Dutch people like living a curtain-less existence, thereby showing the world they have nothing to hide. Take a leisurely stroll down any Dutch street and you are sure to notice one starting similarity: a persistent lack of curtains, and hence personal privacy. I have to admit that my voyeuristic tendencies are heartily fulfilled in this town.

Curious about the neighbours decor or sense of style ? Want to know what Jaap and his family are eating for dinner? Want to know what most Dutch folks are watching on the televisie? You can find the answers to all your questions and much, much more behind Dutch people’s naked, street-level apartment windows.

What I have come to realize, during my many voyeuristic expeditions around my neighborhood, is that Dutch people seem to get as much entertainment (or perhaps even more) looking out and observing who is looking in. I begin to wonder who is the fish and on which side of the aquarium am I standing?

Dutch without curtains

Look inside. Nothing to hide

My favorite jaunt around my neighborhood leads me past, what I like to refer to as my Dutch Bundy family (Married with Children). On a typical evening, the whole family can be seen squeezed into their tiny living room watching some popular Dutch TV show (think Dancing with the Stars at the moment). You see Vader wearing nothing but his leopard-print underwear, Moeder and Dochter coiffed with same red-hair dye and matching neo-mullets. Vriend, Zoon and Hond are all there, squished onto the other couch. How gezellig!

Now, much has been discussed about this curtain-less matter. Yes, it’s not my keen observations skills that first noticed this alarming occurrence. The common explanation is that it stems from Dutch people’s Calvinistic roots: allowing passers-by a full view of your living quarters shows that you have nothing to hide.

BUT, my theory on the matter is slightly different. I don’t think it has anything to do with Calvinism. I think the answer (as always) is much more simplistic and can be summarized in 5 letters: L-I-G-H-T. We all know Dutch people love the sun and quite frankly, many of those ground-floor and entre-sol (basement) apartments are nothing more than a dark, somber dungeon. Without the curtains open and the light pouring in, Dutch people would essentially live like underground moles: traveling from dark apartment, to dark outside, to dark workplace, a possible stop-over at a dark brown cafe, and then back to said dark apartment. Leaving the curtains open is essentially a basic human survival technique, a meager attempt at fighting the never-ending battle on Vitamin D deficiency.

134 Responses

  1. kp

    Agreed. Please consider doing another post on the lacy Dutch curtains that my Oma had.

    • woodenshoesdancing

      Yes! What about those lace curtains or the little “fans” that used to cover the bottom of the window. Was that just so the inhabitant could watch who was going by without being seen?

    • swartzsky

      What about those mirrors that are attached outside the first or second floor windows? I was told those are there so old ladies can secretly spy on people below.

      • Wendy

        Those mirrors are actually for when someone rings the door bell. You can then see who is at the door without going down and see if it is worth opening the door for 🙂

      • chris

        that’s true and they can see that way who at the door outside

    • Bertie Riphagen

      When my mother died I inherited her Dutch lace curtains. When my daughter was married, I cut a piece off and we wrapped her wedding bouquet stems in it. Beautiful!

    • Paul Ban

      This would make absolute sense if all the other countries that suffer from a sunlight deficiency also had a similar custom of not having curtains and having large, open to the public windows. I think it is enough to visit all the neighbouring countries that suffer from this deficiency as well as visiting the UK to realize this is not the case. So, either the Dutch have a special craving for sunlight that other people do not, the came up with a more intelligent solution to this problem or it IS Calvinism. I’m going to alight, no pun intended, on the last option as a reasonable explanation of this practice.

  2. svenvantveer

    Why bother with curtains? They need cleaning (especially if dad in his leopard skin undies smokes), and they take all the fun away for people on the street. Besides, not having curtains is good for the consumption of energy. Why pay for illumination if you already pay taxes that the city uses to illuminate the streets.

    Curtains are for people with money to spend.

    • Trevor McCook

      Wow! When I lived in Nijmegen, I knew a guy called Jeroen who echoed a similar seriously flawed penny-pinching philosophy with regards to personal privacy, personal relationships (he said pretty girls are created for dumb men with money to lose) and other matters where meanness have no place. Yet he would think nothing of spending thousands of € on his travels and collecting crates of expensive bubbly on his annual pilgrimage to the famous champagne growing regions of France. Doesn’t compute, maybe all that curtain burning stuff going on and daylight worship has led to calcium poisoning, and a permanently confused state of mind?

      • Heidi

        I don’t know…found the pretty girls/dumb men observation quite funny.

    • Molly

      It’s not that we don’t have curtains, we just don’t close them!

    • P. Bain

      I agree. Why spend money on curtains if you aren’t planning on using them anyway? One apartment I lived in had curtains supplied by my landlady. I never used them. Who cared? In this apartment there were no curtains supplied, and I haven’t bought any. My plants are happier this way.

  3. outsider82

    I think you should rename this blog in “stuff dutch people in amsterdam like” (judging from the pictures you live in Amsterdam). I’ve never seen basement apartments anywhere near my hometown (who would want to live in them?!)… etc.

