Host a foreign exchange student from the Netherlands

Do you like to eat fries and pancakes by the beach? If so, you might have Dutch ancestry. Arguably best known for its capital city and much-loved tourist destination, Amsterdam, the Netherlands has always been famous for canals, clogs and a windmill dotted countryside.

By understanding more about our Dutch exchange students’ lives back home, it will help you gain insight into their culture and background and prepare you for a successful hosting experience. Let’s start by learning about what’s typical in Dutch communication, home life, education and food, as described by our programme participants.

Educational system

By law, all schools in the Netherlands are required to start teaching English by the age of 10. An increasing number of schools are deciding to start English earlier, sometimes even from kindergarten. Early on in their education, students choose from three different tracks: prevocational school, pre-university school or a vocational school track that can also lead to university. Dutch students’ grades are not primarily based on graded homework or class participation. Rather, students get a set amount of work for the semester for which they will be tested at the end. The result of that test will be their final grade. Teacher-student relationships are very informal; some schools even allow students to call teachers by their first name.

Tip From EF: Dutch students might need some time to get used to the timetable in UK schools. Encourage them to plan their weeks ahead.

Communication style

Dutch students are typically direct and are not used to sugarcoating their communication. They often are not familiar with undertones. In general, the traits most admired by the Dutch are honesty, humor, modesty and intelligence. A strong handshake is an appropriate greeting in the Netherlands. It is also common for friends to kiss alternating cheeks three times when greeting. Eye contact and facial expressions are key characteristics of Dutch communication.

Tip From EF: Give your student space to speak directly, and make sure you have open and honest conversations about communication expectations in the home. Help your student by explaining British norms for expressing concerns and appreciation. Share expectations clearly and directly with your student to ensure they are understood.



Hoe gaat het?

How are you?

Food habits

The Dutch generally eat three meals a day. Dinner, served around 6 or 7 pm, is the main meal. Arriving at the table in time for a meal and washing hands before eating are important qualities for the Dutch. It is also impolite to begin eating before everyone is seated or to leave the table before everyone has finished. A common Dutch breakfast is bread or toast with jelly, Dutch Cheese or cold cuts, boiled eggs and coffee or tea. Lunch generally consists of open-faced sandwiches. Seafood is very common in the Dutch diet, specifically herring and eel. Dining out is not common for the Dutch as families tend to eat most meals at home.

Tip From EF: Invite your student to go to the grocery store with you! While shopping, encourage your student to tell you what they like to eat and discuss what new foods they may be willing to try. When eating together as a family during the first few weeks, discuss differences in table etiquette between your family and their own. Encourage your student to cook some of their traditional or favorite foods.

Home life

The Dutch love to ride their bikes everywhere, and the youth enjoy the freedom to do so. Asking parents’ permission to go somewhere is not common because sending updates via text is sufficient. Dutch children are expected to help with chores around the house, such as dishes or taking out the trash. Students often have part-time jobs or play sports after school. Parents encourage their teens to be involved in after school activities and support them in their academic studies.

Tip From EF: Sit down with your student at the beginning of the year and go over all rules, schedules and expectations. Be sure to include simple things such as getting around town, the importance of checking in with you and their curfew. Lack of public transportation will be a difficult adjustment for your student. Help them to understand the best way to get around and how to communicate with you about this.

Ik kijk er naar uit om mijn Nederlandse uitwisselingsstudent te ontmoeten!

I am so excited to meet my Dutch exchange student!

De tulpen zien er prachtig uit dit jaar

The tulips look beautiful this year.

Hosting advice from our Dutch exchange students

“I wish my host family knew that I’d like to know the rules right away.”

Tip From EF: It is helpful to be clear and direct with household rules and expectations early on. If there are any misunderstandings or issues that come up, communicate with your student and Regional Manager to ensure everyone is on the same page. Additionally, Dutch students may not understand suggestive communication. Instead of saying “your room is looking a little messy today,” it will be easier for them to understand “please clean your room.” It is helpful to review and reiterate the rules occassionally.

“I wish my host family knew that it is very important for me to feel like a part of the group.”

Tip From EF: It is important to Dutch students to feel connected to their friends, family, school and community. People in the Netherlands celebrate the achievements of the group, rather than individual achievements. Regularly include your student in your daily tasks, as well as big events. This will help them feel like a part of the family.

“I wish my host family knew that teenagers in the Netherlands don’t need to ask their parents’ permission to go out or to bring friends to the house.”

Tip From EF: Setting clear boundaries and expectations with your exchange student immediately upon arrival is very important. Some students may not realize that they need to check in with you before making plans, or even changing plans. It is helpful to review and reiterate the rules often.

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