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Dutch culture

Dutch cafés

A typical Dutch café is more like what I would call a pub, or a quaint bar. These places serve drinks from coffee to liquor, and light food.

The food is often no more than snacks — sometimes just the "tosti," a Dutch food of true genius. A tosti is cheese between two slices of very thin bread, with ham or without. It fits into a toaster slot, and it's as good as it sounds.

The coffee is brilliant. Dutch coffee is a long pull of espresso served in a demitasse, on a saucer with a small candy cookie — there is always a cookie or a chocolate.

Cafés are comfortable places to read and write. Or just read. Or just write. Or do nothing. They beat the socks off the "coffeeshops" for this purpose. "Coffeeshop" is the Dutch euphemism for the cannabis vendor. The coffeeshop may serve coffee, but not as well as the café. There are exceptions, and there is no "typical" coffeeshop. But the coffeeshop is not a café.

It will make you crazy if you're impatient, but reward you if you can wait.

— Summer 2003, Nijmegen

It is customary in a café to take a seat and wait for service. The service may be slow, and this can be uncomfortable. It's not you; it's them. It's not personal. They're Dutch. Relax. Get comfortable. The more you relax, the sooner they will come to you.

And you can relax. Just as nobody's worried about how long you wait, nobody's going to worry about how long you stay. Once you have ordered, you will get what you have ordered. After that, nobody will approach you again. Nobody will remove the cup from your table, for example — no matter how long it has been empty.

I think that it would be considered rude to clear a table while the customer sits. And it is rude, from a certain perspective. In America, for example, the removal of wares often implies that it's time for you to leave. It is never time to leave a good Dutch café. That is for you to decide.

If you need service again, you will have to seek attention. This may not be easy, if you have gotten the feeling that they don't want to see you. But it's okay.

In fact, it's great. I recommend it.