So a Dutch friend of mine just got engaged. She’s in her mid thirties and has been with the Dutch man in question for many years, so it shouldn’t really come as such a surprise. But it did. It did, because she’s been living with this guy for over 10 years, they have 2 children together (not to mention a fairly pricey downtown Amsterdam apartment), plus 3 pesky cats, so why would marriage suddenly be important now?

The Dutch Marriage Conundrum

Simple: because they are doing things the “Dutch way”. You know that old school- yard rhyme:  Sally and Ryan sitting in a tree. k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage…then comes baby in a baby carriage [insert rampant girlie giggles and screams].  Well, in the lowlands, the rhyme somehow got a little reversed over time. Not one, not two, but countless of my Dutch friends/colleagues have just recently gotten around to the marriage part AFTER already having the love, (the house), and the baby carriage(s).

The highly complex mathematical formula here in the lowlands appears to be: attraction + love + buying a house together + having babies = marriage.  Of course, ultimately, the order of this stuff doesn’t really matter. But I dare say I was certainly shocked to see loads of these very rational, down-to-earth female Dutch friends soooo overwhelmingly excited about their romantic proposals and upcoming nuptials. I just figured since they already had some major life commitments together, the formalities of marriage  just weren’t a priority. Silly me! Seeing them giddily jumping around, showing off their new glittery engagement rings was a very un-Dutch sight!

We’ve said it once and we will say it again, Dutch people like to do things differently. They certainly have their own little quirks. Take their beloved hagelslag, their birthday oddities or even their sharp-tongued “directness” as examples. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that they’ve somehow gone and reversed the age-old order of love and marriage. Is it just to spice things up? Just to buck conventional trends? Another form of Dutch practicality and pragmatism? We haven’t figured it out yet, but maybe you can!

116 Responses

  1. Spaniard

    Just let me say Dutch people are kinda great. This Spaniard just hope my Dutchman won’t wait too much long to get engaged 😉

    • Kalle

      Ah, battle of the nationalities! You might want to give him some hints then, because he won’t propose out of the blue. Good luck!

      • Tom

        Hints don’t work with men. Especially not dutchmen. Haven’t you read the ‘directness’ story yet?

    • J.

      It’s true, dutch men are not good with understanding or even seeing the hints you give them. Just watch a tv channel where someone marries and tell him you cant wait to marry. Good chance that hint will be somewhat clear to him.

      • Rik

        Nice! Put then all together on one big heap! Why not? All Dutch men are the same. Haha.

      • Tim

        Great! And then he’ll get the hint wrong and two of you break up, as a result 😛

    • Stepahnie

      We just feel marriage is not that important. It’s a piece of paper. Nowadays it means nothing when you look at the divorce rates and also, we are not very religious as a nation. So, we take it slow. We really get to know the other person. And buying a house together (big financial impact) and having babies is more commitment than a marriage certificate. Our idea is: if you want to be together you will stay together also without getting married. And if you don’t you will end up seperated (whether you are married or not). So…. call it smart and wise! Most Dutch people are very cautious when it comes to things like buying property, living together, having children, marriage etc. Not a bad thing if you ask this Dutchie! 🙂

      • Sinead

        Marriage typically comes with a price tag….this is something I believe people decide to either not do or wait until other priorities are met – buying a house, raising young children. The Dutch are known to be careful with money and carefully plan expenditure months/ years in advance. Marriage is not important enough to put before buying a house and raising kids. That is if they have to choose.

        If you use the word important – I believe that marriage is not important to Dutch people largely because of the high risk rate – 1/3 divorce. Getting married can be expensive as can divorce. The Dutch are way too money conscious to put their eggs/ € in the marriage basket 🙂

        For other countries marriage is still important due to people’s religious views and cultural traditions. Ireland as an example has a very high marriage rate and a very low divorce/ separation rate (likely to change however). Young couples will co-habitate for a significant period of time, possibly have kids but will likely marry in their early to mid 30’s. They have trialed, tested and are happy to make that commitment. Why – it is the cultural norm.

        Marriage is a personal choice and more than a piece of paper for those who choose it. You could say a house is just bricks and mortar but it’s not if it’s your home!

        I am not sure words like important should be used when describing marriage. I feel priority is the better word. Important suggests of little significance or value. I don’t believe this is the case. A lot of my Dutch friends would love to get married at some point down the line…..that is providing their other priorities have been met…. 🙂

      • Nerea Garcia Rodriguez

        thats what i had always think and i am spanish….is just formality in case something happens to your companion you wont be left with nothing…for the rest is better to take a lot of time to be 100% sure you wont end the relation in 3 years…normally couples who stay together for 10 or more years are just less likely to split and then you can start thinking about it at least thats my opinion it should be something you do once so you must be sure is the right person and time instead you wont earn enough to pay laywers

      • Robin

        That’s true, but also people do this because when women get too old, they can’t have babies anymore so some of them want to have children first before they get too old, and they marry later.

    • CDN

      I’m Canadian and we take our weddings seriously. I just flat out said I want to get married before kids and buying a house. He was like okay and we got engaged a few months after that. Now happily married!