    • Corinne

      Excellent point! I don’t think that anybody from the States or England quite understands that what we have here is a tiny country with so many different dialects, accents and cultural habits that it will make your head spin. Our Scotland is Friesland, our Cockney is Achterhoeks, our Oxford English live in Haarlem, where the spoken Dutch is pretty much without accent. We are a tiny country that holds many countries and identities.

      I once met an Australian of Dutch descent. Had not been “home” for a long time and was amazed that there were some Dutchies he could not understand! He pulled me towards him in Brabant, a somewhat peasant part of Holland, and asked me to translate for him. Oops, I no idea what they were on about! This was the Brabant dialect and it is spoken by exhaling suddenly with your vocal cords on their lowest setting… Sounds like a bad cough sometimes!

      I actually imitated it once in a shop. Just made those sounds to my Australian companion who almost wet himself, because, indeed, NONE of the visitors looked at us in surprise. They though we were speaking in dialect…. So much fun!

      I have been away from Holland for quite some time and it is funny to see how foreigners perceive our cute little habits. I do think that when you live in Holland as an ex-patriate, it takes some getting used to “us”. Then again, don’t forget to smile every now and then. Each country has their own culture and habits. And if you do not like us, well, nice meeting you and bye-bye! In most cases nobody will be forced to live there, right! And to those who are unable to leave: I pity you when you can only look at us with an eye that sees differences and annoying habits. You should enjoy your experience as a guest, go with the flow and maybe educate the odd coarse Dutch person…

      Also don’t forget that although we are by history marked as travelers and explorers, in fact, a lot of Dutch people do not leave their country, except for the annual vacation of course. To understand your own traits as a people, it requires to be away for a good while. Then you start to see it more clearly and yes, you do understand that we can be perceived as quite arrogant. Much like the syndrome of non-too-tall people: they need a big mouth to compensate for their lack in size…


      • Caroline Dennis

        Corinne, thank you for your wonderful, enlightening responses on this blog site! I have giggled my way through the complete SDPL site………I cannot wait to return to my country of birth next year and spend a “gezellig jaar” with the Dutch.

      • Just another Dutch living abroad

        Just one thing…. in Haarlem they DO speak with dialect…..

      • Rob Heirbaut

        Did you just call Brabant ‘somewhat peasant’??? In what sense? Rural maybe? Eindhoven and surroundings are the most intelligent region… in the world. Brabant has the 5th highest income of the 12 provinces. Yes, the language may sound a bit ‘gezellig’ sometimes, but…

      • Karin

        I don’t think that everybody, especially women, likes to be soooo tall. I am very happy that I am not huge with wide hips and that I don’t give the impression to men that if I lift my hand to slap them they will end up in the hospital. Indeed every country has its own culture, but I hear very often Dutch people say well, if you don’t like it, bye bye. It would be a nice change to learn a lesson or start thinking a little bit out off the box, when hearing a different opinion about cute or not so cute habits, if you know what I mean. No one is perfect, no country is perfect and the Netherlands is not also perfect. And when something is wrong, it is wrong even if everybody is doing it and when something is right, it is right even if no one is doing it.

      • Jerommeke

        The Netherlands is not Amsterdam.. Funny how foreigners living in “Holland” have never seen or probably even heard of Brabant and Limburg. People, please don’t consider us here in the South the same as Hollanders. This website is simply the same old repeated and rehashed stories from the Randstad where there are hundreds of books already available on the subject.

    • Tamar

      You have them in most older, big cities in the Netherlands, like Utrecht, Leiden… So not only Amsterdam!

      • Stella

        And in other countries too. I remember France and England and surely there ar more countries.

    • Stella

      Have seen this sousterrein-appartments in Utrecht. I guess all older towns have them.

    • M. Tucker

      I agree… Even the picture doesn’t show an underground basement apartment. The only thing I agree with in this article is that Dutch people do like bright/light/sunshine in their homes. That’s why the windows are so big. I have never witnessed a “dad in leopard print underwear” watching tv in the living room. Not saying that doesn’t happen but come on, this article makes it seem that that is what you see when taking a stroll in the neighborhood in the evening. Don’t get me started on what you can see here in the States on a random stroll down the streets.

  4. Nina

    Eh, Corinne, I appreciate the fact that you seem to grasp that the Netherlands (not Holland, take note) consists of several areas that differ a lot in terms of social and cultural habits. Hailing from Brabant myself, I was slightly offended by your comment that we’re a “somewhat peasant part of Holland”.

    First, and most importantly, Brabant is not, and has never been, part of Holland. It’s a common mistake and one of my pet peeves. Historically, Holland only refers to the coastal provinces of North- and South-Holland. As they were the center of economical, political and cultural power during our so-called Golden Age, Holland has somehow become synonymous with the present-day Netherlands. It could potentially offend not just the inhabitants of Brabant, but also those of Friesland, Limburg, Overijssel and the other six provinces not part of Holland to have their province refered to as being part of “Holland”.

    Secondly, Brabant might seem like a somewhat peasant part of the country, but it’s certainly far from the most rural province. It’s actually one of the most populous and most industrious provinces outside of Holland and has cities like Den Bosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg and Breda which, granted, might not be as beautiful as cities like Delft and Haarlem but still count as proper cities.

