Organisation - August 26, 2010

One cookie per cup of coffee


The first time I was invited for coffee in the Netherlands I got the feeling I'd landed in a ritual almost as formalized as the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

In England 'any time is tea time' - or would you prefer coffee or a beer? Your beverage comes in a brimful mug, and a cookie jar is plonked on the table with an unceremonious 'Help yourself'. Do not try this on The Continent. Here is a rough newcomer's guide to the rules of the Dutch coffee ceremony.
1. Time is time (another interesting topic) and coffee time is coffee time. Rather not? The only way to get out of it is to say: 'No thank you. I've already had two cups.' TWO cups, mind you: having had one will not be enough to excuse you.
2. Your cup will be filled to about two thirds. This is not stinginess but Dutch practicality. It would not be polite to face you with an overfull cup. Resist the urge to reach for the pot and top everyone up.
3. Cookies will be handed round by your host. If they are in a jar, the lid may be put back on. Again, just being orderly ... The rule is: one cookie per cup of coffee.
4. If there is something to celebrate, a two thousand calorie wedge of cream cake will be placed before you. If the thought appals you, develop an instant allergy or medical diet - an acceptable way to say no.
5. A second round of coffee will be served, with a second biscuit. The visit is then over - unless the host says, 'Would you like to drink something else?' (This could be code for something stronger.)
6. The ritual ends with guests and host agreeing that 'It was very gezellig'. Much used but tricky to translate, 'gezellig' covers cosy, fun and congenial. It marks the end of any Dutch social gathering.
PS: I only said rough guide. In Wageningen's knit-your-own-yoghurt subculture you may be bombarded with cookies and drowned in herbal tea (organic of course). Oh well, as long as it's gezellig. /Clare McGregor, translator with Resource
Wanted: Writers for the popular column Typical Dutch.   Typical Dutch is a column in Resource by and for foreigners in the Netherlands. The column is about the peculiarities of the Dutch culture, for example, the Dutch are direct, love to plan, and crazy about ice skating, 'kroketten' and 'drop'. Foreign guests may wonder about many typically Dutch issues and we invite them to write about it. Typical Dutch starts with a personal, detailed description of an authentic event (about 100 words). Then the author comments on how this is typically Dutch and/or compares it with how such things are handled in their own country. The style is personal and observational,  and humor is always appreciated. Please be politically incorrect.   Total length about 250 - 300 words.   So, if you have a nice anecdote about your experience with the Dutch culture let us know! Writers who get their piece published will receive €50,00 and a full pound of typical Dutch candy.