      • emmywassink

        Yes! I’m Canadian and we got married, bought a house and then had kids! It worked and we’re celebrating 35 years of wedded bliss this year!

    • Spaniard 2

      MY dutchman proposed like a year after knowing each other… He’s so weeeird… 😛

  2. Katrijn

    This blog is wonderful! Even having lived outside of the Netherlands, it still throws up quirks and habits that I hadn’t realized were specifically Dutch (I thought talking about the wheather was a worldwide favourite passtime?) But to get back to the subject at hand: Most of my Dutch friends have in fact gotten married before having babies. But not all, including myself (I’m a mother without a wedding band). As to why – I think it’s to do with economics and independence. It used to be that parents paid part of the wedding cost, but adult children prefer to pay their own way and not be a burden on their parents. Getting married is expensive (don’t let people fool you that it’s more expensive to recognize and become a legal guardian of your child when it’s born out of wedlock. That cost adds up to about sixty euros in Utrecht. The expensive bit is going to a solicitor to sign the will, but then if a Dutchie marries they’d probably do that anyway). Also getting married is usually not necessary for any legal reason. Most people buy a house before having a baby and put in place the requisite legal framework at that time with a samenlevingscontract. So, really, why lay out all that money when you’re also planning on having children which are expensive enough on their own? But then, when a Dutchie has climbed a bit higher on the corporate ladder and their income’s gone up, they might realize they DO want to recognize and celebrate the love that connects their little nuclear family. That’s when they get married. In a deviation from Dutchness, there´s no pragmatic reason or practical use, it´s pure sentimentality. Dutch marriages usually are nothing but celebrations of love, which would explain why people go ga-ga over them. (Disclosure: I wouldn’t mind getting married but the father of my child doesn’t see the point. However, he has promised me he will one day provide the opportunity for me to wear a ridiculously expensive and utterly flattering dress, so I’m practising patience.)

    • Joost Hensweert

      Well, I got married for free, so that’s definitely cheaper than the 60 euros you are referring to ;).

      For the rest I totally agree with your comment.

    • Blackfoot

      Hmmm, so people elsewhere don’t talk about the wheather as a passtime? Ok, I guess I’m just naive and Dutch ‘inside and out’… This is surprising to me, though. And so is this entry about marriage or the lack of it. Is this a Dutch thing of is it time-related? Do people in other countries always get married before they live together or have children? Or is this a change that is happening everywhere?
      Just wondering…

      • Stella

        Of course the do. The big Forums have their daily weather topic.

      • J.

        They do, but in a different way. The owner of the blog has many things to learn about this culture. Not everything is as black and white as he/she thinks it is…

      • orthodox

        Coming from India, I can say for most people there the order is Love -> marriage -> Living together -> House/baby -> babies/ House.

      • Lara

        Yes, most people in other countries get married before they have kids, even though they live together before getting married.

  3. Carine V.

    The persons just got engaged. You speak about marriage…. There can be a long time in betwwen again !

  4. Daan.S

    Its very easy you dont want kids?
    get out your not married.

    • Floor

      Was that English? Yikes. Grammar + spelling = important. Vooral als je een punt duidelijk wil maken in een andere taal.

      • Sjon

        Een punt duidelijk maken? Hahaha
        Het is natuurlijk of “een punt maken” of “iets duidelijk maken”.
        Over grammaticale vaardigheden gesproken zeg…. Niets dommer dan een “spellingsnazi” die het zelf verkeert doet!

      • N

        Sjon, verkeerd is met een D. Ik kon het niet laten. 😉

  5. Michael

    Since moving to Nederland I have been amazed at the large number of parents who are well into their 30s, 40s or even later and yet have young children. I think that is a great phenomenon, because so many married couples in the US begin having children when they are too young, and the stress overwhelms them. Delaying marriage and child-bearing makes for more stable families.

    • J.

      I think 30/40 is too old. Some are even 50. Luckily the majority starts around 22-28

      • Tessa

        I always thought having kids before the age of 30 is too soon. 40 is definitely on the higer side. But people need to give themselves a chance to find out who they are and sow their wild oats before settling down. Anything before 25 is a no on children in my opinion. Kids having kids. Emotionally and financially it’s smarter to wait until your older and “wiser”.

      • Alice

        You are so right! Because once you hit 30 (or even worse, the big 40!) you instantly become old and completely unsuited to change a diaper. And please, don’t come to close, because your wrinkly face will only scare the shit out of the baby, and again, you’re not suited to change them!

        It is so bad for a child to have stable parents that did the stupid stuff before they were born instead of during the childs first years…
        It’s so much better to be 22 and become a parent – still in school, fucking around, living with and of your parents – then when your over 30, in loving relationship, in your own house and with a good income.
        I totally see your point.

      • Roosje

        Think again. The average age for bearing your first child in the netherlands is 29 and rising…..with this we dutch hold the world record for oldest firsttime mums in the world. Get your facts straight!

      • Mar

        Why the negative opinion about having children on a young age? My mother was 21 when she had my brother and 26 when she had me. I had a very stable youth and nothing to complain about. Some people might think that you’re still a child then but even most of my friends (yes they all finished their education or even went to university when they had their first kid) had children on quite a young age (21-26) Of course it’s nice to enjoy your youth while you can but the the truth becomes so nasty when you almost become 30 and realize you only have a few years left to have kids. And if you have some fertility problems (which is getting more and more common), before you know it you lose an other 2 precious years. Your body is can also cope better with having a baby then when you’re older.