    And about the accent, I’ve talked to many foreigners living or studying in the Netherlands and most of them prefered the southern accents to the northern accents. They especially liked the softer pronounciation of the “g” (for which we often get ridiculed by our fellow countrymen).

    Lastly, please don’t take this too seriously or personally. I just happen to be a history student from Brabant who can’t help herself ranting sometimes, especially when it concerns Brabant. I always pretend to be the least patriotic person imaginable but these kind of things always prove me wrong 😉

    • Eefje

      I was going to make the same point about the cities in (technically North-)Brabant, even though I am from Utrecht. There is just more rural landscape in between them than in the ‘Randstad’ (the area in mostly Holland (North and South) with major cities really close to each other). About the Holland thing, I like to explain to others why it is incorrect to refer to the entire country by that name, but I don’t get offended since so many Dutch people do it themselves. It’s just an easier word than ‘the Netherlands’. I also think it’s rather funny that people from the south, Limburg and Brabant have a tendency to refer to every other Dutch person (not from the south) as an hollander, be they from Amsterdam (correct), Utrecht (incorrect) or Groningen (most definitely incorrect). And people in Friesland do it the other way around I believe.

      Gosh we’re weird! I love us. 😀

    • iggy

      reserve belgen? is that better then boeren????no really ur right the soft g is better then the hard g but non dutchies cant understand a god dam thing with the soft g or hard g so does it matter?? naaaaaaah

    • Toon

      Dear Nina: it’s Noord-Brabant, and please do tell why Zuid-Brabant is in Belgium.

      Ps……….. “hedde gij new kids wellis gezien jongûh?” (have you ever seen “new kids?” (show about some Brabant stereotype’s from Maaskantje doing crazy stuff)). Show that to your pals (tell them to bring a clean pair of undies)!! Even the Germans love it! And we all know how they can be, right! 🙂

  5. Lieke

    Sorry, Nina, but it seems to me that you are saying that people from Brabant, Limburg, Friesland, etc. don’t feel like Dutch people, I hate that, I (from Limburg) feel that we are all from the Netherlands and shouldn’t draw a border line around Brabant, Limburg, Friesland, etc.
    I don’t want to be mean or anything, i just feel that that isn’t really vaderland liefde.

    • Dominic Van Der Meij

      I agree with you they all carry Dutch Nationality (Unless that changed since the 8 years I moved to the USA).

    • Gerwin

      Being a Frysian, living abroad, I’m getting used to being asked if I’m from Holland… My answer is normally: “No, I’m from Frysland”, which gets a “where’s that?”, followed by “that’s in the Netherlands”. Fine with being Dutch, but I’ll never say I’m from Holland…
      Guess its the same asking an Irishman (Northern Ireland) if he’s from Britain; now he may be British (they’re given the choice as I understand it) and live in the UK, but he is in fact from Ireland…

      • hidh

        Or a Scotsman who’s asked if he is English… In fact that is how I usually explain the difference between Holland and the Netherlands to British people.

  6. Lieke

    But I do want to say something to the writer of this blog, if you are not sure a “stuff dutch people like” is something all dutch people do, research it first, because this not owning curtains thing is I think mainly for Amsterdam. I think everybody in Holland owns curtains of some sort (also in Amsterdam), but in Amsterdam they keep them open apparently also at night and the rest of Holland closes them at night, hoor 😛

    • Nikolas

      That’s what I thought. Before now I’d never come across the “no curtains” thing. Myself and every other Dutch person I know have lace glass curtains and then heavy ones that are closed at night and opened during the day.

      • Stella

        I have curtains, but neighbours and others in this little town don’t and show their houses and doings.

    • Megan Dicks

      I’m in a town near Middleburg, and I’ve noticed the no curtains thing here for sure. So it can’t be just Amsterdam…

  7. Barbara Backer-Gray

    Actually, I’ve lived in Amsterdam, Bilthoven, Eemnes, Bussum, Deventer and Amersfoort and the majority of people didn’t have curtains in their living room windows. And by all means keep doing the blog just the way you are. It’s hilarious and there’s always truth to generalizations, and as long as they’re not offensive (like Brabant being a peasant area) they’re fun. Maybe a post about the lack of a sense of humor when it comes to ourselves is in order!

    • Tori_Adam

      My first time living in the Netherlands I lived in Utrecht and noticed that the majority of street level apartments/ windows in homes didn’t have curtains. When I moved to Amsterdam I noticed the same thing. However, visiting smaller towns it was always less common. It’s strange to see for a foreigner, however I found it lovely to cycle past these homes and catch a quick glimpse of a family enjoying dinner together or watching television together. Of course it was also great to get some free style/decorating tips from the neighbours and satisfied my natural nosiness and curiosity!

