Dutch Etiquette: Surviving Oma

The Amsterdam Shallow Man Facebook group is home to lots of entertaining tales from expats about their interactions with our fiscally conservative hosts. One such post about an expat dealing with Dutch etiquette issues when visiting her kid’s oma (Grandmother) caused quite a discussion. With permission from the expat in question, I’m publishing her post with additional tips. Here is the Oma Survival Guide.

The things I do for my readers!

Voll is voll!

I went with my husband and kids for the weekend to visit his parents in a big land house in the east of Holland. I took my kitten with me.  Because oma had four cats and a cupboard full with tins of cats food I didn’t take any with me. How full?  The bike lane in front of the Rijksmuseum at 8 AM on a Monday morning full.  Or a 50% korting sale at sneaker district. Really full, with maybe 40 maybe or even 100 tins of cat food.  So, I didn’t take cat food with me obviously.

Oma asked me: “did u bring food for de kat?” I was quiet from surprise and embarrassment, then I said, “no I thought u would have enough”. She said, “yes but that belongs to ‘my’ cats. 😮😮

shocked cat


When Oma came to visit the grandkids.

They came to visit us with presents for my Kids. While we were busy with Dutch small talk. (“Gezellig, wat leuk! korting, etc”).  My girls were playing very quietly with each other’s presents.  Suddenly oma stood up abruptly and angrily grabbed a book roughly from one child’s hands and said: “this is Asia’s book don’t touch Asia’s book. did u see that?!. She took Asia’s book! The Girls where in shock I was in shock.  I told her firmly that my kids share things happily, that’s how they were brought up.

Paracetamol shortages

I had a bad headache. I asked oma do you have paracetamol? She said: ‘Yes….. but I want to keep it for myself’ 😮😮😮

Years after this incident, my new Polish sister in law called me: “I asked her if she had any paracetamol and she said that she wants to keep it for herself. 😮😮
I laughed and said ‘get used to it’. Sharing and giving is forbidden.

Dutch etiquette Oma with apple tart

Lekker appletaart. I want to keep it for myself

OMA survival tips by the Shallow Man

Dear expat lady, thanks for sharing. This could, of course, be a big misunderstanding. We know that the Dutch are direct and we expats are weak and fake because we don’t insist on telling people every thought that pops into our heads.

I hope that what you’ve learned from this is that when visiting oma that you need to bring everything that you could possibly need with you.

  • Toilet paper
  • Toothpaste
  • Bottled water
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Ingredients of any food you or your pets plan to eat

If you do all this and teach your kids that what’s theirs is theirs, then you and your Oma will get along like mould on fruit bought at Albert Heijn.

rotting fruit

I bought this fruit yesterday at the AH. Lekker goedkoop!


Best of luck. The other solution would be to get a good divorce lawyer. If you need one let me know. 😉

For more tales about expat life join the Amsterdam Shallow Man Facebook group.

No cats were hurt during the writing of this post.

Until next time, politeness is fake, be lekker direct!