        I’m not here to scream that everyone should have teen pregnancies or become parents while they are not ready for it, just needed to get this of my chest 🙂

        (really love this blog, somethings are a bit black and white but that makes it extra funny :D. After I moved out of the Netherlands this website actually helps when feeling homesick :))

  6. Unordinary Customer

    It is so true! I happened to work with many Dutchmen, and this story repeates over and over again. I thought it was some particular charactersitics, but now I see that this is quite a common phenomenon really..
    Thank you for the post! :o)

    • Wouter

      Oops, forgotten to marry (about 39 years and two daughters and houses ago)…

  7. bien

    to add to katrijn the samenlevingscontract provides you with all the legal bearings you need. Your registered as partners. And many young people sign a samenlevingscontract first and get married much further down the road.

  8. Vlakbij Maaskantje... :)

    Just as Katrijn says. Marriage is a celebration of love, the crown on the relationship, just to use a Cruiffian proverb. It is a reason to have a big party with everybody you love and/or was important in your life. To do it right costs serious money. This with the reasons named by Katrijn adds up to all commitments first, the formality (and most important the party!) of Marriage later.

    • Angela

      Only if you feelmarriage is a party… many other cultures do not feel this way at all. The party is more like the cherry on top, a celebration but nothing to do with marriage.

  9. AnnaDenise

    May I add to everyone’s comments, that it’s really just more practical to get married once you have kids and a house. You already know you’re committed anyways (so, no risk there) and it only makes sense then to get married for financial reasons. But that doesn’t mean you can’t throw a gezellig feestje and have a romantic wedding. 🙂

    • Mariam

      I don’t know. A male Russian friend (who resides in Latvia) said something once at a work lunch that I think sums this all up: Marriage is the highest expression of love…the fact that someone loves the other person enough to wish to marry them/commit and share their life with them…. I paraphrased and he said it better, but love and marriage coming first makes sense. Anyone who has been in a relationship can probably agree that there is nothing worse than not knowing where you stand in someone’s life, in a relationship. DTRing, defining the relationship, is a term ofter used in the US. Defining the relationship lets both people know where they stand and sets expectations. Life without any expectations would be unbearably light. I’m not saying that the relationships above lacked expectations, just that there are different expectations that come with a formal declaration of commitment (marriage). I personally do not want to be with someone for 10 years and have two children before I know what level they fully feel for me….whether or not it’s the highest level of love possible (i.e., my male Russian friends definition of marriage). Otherwise,if you wait around for years waiting to hear it, and you don’t, what do you do? By then it’s too late to get out. And I do wonder how many people propose after 12 years and two kids, because, heck, they might as well at this point? I think having the marriage proposal come first let’s you know where you stand from the beginning of a relationship and it’s a very hopeful way to begin a home and family. A 10 year trial sounds like the stuff of science (and even then that’s long!), not the stuff of the soul.

      Plus while this arrangement of delaying marriage may be better for the man and woman, is it better for the children? I am not making judgments, but think it should be considered. Here in the U.S. many children that are born to unwed parents have been studied to have poorer developmental outcomes.

      I give Dutch women credit as they are more patient than many of their counterparts in other nations. So they deserve to be giddy about a proposal, because they finally received the highest expression of love, and the feeling do security that comes with it, that they deserve.

      • Gemmy

        I do not think you have to be married to be at ‘the highest level of love’. You do not have to declare your love for each other in front of everybody, you can just trust each other and let your significant other know that you love her/him very much. I really do not see the difference in saying yes in private instead of getting married (when your partner goes with you to family celebrations and stuff, and you do all the same things that married couple do it is pretty much the same right?). I think that probably when in the US a couple is not married they are more likely to be less stable than a couple who is married so maybe the poorer developmental outcomes (of the children) with non married couples comes more from that the couples are less stable and not from the fact that they are not married. In the Netherlands it is not as important to be married, but having kids is still a big commitment, and the couple usually only haves them when the are in a stable relationship (I am sure couples in the US think of the same things, but they are just married more often when their relationship is stable), of course ‘accidents’ or ‘presents’ (as my mother called my youngest sister) happen and than the strength of the relationship will define the probability of problems (originated from the parents of course, some problems you simply can not avoid) in the youth of the little one.
        Also there are different ways than marriage to regulate your relationship by law (not sure if that is a correct sentence). You can marry, but you can also have a registered partnership, which is almost the same as marriage (the difference is that 1. you do not have to annul it in court when you do not have underage children and both partners agree on the practical consequences, 2. you do not have to say ‘yes’). Besides that you can also sign a cohabitation agreement where you can make agreements about the cohabitation (like the share of the household costs and the distribution of possessions when the cohabitation ends).

