Visiting and invitations

The more rural parts of Twente, the region where Enschede is situated, have a custom called ‘Noaberskap’ (lt. Neighbour-ism) which originated in the old days when a close friend and/or neighbour may enter the (farm)house though the back door. Something that is generally considered impolite in the rest of the Netherlands. This developed into a social framework governing  relations in Enschede and Twente.

 

During your visit you’ll often be offered coffee, tea or other refreshments. The Dutch are known for their (bad) habit of offering only one cookie with their coffee and/or tea. If offered a cookie tin, it is considered rude to take more than one or ask for another cookie. Coffee is also often accompanied by a slice of cake or pie.

 

When visiting, it is impolite to stay until dinnertime. Food does not play the major role in hospitality that it does in many other cultures. It is not considered essential for making someone feel welcome. Do not expect to be served a meal unless the invitation specifically mentions a meal. During diner, make sure to keep your hands above the table and your elbows off it.

 

When invited to a birthday party or a wedding, guests are expected to bring a present. Depending on the occasion, common gifts include flowers, chocolates, perfume, alcoholic beverages, books, CDs, DVDs, gift certificates or ‘an envelope’ (meaning an undisclosed amount of cash in a sealed envelope).

 

A wide spread tradition is that of serving ‘beschuit met muisjes’ when people come to visit a new-born baby and his mother. Beschuit is a typical Dutch type of biscuit, muisjes are sugared anise seeds. In the region of Twente, visiting a mother and her newborn baby is often called ‘kraamschudden’ which roughly translates to ‘shaking the cradle’. This should not be taken too literally!

 

Funerals are attended by invitation only (though a general invitation may be placed in the form of a newspaper ad if the deceased was well known, or if family members and friends can not be traced) and may or may not include a church service. Generally people dress formally in black, dark blues or greys. White is not commonly worn. Funerals tend to be muted affairs. People keep their voices down but avoid more overt displays of grief. The mood usually lightens after the funeral itself and can become quite light-hearted at the reception afterward.