      • rob

        I think there are severall things why there are no curtains. Or a lot of curtains:

        First of all: light
        Second Curiosity (nieuwsgierigheid) what is going on, on the street?
        And third especially in the old buildings: the danger of fire
        4th it doesn”t fit in the interior of the building because of the high or low seiling
        And makes the room look smaller

        And in tthe towns there is more social control

    • Dennis

      There’s one notable exception to the no-curtain rule, and that’s the province of Limburg. Here every house has roll-down shutters at every window, and about 15-30 min before sundown, you will hear a thunderous roll as everybody on the street seem to roll their shutters down in synchrony, trying to do this for all windows of their house within one minute. So, just when outside is dark enough and people start turning on the light in their houses, they just shut you out! Can’t watch TV together with a random Dutch family anymore (without them knowing it)! After moving to Limburg from Groningen, it was quite weird to stroll on the street in the evening and only get light from the lamp posts, with all the houses reduced to dark cubes. I asked the Limburgers why the shutters, and they’ve told me it has something to do with keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I say bollocks, they have shutters because they’re bohemian catholics 🙂

      • ablabius

        Living in Belgium these days I’ve noticed the shutters are very much a Southern thing. Everybody has them here. Then again, the Belgians like to build their houses close to the street. This leaves more room for a backgarden, where they like to spend their time when it’s sunny. They do get a lot of noise from the street this way, and the shutters are almost universally on the street side, but only on the back if the owner has money to burn.

        Sitting in front of your house, becoming part of street life, including the ‘leugen bankjes’ on town and village squares (‘liars’ benches’, where the elderly would gather to tell tall stories about the past) seems to be very much a Northern thing, and I assume not closing your curtains may have something to do with that. It’s very much like the Spanish custom of taking a stroll: putting on fine clothes and taking a stroll down mainstreet or some promenade, just to be seen and talk to the other townsfolk. In the suburbs and smaller towns and villages, many people still sit in their front garden, if only to keep an eye on their children playing outside. In the centres of bigger towns, houses are build close to the street (or the streets have been widened to allow for more motortraffic) and sittingin front of yourhouse becomes a hindrance, so instead, they sit behind their windows. The cliché of old people ‘sitting behind begonias’ also refers to this.

      • jellica

        I don’t live in the Netherlands and I am not catholic but I think your comment about bohemian catholics offensive.

    • Beverley

      I agree. I lived in Amsterdam for 21 years, on arrival (1983) I took courses in Dutch Language and Social Integration (Maatschappijleer); most of these generalizations are really hilarious but some are true. To understand the culture you have to invest 2 years of study and a good work etiquette………its a a country that is full of unwritten rules but understanding them makes a huge difference. Love, love the dry humor……….Did I mention I am a naturalized Dutch? Its a great country!

  8. Erik Bakker

    Most of us actually do have curtains, blinds or whatever…
    But during the day, they’re all open. Yes, because of the light.
    Plus it saves energy 😉

  9. daan

    My theory is

    sun = light
    Light = heat
    heat = free
    more sun = less bills
    dutch = stereotypicly cheap?

    • Just another Dutch living abroad

      And besides all that ( i agree) there is the biggest thing of all… It’s incredibly ‘gezellig’ to look outside during our 10 months monsoon having a hot drink on your couch looking at all the cyclist getting completely soaked!! And the other way around, being the on getting soaked, it motivates you on your bike heading for your own ‘gezellige’ home!!

  10. daan

    ^And not to forget not needing to pay for curtons

    keeping the steriotype live and kicking!

  11. Tom

    Actually, the picture used for this blogpost does clearly shows pulldown blinds behind all windows 😛

    I’m betting when this picture would have been shot at night, those blinds would’ve been down.

  12. iemand

    we(my house, me, parents+little brother, in friesland) do have curtains, but for me to purpose of curtains has always been blocking light at night when sleeping, and sometimes during the day when the sun is low and shining in my eyes. curtains are something you close on the evening and open in the morning. I never considered using curtains to block peoples’ view f the inside of the house. for that purpose some houses have luxaflex, that blocks sight but still alows light trough

  13. Jaap

    A “basement apartment” would be a souterrain, not an entresol (but French nonetheless)

  14. Vlakbij Maaskantje... :)

    Noticed it before, but you definitely need to see more of the country. Working with people from and when I’m lucky, also myself traveling, all over the world I’ve seen quite a few cultural quirks. At the same time I became more aware of our own but still you already managed to name a few I didn’t notice as so ‘strange’ as they are perceived by foreigners.

    However, as I started the post and is abundantly clear by the comments in this thread, spend some time in the country. You’ll be able to learn what I always tell my customers… Amsterdam was built for tourists… (no offence!). I just get tired of all people saying they were in the Netherlands because they visited Amsterdam. You can find the Netherlands there, but what people see is Red Zone, Sex Shops and dark gritty Coffee Shops (where we can legally buy marijuana in the Netherlands). Lot’s of pop concerts suck because of artists not being able to cope with the liberties we have… I’m ranting now…

    Secondly, as I’m proving very well myself and is mentioned all over the blog. Our nationalism and defensiveness is epic! Quite extreme forms of “nationalism” can even regularly be found between neighboring villages etc. We love “gezellige” ‘small’ (they can be hundreds of people) groups to bond with and to feel just to defend their respective turfs. “Carnaval” is one of the events (yes, I’m from below the rivers) where neighbor rivalry plays out a lot; Both in friendly and aggressive ways.