        (not to be offensive) I do not know if your relationship is that good if you need to have a big party and be married to feel secure and loved. The love and security should in my opinion come from the little things in everyday life and not from one (really happy) day.
        It is not that I am against marriage, it is a beautiful thing to declare ones love to each other, I just do not think it is necessary.
        To clarify a lot couples (I think most couples over 35) are married in the Netherlands, but I think the view of it is different. Dutch people see it only as a celebration of their love, while you maybe also need it to be fully recognized by your partner (do you see it that way?).

        I hope I was not rude (if I was, I blame the dutch directness 🙂 ), and explained the feeling of most of the dutch people (well, at least the people who I know) regarding to marriage right and clear here.

        Kind regards of a young dutch woman

      • Maya

        Lol, unbearably light? I’m like the women the author describes and have been with my “boyfriend” for nine years. The day we got together the sun shone a little brighter in my life and that is still true today. We have a mortgage (a big one, we couldn’t leave each other and move away even if we wanted to ;)), four cats, one child and no formal commitments in terms of contracts or marriage. In the end, what is marriage? Is it love? We have love. Is it commitment? Trust me, if you heard him snore at night, you’d understand my commitment for the last nine years. Is it trust? I wouldn’t want a man anywhere near my children – much less part of their DNA – if I didn’t trust him completely. I would even go so far as to say that trust is the foundation of our whole relationship. We could screw each other over in a big way, since we have a very informal arrangement. But I know he won’t, he knows I won’t.

        Marriage isn’t love. Marriage is the formal arrangement of love. Don’t mix them up.

        But would I love a ridiculously expensive party to shout out our love and share it with friends and family… you betcha!

        (As for my four year old daughter, she does not have a “poorer developmental outcome”; in fact, she’s ahead of her class. Marriage does not by definition equal happy kids. Parenting skills, a secure environment and good models do.)

      • Intermittante

        What’s a greater commitment than having kids together and sharing a mortgage? Marriage doesn’t really add more responsibility. It’s just a difference in perspective.

      • Douwe

        That’s a fair statement but from the perspective that marriage is the ultimate declaration of love. I’m not saying that’s wrong because if that’s the case for you, then it’s absolutely true. For others though, that same perspective may not hold true and the relationship can be defined perfectly without marriage. Maybe for them, buying that house together is their personal ultimate expression of their commitment to each other. Certainly having planned children together could be their way of saying that they are absolutely committed to each other and their family. It’s just a matter of defining ones perspective of something and finding someone that shares the same outlook and goals in life. It’s impossible to say one way is right/wrong, good/bad, or better/worse than another when completely different values work for completely different people.
        I for one plan on marrying first, I know others with families that don’t plan on marrying at all, and still others that will marry when they are older and have established families and lives. I couldn’t say one route is better than the other, but I know plenty that are married, have no kids, don’t own a house, and are completely unhappy in their relationship but will never leave because the expectations of maintaining a marriage based on vows and feelings that don’t seem to hold true for them anymore. Seems silly to me. It’s almost like some people will commit to living with each other for the rest of their lives without actually experiencing living their lives together in a true form.

      • Maartje

        How is marriage a bigger and clearer sign of commitment than the fact that someone wants to have children with you? Mix their DNA with yours? A child is a bond that ties you until your death and cannot be divorced.

      • Anouck Green

        Patient? I’m a Dutch woman married to an American man, and I certainly wasn’t waiting for him to propose. Matter of fact, I was perfectly happy being pregnant with our second child when he did. I actually thought getting married was a waste of money. But since I loved him, I humored him. We had a house together, we already had a kid together (with another on the way), and we were already in a fully committed relationship. Nothing changed after the marriage.

        I think it’s a little sad that you think a person can’t be secure in his/her relationship without a marriage certificate. It’s nothing more than a piece of paper, with some financial benefits attached to it. It says NOTHING about a person’s commitment.

      • Martin

        However, as a male Dutch, I considered that (trying) to have kids was the largest commitment Of my life. A step not to take lightly. And a step that cannot be undone, one cannot divorce ones children. So this commitment was far bigger than a marriage vow and a big party.

        So we have three children, a nice house, and yes, we are not married. When I asked my wife recently whether she would prefer a marriage over a trip with the kids to the States, she preferred the latter.

    • Non-Dutch person

      What I don’t understand is that there is a samenlevingscontract that does basically what marriage does, and people do that pretty easily, but then why not just get married if you both love each other and are committed to each other anyway? You don’t even need to throw a party or make it fancy if you want to keep things simple or because of financial restraints. Then 10 or 20 years down the line you can still do a renewal of vows or just throw a big party if you do want that but were limited financially before, no? I understand marriage isn’t required to be with the person you love and start a family, but it does protect the members of the family (requires more commitment because there is no easy way out = couples tend to fight for their relationship more = children in a 2-parent household which is ideal) and that is why most governments promote it.

      • Esmée

        A samenlevingscontract is a misleading term. Most of it is about what you do when you split up again. It defines all property of the persons involved. But you can write a samenlevingscontract any way you like. A marriage obligates you to take care of each other. Give you ownership of everything together, gives the father automatic parental rights, makes you heirs, and so on. Een samenlevingscontract is opt in, martiage comes with everything unless you do prenuptials.

        I don’t know why people who have it all still get married. Seems like a nonsensical emotional money drain to me.

