. Mortifying. But they gave generously for church missionaries and the like.

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