    To finalize… The Brainport region in Eindhoven and Helmond has been chosen Smartest region in the world by the Intelligent Community Forum from New York. ASML is among one of the countries which almost certainly is one of the most important in your life. If you own a device with a chip which is not produced by Nikon, Intel, Samsung or Toshiba (and most consumer products of these manufacturers also contain chips from 3rd party manufacturers) there is a near 100% probability that chip was produced on a machine made by ASML… 🙂

  15. Maria

    I think that part of the reason some Dutch people like the fact that others can look in their homes,is to show how clean and gezellig it is and how all the silver and brass is polished and Hoe Mooi the clock is! ha !

  16. Carolien

    I’m a Dutchie myself, and believe me, I do own curtains 🙂 and I use them!

    • Teddy

      I’m a Dutchie too. Lived all over Holland, as I like to call it. Lived in the south of Limburg, yes, most people there have shutters. I didn’t, I had vertical blinds which I left open. Lived in Enschede, no curtains and would look inside the neighbors’ homes, almost all with their curtains open at night. Lived in Rotterdam and would watch TV inside people’s homes, while riding the Metro at night. Especially if it would be a popular program, like a Christmas show or figure-skating.
      Also lived in Zwolle, Schiedam and Vlaardingen, no curtains, just very short crocheted decorative “valletjes”, no longer than 10 inches, and ofcourse plants in the “vensterbank”, window-sill.
      Now I live in Florida and when I married my American husband, the first thing I did when I moved in was to get rid of the curtains, most Floridians keep closed to block out the sun, which is the last thing any Dutchie wants to do.
      All the years I have lived in Florida, I have never had curtains in my livingroom and kitchen. In the bedrooms I do, to keep the home from getting too hot in the summer and for privacy.
      I love the “gezelligheid”, cozyness of being able to see in peoples’ homes in the evening.
      I do think it is a form of openess, that Dutchies have.

  17. mandykuiper

    My husband’s family is frisian and when we visited I noticed they (at least) like to put little doo-dads and thing-a-ma-gigs in on the window sill to show to the passersby. Everyone does it. if you had curtains you wouldn’t be able to show the world your latest aquisition for your window sill. LOVE this blog btw! Found it and can’t stop reading it.

  18. Richard

    In Germany they say the Dutch have to pay tax on curtains.

  19. Lutek

    I’ve seen the odd window with curtains open in the evening, but it’s not very common at all. In the daytime, curtains are open, but surely not after sundown. And if a little space is left, it’s filled with plants and other stuff.
    I think the first thing people do when they finished painting and move into a new house, is putting up curtains.
    Still, if you people see it ‘everywhere’, I guess it must be more common than I thought.
    Nice blog btw.
    (I’m born and raised in Rotterdam)

  20. Lisa

    I see it everywhere as well, but it’s not that common for me. I still think it’s weird when I see it, and I always have to take a look. I wouldn’t like that at all, my curtains are always closed at night and I don’t even live on the streetside of my house! And I know a lot of people who close their curtains, even during the day.

  21. Lilliana

    I want to bring this trend to America. I don’t like curtains, don’t understand ’em, and don’t want to shop for ’em.

  22. Mara

    I think not using curtains has more to do with the fact that most houses in the Netherlands are pretty small and in the overcrowded ‘larger’ cities there is not enough outdoor space. Many houses have no garden of any substance so in order to create at least the idea of space, leave the curtains open so vision is not restricted to the 30 square metres of the average Dutch living room.

    • Dutch

      right on, plus the “graaiers” mentality, to show what you graait bij elkaar….lol

  23. Judith

    This curtain thing keeps popping in every foreigner’s blog/book/whatever about the dutch. And yet, it is really not true! Everybody I know has curtains and most of them close them at night… no shit. I still wonder how this became such a supposedly general feature of the Dutch.

  24. Steve

    It really is a picture window, and Dutch people like to represent themselves with the view in the window. Key to that is filling the window with the latest trendy knickknacks on sale at the HEMA this season.

  25. Maaike

    A bit of history: up until the early seventies the Dutch windows were covered well with laced net curtains called ‘vitrage’. It was often hung in the same way as oldfashioned theatre-curtains and it had a tiny opening down in the middle for a flowering pot plant.
    In the seventies the vitrage was replaced by a complete jungle of pot plants and handcrafted crochet style curtains and / or ‘macrame’ window hangers. It wasn’t until the eighties that the view got so open. Nowaydays, when you see a house, one can often guess the age of the owner by the style of its curtains.
    By the way, in Eastern / Southern parts of the country people often have roller shutters that they close in the evening. The opennes is very much a thing of the Randstad.

    • Judith

      That’s indeed true! My grandma always had the vitrage for the windows with pot plants. ˆˆ

    • cloggy

      I’d like to ad that before this period of time, families were much bigger sometimes consisting of up to 15 children. So mothers who had to keep an eye on them needed the lookout to see if Jantje didn’t beat Gerritjes skull in during playtime.

    • Yos

      I live in Arnhem, which is in the east of the Netherlands, and I love to peek through windows at night. I don’t use curtains, and most people I know who use curtains or shutters do so sporadically, not daily.