  10. SherryTomato

    More subject for your blog: stroopwafel (treacle), kroket and frikandel (croquette and meatroll? Idk.) They are all Dutch snacks. 😉

  11. Jules

    There really is no need to get married, as long as you don’t have kids or a house together. That’s the rational part: the contract of matrimony is only useful when you reach that level of intertwinedness. But indeed: there’s even less of a reason not to throw a great party once you do!

  12. iliana

    If the ‘Dutch way’ is ‘to do things differently’, then I am more Dutch than anything else 🙂
    I never believed marriage contributes in any way to the development of a relationship – married or not, if you love each other, if you commit to each other, if you are happy together – that’s it! The rest is a piece of paper. Sadly, in many countries that piece of paper buys you peace of mind in many financial ways – insurance issues, tax breaks, security for the child, serious illness, etc.
    If in the Netherlands the infrastructure is such that I can avoid marriage – I would do so! Never mind that I have been married already twice (in different countries)…so, I think I did my share of weddings. They are beautiful, and very special, and there is something very powerful about exchanging vows in front of people….however, that’s about it. On another note – divorces are even more expensive and emotionally taxing than marriages…then why risk it 😉 Just be together and be happy.

  13. Anna

    Seems to me like the dutch are actually Swedish 🙂

  14. Inge

    I’m a bit confused by this post–I know plenty of people in Canada who do exactly the same thing: get married long after kids & house etc. have become part of their life. It seems pretty universal in the western world in my experience. It’s even funnier here in someways, because most women still stick to the tradition of having their father “give them away”–a tradition that boggles my mind at the best of times.

  15. Ryan Barrett (@radicalbyte)

    This is more Amsterdam than it is Dutch. You just need to come to Barneveld and the surrounding area to see the opposite effect.

    Oh, and I’ve noticed this much more in Sweden/Iceland than in The Netherlands. Heck, it’s pretty common in the UK too.

    • Kat

      Well, Barnevelt basically lies in the bible belt of the Netherlands, so it’s not surprising it is the opposite there. I happen to see the phenomenon in both the middle and south of NL, it’s not just Amsterdam.

  16. Evad

    There is a simple (legal/financial) reason that couples -that want to marry in the Netherlands- wait for so long. The marriage process in The Netherlands includes a contract that connects the partners, they even stay connected after divorce (in Dutch: partneralimentatie).

    It could happen that the most earning partner has support the ex-partner for 12 years on a monthly basis by ‘giving’ the ex-partner over 50% of his/her salary…

    • Lynne

      alimony (spousal support) and child support exist many places

    • Stella

      12 years is the maximal time. How long must be payed by the richest parntner, depents on the length of marriaged time.

  17. Roland

    I’m married with my freedom. Ain’t no better partner.

  18. Gaetan

    I think it is pretty much an European thing, people first get a kid and see how it works before getting married.

    People getting married nowadays are from a generation who grew up in a time when divorce became widespread and that the church (be it protestant and catholic) started losing influence.
    Marriage has come from a necessary step toward getting a child to a nice to have thing you do to prove your love to each other.

    And getting a divorce isn’t as easy as it seems, better be sure before taking the big steps!

    • Angela

      ¨first get a kid to see how it works before getting married¨ Why would anyone do that??? I think culture or not, people should see if they work, can afford and WANT to provide, love stability and care to a child BEFORE they have one.

  19. A Touch of Dutch blog

    If you’re in a new relationship with a Dutch man/woman, do not expect a marriage proposal any time soon. I really love your blog, by the way. It’s fantastic!

  20. Hank Prinsen

    Dutch are not always very romantic.During our study, my girlfriend and me just agreed om getting married after we finished. And so we did. I never sat down om my knees for a wedding proposal but amlmost 20 years married very happy anyway 🙂
    PS: the wedding itself was quite romantic. Don’t forget to visit my hometown Giethoorn when in Holland:

  21. Marjy

    please write about bachelor parties!! its so funny

    • Blackfoot

      Bachelor parties are so non-Dutch!!! The Dutch have just started having them because they like copying the Americans (aka what they see on tv).

  22. Sam

    Can someone actually teach me Dutch, please? I would really love it. I can’t find anyone who will teach me.

    • Tom

      Your question raises the question, do you mean you’d like to be taught dutch, the language or do you want to be taught how to behave like a dutchie? If the language, well.. I’m sure you should be able to find a teacher somewhere (unless you’re in the arctic circle somewhere) else if you meant how to behave like a dutchie,.. I’d say you’ve got all your study material right here on this blog ;P

  23. draske

    I am Dutch and currently engaged. The generation of my parents where young in the 60’s. Looking and people of my generation, almost all their parents got married after knowing each other for a short time and then quickly got divorced. It was not uncommon when I was at school that 70 % of the children in the classroom had divorced parents.
    Maybe that is just my experience but I see that many people of my age are extremely careful with engagements, seeing the results of a divorce first hand. At least that counts for me.

