Culture Shock in the Netherlands: Party in a Circle, Ya’ll

By: Candi Cane Canncel

I remember throwing my first party- it was my 7th Birthday and I insisted on taking the reigns. It was a pool party in my native Miami Beach. We served hot dogs and I even made the cake, a huge chocolate on chocolate concoction that I lavishly covered in m&ms chocolate candies. From that point on, I became hooked on entertaining. I helped my mother on countless get-togethers even perfecting my own little appetizers. Later on when I lived in Los Angeles, my house was known for great parties. The most spectacular being “Fidel Navidad”; a Cuban-military Christmas themed soiree where I served Cuban food, mojito cocktails, filled my living room with palm trees and flowers, played the hottest Mambo and had my then-boyfriend dress as Fidel Castro.

I spent three years working on board a cruise ship with the title of “Party Planner”. I didn’t get to actually throw parties but instead hosted cooking classes, presented appetizer demonstrations and taught guests how to throw their own lavish affairs.

I attended my first party in the Netherlands about a year and a half ago when I was here visiting. It was a party for a 10 year old and everyone sat in a circle. When guests arrived we were given coffee and cake. About an hour later we were offered drinks and hors d' oeuvres were set on the table. No music was played, there weren’t any themes or games and the plates were pretty simple consisting of Metworst; a hard type of dried sausage, chunks of cheese, various chips and cut up red pepper. I had a fun enough time and didn’t think much of the low-key party until I went to another get-together in this region.

It was here that when we arrived, we were given coffee and cake and about an hour later were offered drinks and hors d' oeuvres were set on the table. An array of Metworst, chunks of cheese, various chips and slices of red pepper adorned the surfaces. We sat in a circle and no music was played.

I moved to the Netherlands for good March of this year. I was invited to another party. We arrived at 3pm and were given coffee and cake and then, I’m sure you can guess what happened next- another party in a circle.

In America, our parties vary so incredibly. I’ve been to huge swanky affairs high in the Hollywood Hills where a live Mexican Mariachi band played next to a taco truck. I’ve been to celebrations of high tea, old fashioned Texas-style barbeques, Alice in Wonderland themed parties where everyone is dressed as some awesome character feasting on miniature food. I even had a Book Club for two years where each month a potluck was featured along the lines of the book’s central theme.

So what’s up with the party in the circle, no music and the same appetizers? Granted I have only been to parties in the Groningen region of the Netherlands. Perhaps parties are completely different in the South.

In late April is my boyfriend’s Birthday. I will be hosting my first ever Dutch party. When I started dreaming up the menu, excited about creating all the goodies I have in my repertoire, I asked my boyfriend what he’d like to serve. I’ll be damned if didn’t he say Metworst, chunks of cheese, chips and slices of red pepper but of course first we’ll start off with coffee and cake.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingCandi Cane Canncel is an American expat living in Netherlands. Blog description: The adventures of an American writer living in a small village in the Netherlands.
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Contest Comments » There are 6 comments

Candi Cane Canncel wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks for your comment Stephanie! I was a costume designer once upon a time so LOVE any excuse to dress up in a theme. But hopefully I can bring theme parties here. My birthday is in September so I'm thinking a full-on American themed party may just be in order :)!

Candi Cane Canncel wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks Nathalie! I was at one party in the evening and honestly it was the same thing! But of course it was also a Birthday. I had fun though so that is of course what counts but party throwing being one of my passions, it's still so odd to me. At least play some music no? :) But so far I do love the Netherlands and the Dutch people so if I have to spend my time at a party sitting in a circle, that's fine, it's worth it to be here!

Stephanie wrote 10 years ago:

Awesome blog on an unexpected difference between the US and the Netherlands! Of all the things I could imagine being different (language, food, etc.), I never thought parties could vary so much. This blog was pretty eye opening! I loved the contrast between the extravagant Cuban themed party and the simplicity of munching on a few snacks in a circle. I also found it amusing they serve the coffee and the cake last since that's usually what we would have for dessert in the US. It must be difficult to hold back the urge to bring big themed parties to the Netherlands!

Nathalie In The Netherlands wrote 10 years ago:

So far I have only been to evening-based birthday parties for friends, no kids or family parties, and nothing hosted in the afternoon. What I've discovered is that at the evening parties the big difference is that you can get a beer. You still end up in a circle (normally 30-40 people in one room in my experience, with the circle going right round the edges), no music, cake and coffee if you want it! I've been to some fun get-togethers that weren't like that, but if it's based around a birthday then it does seem to follow a set form!

Jeffrey wrote 10 years ago:

Such an amazing blog post Candi. I'm so happy that you're adjusting so well to your new home. Sending love from South Africa. Keep the posts coming.

Brendan wrote 10 years ago:

Awesome blog post Candi! So true that everyone around the world has a different take on celebrating occasions. South Africa has its own quirks and rituals too. I'm so glad you feel at home in your new 'home' and I'm glad everyone is making you feel so welcome.

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