    • Teddy

      I remember spending the summers with my grandparents in Enschede and in the evening we would take a stroll through the neighborhood. Probably half of the homes would have their curtains open. We would look in and if one of the neighbors would happen to be sitting close to the window, we’d wave. Some homes did have the roll down shutters. I think that is more a German influence. I did see that a lot in the South of Limburg too.
      Here in the States, I have my curtains in the livingroom and kitchen open all the time.

  26. rightie

    I grew up walking the dog through the neighborhood at night and a big part of the enjoyment was looking into everyone’s living room while passing by. last time I was there I noticed they all have these plastic strips glued to the windows so I guess looking in is not done anymore. i will miss it.

  27. Judith

    You seriously couldn’t be more right! I work for a couple and clean their house, the male from Scotland and the woman from Estland, they álways have the curtains and shutters closed! So when I come by I first open them all and let the bleak winter light in. I think bleak winter light is always better than electric light.

    ˜ A very Dutch student

  28. cloggy

    My curtains are open for me to look outside, not for you to look inside. That’s considered to be rude.
    We know we live in dollhouses, that doesn’t mean you are invited to play with it !

  29. silly

    we also have curtains who we close at night.
    i do not like the look of thin curtains, and blinds make it too dark (although we have huge windows in our house).

    Its not polite to stare in to someones house so dutchies try to look at other peoples houses in stealth, most of the time when they see someone looking back they nonchalantly look another direction, acting like they were accidentally watching inside and arent curious at all, the hypocrites 🙂 .

    People who keep staring face the punishment of bumping in to our thrusty lantern pole.

    Looking outside is often more entertaining than tv.

  30. Dutch Dynamite

    Especially in Amsterdam, people did not own curtains for the simple reason that people might think of you as a prostitute. As Amsterdam was the trade-centre of the world back in the day, it also meant loads of sailors coming of the boat every day looking for pleasure and so on. Prostitution wasn’t really accepted and so opening your curtains at night would show other people that you were not someone selling your body/had something to hide.

  31. BB

    And that while the Germans joke we have to pay to Havermans our curtains open. I believe that the no curtain thing is something from Amsterdam the cities I frequently visit or have lived in are ruled by people who have pannelung curtains etc.

  32. Christina Kooistra

    We always had lace curtains in the house growing up, my mom bought them overseas when she went with my heit to visit family, I hated them, no one else has them in southern California, I didn’t like that people could see in the house. I badly wanted blinds or at least solid curtains. sighs. My mom passed in 99, we have since then sold that house and live in another, and now have blinds and curtains but I have the lace curtains packed away in a box I cant bring myself to toss them out :/.

  33. Kate

    Nah, I don’t think it’s Calvinism, nor a light issue. I think it’s like: if you keep your windows open and clean in such a way that I am able to look inside your house, then I will do the same for you. It’s like solidarity; I pay tax, so that the government has the means to pay you your welfare benefit and then you don’t become a criminal and then we’re both happy

    And I don’t think it’s about letting others know that you’re doing nothing wrong. It’s just plain fun! It’s the best way to pick up some decorating ideas or an idea on what to watch on tv next week. And it gives a sense of belonging: when you’re walking outside on certain times, you will notice than 90% of households are watching the same show (and you can see this through the window)! So much gezelligheid!

  34. Curtains | Simon Says

    […] that this comes from a Calvinistic desire to show everyone that you have nothing to hide, although others believe it’s also a practical issue, having to do with letting as much light into the house as […]

  35. LisanneBrenkman

    When I first started reading a couple blogs I thought this was extremely funny and recommended it to other Americans here (being a Dutch person living in America for a year). But in some blogs, the way you write is a bit stereotypical, and a bit offensive. Yes, some things are very Dutch like the directness, Sinterklaas, food etc. but other things you can just find in the big cities like Amsterdam. You cannot describe every habit you see around you as a habit that particular to people from that country. You have to watch out that you don’t put people from another country in a perfect shaped box. Like the typical Dutch person is wearing white leggings, eats spreads and yells cancer at you. I still think most of it is hilarious, but I like the positive blogs the best.
    I (not saying ‘Dutch people’ it could never be that all of them do) know how to laugh about some Dutch habits, but keep it fun to read for Dutch people too:). Am still recommending this to others and will definetily buy the book!

  36. Eva

    About those curtains, closed curtains means you have something to hide. People with closed curtains are , by offical police handout, possibly growing drugs ar participate in other criminal activities. And people with closed curtanis are not considered social, and incapable of cleaning their house. They must have something to hide. Closed curtains in the evening means you do not expect someone to visit you. You litereretly close yourself away from the rest of the world. When curtains are closed in the morning, the residents are not awake yet.
    Our “glass” curtains and leadedglass and plasticfoil uses are there to ensure some privacy.

    Curtains also hide expensive things from thieves, when on vacation. It is generally advised to have people come in your house and adjust the curtains regulary to prevent burglary.

    I have my curtains closed in the winter a lot and in the beginning my parents would open them as they visited, “to let the light in”. During winter we have no leafs on the trees and everyone will look into our house. I do not like that. At spring we open the curtains again and have trees secure our privacy. My neighbours have open curtains to keep a good view on the streets and to see who goes where and when, to gossip about later. They will also look into other people’s houses and gossip 🙁

  37. agathe

    I can’t open my curtains here in Amsterdam, as my curious neighbours will keep looking inside my appartment. They don’t have other entertainment except minding other people business.