  24. Lynne

    It’s an interesting phenomenon. Let’s be real, sex and marriage changed in the entire world once birth controll came about. The only social motivation remaining is the church and God.
    Most of my Dutch in-laws are married because they are Christisn, and the non practicing in-laws have too, but have divorced. It was surprising to see the Dutch women get excited about our wedding. They thought it was terribly romantic. Now I see why. We had a simple Christian marriage, very nice and not costly. Outside spiritual context it’s almost pointless, but society and children benefit greatly from marriage, and that matters. You can’t avoid problems and pain by avoiding marriage, but you can delay maturity. 🙁

  25. *Marieke*

    For a young couple nowadays what is the most important?
    1. Have a good steady job or a dependable income.
    2. Buying a nice and comfortable house together with both their income.
    3. Get everything legal on paper, which includes will and registered partnership.
    4. After several years living in comfort and go on expensive trips and holidays, you start saving money.
    5. With the saving money part, you also start considering having children or even start having them.
    6. When the kids are a little older you need to move to a bigger house, have 2 cars and all kinds of hobbies…

    Nowhere in this story is marriage needed. Marriage is for people who can afford it and have to much money to spend. That is, if you do a conservative marriage. There is also the option of going to the townhall on mondaymorning and just get it over with.

    Of course there are the more conservative regions like the north of The Netherlands or the Black Belt, where they do it the old fashioned way. But they do everything the old-fashioned way there.
    I do really believe that people who have only been in those parts have no objective and true view of the “evolved” and “modern” parts of our country.

    I really like this blog, but I would love it if with your name you also have to write where you’re from. It would make so much difference reading comments from Dutchies here :).

  26. Christina Kooistra

    I already knew this when I went over there for vacation, my bf told me I would meet some guy that would want to move back with me to the states and marry me and give me children… I told him lol it isn’t like that over there. My dad told me a lot of people just live together over there and don’t marry. If I did meet someone though I would try to move over there I loved it! IDK about the cold winters though :/.

  27. Jess

    I don’t see the big deal. My husband and I lived together for over seven years before we got married. We agreed no children until we were ready for marriage. Weddings are time consuming and stressful, not to mention it costs quite a bit. You really want the relationship to work if your going to go through all that and you never really know a person until you live with them, so Dutch people sort of have the right idea I think.

  28. AVW

    This whole “cultural” phenomenon of having babies and sharing finances before marriage continues to baffle me. The supposed “practicality” of it makes no sense. In my mind, one needs to be committed forever before mixing incomes and bringing children into the world. What happens if you have a child and then decide it won’t work?!?! Isn’t anyone concerned on how the children will be effected. I believe that marriage is such a serious decision that it is important that people go through with that process before bringing more humans into this world who could be damaged if the parents change their minds. To me, this has nothing to do with saving money or religion. You don’t need a wedding to get married, so you can forego that cost and just pay for the certificate. I agree that you don’t need a certificate to “prove” your love, but I am damn sure that you wouldn’t get that certificate if you were slightly unsure…yet you will have babies?? hmmm…

    • IvA

      @AVW, I think a lot of the Dutch people don’t need to be married to feel committed to each other. A lot of Dutch people think having children is the biggest commitment and marriage is just a ceremonial thing.
      As for “What happens if you have a child and then decide it won’t work?!?!”, look at the average divorce rates in most countries.
      Being married doesn’t stop people from breaking up, so I don’t think you are selling your kids short by not being married.
      Married or not, you just have to be really sure about your relationship before you start having kids.

    • Angela

      I have to agree with you, if you have doubts why have children first??? Also if you can not afford a wedding why are you affording children but as you said a marriage is not costly a party is and if you do not want the party so be it. Flimsy excuse to not commit. For me if you can not commit to marriage (nothing to do with religion) and make me a part of your family I have no reason to live with you and bear children with you.

    • Saskia

      It’s not necessary. Most young people who decide to live together sign a samenlevingscontract which is basically a marriage license without the marriage. You’re recognized as legal partners and have the same rights and obligations as married people. A lot of young Dutchmen choose this option, because they come from divorced parents and only see problems when they think of marriage.

    • Linda

      You can’t be committed without a piece of paper and a party? – seems rather narrow minded.

  29. Angela

    I want to add…
    Maybe the Dutch do not understand marriage the same way many other cultures do. But it is strange for many. I find it a bit unromantic, and very much unpassionate way of looking at marriage. When my Dutch husband and I were engaged so many Dutch people asked why are we getting married! I did not like the fact I had to defend my choice. I had never had anyone say that to me except a Dutchie btw, So I would turn it around and state why not get married. most of the Dutch stated it was just a piece of paper. Well I do not agree, marriage is a commitment, it is you marrying into a family and you partner as well. It means family to me. If we can not be sure of that then I can not be sure of a child for goodness sakes! I mean if you can not commit due to as some stated finacial loss possibility etc you already are worried it will not work out. That is just strange to me. But not to matter in the end culture is culture there is not any right or wrong as a whole but for individuals there is. If many see it as strange than you have to accept you are different but I am not saying you are wrong. IT is just wrong for me and many others.
    With my Dutchie he knew, no marriage than no us. Pretty simple… we are happy and married.

