If you’ve spent any time in a Dutch office you are sure to quickly notice an abundance of confectionery goods. The larger the office, the more often cake will mysteriously appear around the coffee machine. The workings of a generous boss with a sweet tooth? Nope, it’s the endearing Dutch tradition of eating cake on your birthday, no matter what your age. Sounds normal enough, right? But the Dutch twist on this tradition is that you are expected to buy and bring your own cake to the party! And here you were thinking that birthdays were all about you! Guess again!
In the land of the Dutchies, it is never appropriate to assume someone has brought you cake on your special day. More importantly do not think you can quietly avoid this tradition at work. If its your birthday the office manager, HR department, and even the Director is certain to know your b-day (a work-related birthday calendar in their toilet??) and you will certainly not make new friends or impress the colleagues by attempting to usurp this ever important socio-cultural norm. Bring in your cake, take in all the gefeliciteerds, do a lot of 3-kisses, and enjoy yourself!
The standard Dutch birthday cake is normally a pastry tart topped with assorted fruit and whipped cream, commonly referred to as vlaai. On birthdays a variety of of cakes are appropriate including appeltaart (apple pie), Limburgse vlaai, peperkoek (gingerbread) and even spekkoek (layered cake from Indonesia).
Not a great baker? Not to worry – there are a multitude of Dutch businesses that are supported solely by the fact that every working citizen has to buy at least one birthday cake a year. Do the math folks, that’s over 10 million vlaai a year!