    • ash

      Hah I have exactly the same problem in Amsterdam, people literally pressing up against my window with their hands shielding from external light… a little disconcerting to say the least.

  38. Ilona Toth

    I think the reason why dutch people have open windows is to be able to look outside. It makes the livingplace much and much bigger. You don’t only live in your small house but you live in the whole neighbourhood!

    • Teddy

      You’re right Ilona, the Dutch who like to leave their curtains open do so to see more than just their small living room (size of 12′ x 15′ is considered fairly large).

  39. circleofjoycey

    Hahahah again my jaws hurt from laughing!!! Never considered this as typical or even typical dutch. I only close the curtains when it fiets could and yes I want the rare sunlight to shine in. Dutch Bundy family I really pee in my panty’s. Love this website

  40. Maarten

    and, no curtains is cheaper then any curtains, and sunlight is cheaper then electrical lighting.

  41. Peter

    Don’t peek inside the homes. My aunt always waves.

  42. Brenda

    I lived there before & the Dutch like most don’t have sexual hangups like Americans. They don’t usually perceive nudity as a turn on or something other than just natural but in the States, nudity is a TURN ON to many so part of it is cultural in that regard but another part would be drapes or window treatments collect dust & the Dutch prefer things in a way there is less dust collected in a home or business so not thinking in sexual terms or concerns of robbery like one would in the States, it is very normal for them to not give it a second thought about not wasting money on such items when they can instead save for a new pair of wooden shoes 🙂

  43. J.

    The dutch often dont own curtains but when you take a look through the window while walking on the sidewalk, they give you a look that says “How dare you look inside our home?”
    Makes no sense at all.

    • ilona

      Dutch children learn from an early age on that it is rude to peek through a window

  44. jonny

    you have to tell them also that the curtains get closed when it gets darker

  45. Framus

    I cannot see that dutch people love sun and light: As soon as the first ray of sunlight can be seen on the sky, everybody lets down their shades and starts wearing sunglasses. The Dutch are the most sun allergic people I ever experinced, almost like vampires.

    • Hellen

      Are you kidding me? At the first ray of sunshine we all can be found in our tiny backyards, balconies, etc. in a bikini/ speedo slathered in some kind of oil to speed up the tanning… Lol!!! #wieheeftdebruinstebuik

  46. Rudy Nolan

    I can’t imagine to live without curtains. They are something which could hide me from the world outside and also make my home look cosy. I should clean them often because I live with two dogs but is worth it. Regards!Charing Cross Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  47. Beatrix Sutton

    In 1971 I went to revisit family in the Netherlands after a 12 year absence. I asked them about everyone having no curtains or leaving the windows uncovered even late in the evening. Their explanation was, during WW2 every house had very heavy curtains to be used when the night air raid sirens went off. After the war they got rid of the heavy curtains and got their freedom back to look out their windows unrestricted.For me it made sense.

    • Mia

      Yes, thank you! My grandfather remembers the war very good and he hates closed windows, not seeing the sky, and when a plane comes over he still is very aware of it. He lived in Amsterdam and The Hague during and they had to have their curtains closed from dusk on German order to frustrate te navigating of enemy bombers.

  48. Jannette Piena

    I was told by several people who lived during the Second World War, the curtains were also opened to let the underground resistance and the people who needed to hide from the Germans know that was a safe house. Don’t know if this is historically true.

  49. Robert

    I do not think the light hypothesis is true. In Belgium for instance (same climate), curtains are closed even on summer nights. It is just a matter of cultural differences, the Dutch being much more open than Belgians.

  50. Rosan

    But don’t forget the historical background of leaving the curtains open.

    In the Netherlands, is was very common to have a ‘ opkamer’ of ‘voorkamer’ under the little bit more richer middleclass and luxury farmers. This room was settled in the front of the house, at the street side of the house. This room was special made for recieving guests, and someties even had a special ‘beddestee’ (a bed in the wall). The family normally did not use the room for their own daily life. This room was filled with all the beautifull expensive old family house hold fourniture, paintings, Chinese/Japanese and Delfs Blue tableware, copper objects and so on. So in one way it was a way of showing your wealth, good taste and the current house hold fashion (!) to the passengers walking by. But on the other hand, with our Calvinistic views, having too much luxury stuff in the ‘voorkamer’ was not done (so a fragile equilibrium was made), and daily life had to be in the sober other rooms without any luxury. And these other rooms were illuminated at night and were not in the front of the house. The ‘voorkamer’ was not illuminated by night, only when visitors where there, and then you wnated to show that you had guests (and enough money to illuminate an extra room) thus: no need for closing the curtains.

    And for the other rooms and windows, we used to have shutters/skylights as well, so when you close these, you dont need curtains. Besides, curtains used to be more expensive then wooden shutters. So under the moral ‘ doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg’ , and not showing to off too much with your money, only the ‘voorkamer’ used to have curtains.