    • Ju

      Most Dutchies of my generation (I’m from 1977) have no idea how much marriage means to people from abroad. For us, it’s a confirmation of an already existing bond between two adults (and therefore nice, but unnecessary 😉 ) not nearly so much about (connecting the extended) family. Nor do we feel as strongly that the family is the place where you build and express you deepest values. Added to this, Dutch people feel it’s not appropriate to ‘shout about’ personal feeling in public, or about drawing attention all to yourself and we’re always suspicious of possible ‘fake’ emotion. Unfortunately, this is quite the opposite of what marriage means to people from other cultures: all about becoming part of a group of people that is your true home. We just don’t get it, I’m sorry to say 🙂 Considering what it means to you: best wishes on your marriage!!!

      • Angela

        Thank you Ju, I have been married now 7 years. I have a question I know you do not represent all Dutch views, so I ask yours.
        How do you feel about the family of a partner? Do you think the Dutch are mostly about the immeadiate family and not so much the rest? Kinda loners? Just curious. My culture family is very important on both sides once married we become one family. Not so for the Dutch?

  30. Eveliene Ward

    I was surprised to see the term ‘engaged’ (verloofd) used. The Dutch don’t really celebrate getting engaged – it’s a pretty low-key affair, usually there is no traditional engagement party.

    There is also not a ‘diamant engagement ring’ tradition. Instead, at the most, the wedding band is worn on the other hand. Which leads to another phenomenon: protestants wear their wedding band on the left hand when married (and right hand when engaged), Roman Catholics wear their wedding band on the right hand when married, and on the left hand when engaged. So, for most of the time you can see a person’s religion by the wedding band. I believe this is typically Dutch…(happy to be convinced otherwise)

    • Angela

      I noticed the ring custom, never knew why and yes I do think it is mostly a Dutch thing.

    • Taco D

      You are right, but have the left/right reversed. Protestants wear the ring on the right hand when married, Roman catholics on the left (and the other way around when engaged).

  31. Angela

    Want to add… why this fear of FAKE, I hear this all the time. How does one show the are for real if they can not show emotions with actions? The fake fear is beyond my scope of understanding.
    Also weddings can be showy thing especially on TV, but it is NOT how all people act at all. Most wedddings are a party to celebrate not to show off.

  32. Miss R

    Hmm … this might be the exception to the rule but it sure puts a dent on my previous perception of the Dutch being reliable.

    I met this 28 year old med student while on holiday in Amsterdam. He was polite and ‘blunt’ which was a refreshing change for me. It also gave me a bit of a rush because I am after all, 10 years older than he is. My holiday ended, I went back home to the US, where we continued our courtship via email and Skype. He told me he had a ticket on hold for him so he could come visit me here in a few months.

    I did have little things that kept picking at the back of my mind … like why did he have to hang up all of a sudden when his college roommate got up in the middle of the night and why was he always walking the dog when he called. With that last one, he’d be standing outside his place, freezing while talking to me and when I’d ask him why he doesn’t just go inside, he’d say his ‘roommate’ had people over for a study session.

    I searched and searched online until I finally found a couple of profiles on Facebook … one his, and the other, of his young Romanian wife. I sent a message to his wife via FB and I haven’t heard from him since.

    Again, this might be the exception. Married young, has no children and a cheater. Even the Dutch are not immune to this I suppose.

    • Angela

      You will always have dishonest people in any culture. He was just a jerk who happen to be Dutch 🙂

  33. cathy

    my bf is a dutch, its really true that they don’t believe in marriage. well i don’t condemned him for what he believes in, we are unofficially engaged (he didnt ask my hands yet from my parents 😀 ), he did promised me to propose and give a ring (idk if how long we’ll he make me wait) anyway, he would always told me he wanted to have a baby, but every-time i would answered him (let’s make sure we are able eg.financially wise) then one day, he told me every friends of his are having or expecting babies, and he wants one and asked me. that’s the time i frankly told him, i wanna be married first before having one .(I’m not black mailing him) its about real commitment and how is he committed (how does he shows it through marriage, that’s for me). he doesn’t believe in marriage but told me that he if it makes me ease and how he can proved his love and how commitment he is, he’ll do it. but no pressure, we are enjoying being together just we have to postponed having baby. i think its more of cultural thing for me (how i brought up) but neither of any couple married or not its all about your CHOICE! in life there’s really no assurance.
    very informative in anyways 🙂 take care

  34. Merel

    I love this blog and I told my boyfriend to read some stuff and who knows, maybe it would help him understand my culture a little. Most of the things I read here also really depend what part of the Netherlands you’re talking about. There is already a big difference in mentality between the South (below the rivers, as we say) and the North of the Netherlands and the islands for example.

  35. Peter

    Dutch marriages seem to be very unromantic. The arrangement seems to be more as a vehicle for sharing costs and bringing even taller children into the world than to create a special bond between two people. Perhaps this is related the the pathological inability of the Dutch to flirt. Having lived in France where flirting is a way of life which gives a life a real zing for both parties I was very disappointed to discover that most Dutch don’t have the first idea about flirting. In fact try it with a cloggie and you will probably get a filthy look or even abuse. Their loss.

  36. emiel

    u got the wrong end of the stick i think

    by law it used to be that living to gether by law was the same as bieng married

    now that changed that not so long ago and to get the tax reductions and other shit ( u need to be married )
    so most marry now just cus its cheaper in the end

    u forget over 40% of the dutch are atheiest and most of them see a wedding as a religious thing :P)

    love is about u and your partner not some pice of paper

  37. emily

    Why i couldnt expect a propose from my dutch man soon?? Dutch guys dont believe in marriage?? Why dutch guys arent romantic? *so confuse*

  38. Fence

    I think there is a lot of confusion here between the words “marriage” and “wedding” OP seems to be talking about delaying the wedding (the ceremony/party) not delaying the marriage (legal commitment). From the description given, these people are already married (they are partners legally bound to each other) they just put off the wedding. This is common in the US as well. Poorer people (or just starting out young people) will get married legally, but wait years until they can afford a big wedding.

  39. fed_up_gf

    Hmmmm… I wish I had read this looong time ago because I have been with my Dutch man now for nearly 5 years and he hasnt popped the question. He always says marriage is just a piece of paper. Sometimes I do feel worthless or not good enough 🙁

    • Anouck Green

      Don’t. He’s just being Dutch. I’m married to an American man, and the ONLY reason I’m married is because he wanted it. I would have been perfectly happy living together with our two kids. Marriage IS just a piece of paper. It has nothing to do with his commitment to you, one way or another.

  40. Eva

    My boyfriend and i (both dutch) have been together for nearly 20 years. We do not get married, because to us it is ‘a piece of paper’. With or without marriage, we will live in the same house, watch the same tv, sit on the same sofa, sleep on the same bed. In fact nothing will change about our lives. We have been together for better and worse. We know how important we are to each other. That ‘piece of paper’ will not change that. And as mentioned before: marriage does niet mean you are commited for life. You can get a divorce.

    Concerning being added to the family, well my love and i are part of our families. By our love and commitment to each other. Not from one minute to the other ( e.g. “I do” ) but by love and concern for all of the families well being.
    Having said that, my brother got married 4 years ago and i see my parents behave diffrently to my in-law as a person and to her side of the family. I have not figured out if this is because of the person she is, or because of the “i do”. Asking my parents directly they answer my observation is not true…..

    So my question is why does that ‘piece of paper’ make a relation between two people more commited or valiable than the relationship i have? And yes it seems that it is to others….

  41. JA

    The real question is: Do the marriages last? Do the committed relationships (sans marriage) I think in America we have such a consumer mentality that, when the going gets tough, it’s easier to leave the relationship than to work through the problems. Are there any studies that compare the divorce rate of the married couples to the break up rate of those families who are living together?

  42. africanagirl

    I think it is wrong to wait half your life, have a string of kids then get married..marriage should come early because it is morally right and as well no one feels used and tossed aside!

  43. Nicky

    In my opinion the fact that Dutch people marry often after they already have had children etc. has a lot to do with Dutch society being much more accepting of co-habitation than for example the US or Australian society. There is no stigma attached to having children out of wedlock. Dutch society in general is much more accepting of different kinds of relationship e.g. same sex marriage. Having lived in Australia for many years it still amazes me how conservative people are here even compared to Dutch society in the 1980 (when I left The Netherlands)!

  44. Nerner

    Think about it, a divorce costs more than a Diamond. -De Beers advert

  45. jo

    as two foreigners living in NL, we got married after buying a house and deciding for a baby – looks like we did it the Dutch way. The reasons we decided to tie the knot was that, towards the end of my pregnancy we went to the city council to ask, what papers do we need to prepare for the upcoming baby, and a gemeente employee advised us to simply get married, for the sake of the legal paperwork. For us having a house and a child were the commitments, and signing the marriage papers, which we did one Wednesday morning, wearing our jeans and t-shirts, was just a pragmatical decision.

  46. Paula Doctor

    Having children before marriage would have been condemned when I was living in Holland. the whole society has drifted away from God and so anything goes if it is “practical.” You say it doesn’t really matter, but it does. Believe me, it does.

  47. Jolanda

    Sorry I don’t really agree with this. I know a lot of Dutch people who did it the old fashion/normal way: living together, married, kids and some of them got animals after all that. And yes with a few the kid came as a suprise but they got married not long after that happend. Maybe it is the area where I come from and that they do it different in the West of Holland

  48. alongfortheride2015

    I find it very very unfortunate to look at marriage as the Dutch do. When I got married I had toe explain why I wanted to marry to many Dutch, and I did not like that, but I did it because their idea of marriage well just sucked. Just a piece of paper they say… Nope. My idea of marriage is far more complex than that. It is all about family to me. I marry my husband, his family and he mine. The legalities mean nothing to me, we can have that with a partnership agreement here in NL. And the way they celebreate marriage is a bit of a bore to me. Not a dress up affair, I had to explain what RSVP means and what no jeans mean… it was not black tie but the Dutch will wear jeans and a tshirt to a wedding if yo do not express other wise and I did so. I got shit for that too. Hell it is my day and dress respectfully dam it. I love much about the Dutch but their idea of marriage… never. First come love, than marriage and that is family!

  49. Esmée

    I really still don’t see arguments for marriage here exept emotional or personal ones. So it is not strange for me to be asking why get married because I just don’t understand. I will never get married. Commitment, love, security, extended family, I have it all. I have papers, a will and contract so I’m good.


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