    Now adays, everybody has ofcourse curtains, because it looks nice in the rooms. And the biggest group of Dutchies belong to the wealthy middleclass. But now people do live the most in their ‘voorkamer’ (livingroom). But closing the curatins, that is often a different story 😉

  51. Gabriella

    My Dutch must be the least Dutch person I know as he always closes the curtains to our living room when he arrives home, even when it’s light outside. We live in a rural part of the province of South Holland and he still insists on closing our curtains.

    I’ve lived in The Hague and now this small, but quaint historical Dutch town (better yet, city, as it’s got city status) and in both places I’ve seen houses with and without curtains. Some have only got what is known as vitrage, light, white curtains which are semi transparent.

    As for the name Holland, it’s one of my pet peeves. I also tell my Dutch students to never refer to this country as Holland, even if foreigners say it. It’s wrong! The official name is The Netherlands (or if you want to be more nit picky, The Kingdom of The Netherlands).

    • Robert

      Of course the official name is The Netherlands, but keep in mind that the country itself did and is still advertising with the name ‘Holland’, for instance the Olympic Team was called Holland instead of The Netherlands for a long time, and still the main tourism site is http://www.holland.com/. In addition, in many languages they call our country Holland and not The Netherlands.

  52. Willard Jansen

    We don’t have curtains because we have nothing to hide and don’t like to detach us from the rest of the world. And by the way, “Holland” is fine. Must of us say Holland oftentimes instead of the more formal the Netherlands.

  53. Wytzia Raspe

    We do have curtains most of the time but we like to see the world and not hide behind cloth when we are still dressed and have our house in order and nothing we should be ashamed off. Most people will undress in a bedroom with the curtains closed.

  54. Coop

    They are there to see who’s at the door. ‘Spionnetjes’ are actually intercoms avant la lettre.

  55. Marieke (Dutch)

    Actually. They told me Dutch were not allowed to close their curtains during the Spanish war. And of course, over time, we became proud of it; we would leave them open not because we had to (nobody tells us what to do), but because we want to…. stubborn and proud 😉

  56. Megan

    I’ve newly moved to the netherlands, and I’ve noticed the actual windows themselves are different from NA. They hinge both sideways or at the bottom here which is pretty cool.

  57. Mia

    Funny way to look at it, I think what you feel describes exactly what I was thought growing up. It is totally inappropiate to stare into people’s private space so that’s why the curtains are opened (we expect others to respect us) and you see a lot of people staring out, or looking straight at you with a blank face when you look in. I am 32 I notice a shift to the ugly plastic strips on eyelevel, It is because people do want the light but not the not the pretty rude intruding of their privacy from people looking in, ever since this simple social standard seems to be lowered and lowered. A second thing which had a role in my family (and perhaps way more dutch generations) is that during the ww II we had to keep our curtains closed at all time (so it was harder for bombers to navigate) This is why my grandparents (knowingly) and parents (subconsiously) hated any form of curtains. (why would you buy them if you hate them closed) So it is a little trauma mixed with decency, which as you know, the dutch like their education, there norms and most of all to be respected and left alone with whatever they want to do. That is freedom to them, and they stare back to see if you get that 😉 not calvinistic, the freedom to love their dutch light and skies in them leopard undies

  58. Limmen (Dutch)

    there is a lot to say about this and as a Dutchy, I’ll say the main reason is: it’s gezellig. Leaving the curtains open gives a sense of connectedness to the world, to nature, to the city, to the other people, to the neighbourhood, to the night life.. And, when you are outside, walking, biking or walking the dog, you can have that same feeling of connectedness. It’s gezellig and Dutchies care about the look&feel / design of their overall architecture inside and out. So imagine all the curtains closed – it wood be so gloomy and dark at night when you are walking your dog or on your way home from work or the cafe – yuck! (btw all windows in the Netherlands have curtains – we prefer when they are non-cloth though because it’s modern and not dusty ). yes, for lights because we like light, airy, white houses with big windows and every space in the house should have them. In contrary the Belgians prefer dark houses, “dungeons ” as the article talks about, shutters close at 8pm (summer and night) and they build their modern houses with not one window facing the street!! They are timid yes and some want to live in solitude and some find gezelligheid at meet ups, social events, dinners and such. They usually would usually know their neighbours and be more in touch and friendly on a social level once you get talking.. they’re so sweet from the heart! Also, they don’t move around much, so families still live close and they know the people in their village / area. where as Dutchies, especially the more modern, are careless to know their neighbours because they don’t see the added value and don’t think long term / they have their own friends, families, life etc . Especially in Holland (the provinces) and Utrecht. In the other provinces like Brabant, Limburg, Drenthe there is a warmer kind of culture..

  59. Jeff Pryce

    I love this post it very nice and integrating post. I agree that “Curious about the neighbors decor or sense of style ? Want to know what Jaap and his family are eating for dinner?” Much appreciated your effort Thanks!

  60. Donna Perkins

    Did anyone ever think that curtains are dirty (catch dust and grime) or smelly from cigarette or pipe and cigar smoke or even smoke from a chimney or stove and with time don’t wash well without shredding. I think no curtains are best no matter what county you live in. Small valances such as the dutch lace are all that is needed to making it look homey. And yes, I agree curtains don’t give you that peek into others’ homes.


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