During the Golden Century, many visitors noted that
the Dutch valued three things above all: their children, their homes and
their gardens. This is still a family-centred country. The Dutch have
created a special kind of domestic life, which they call gezellig,
a home that feels cosy and enjoyable.
In both cities and rural areas, Dutch people have traditionally lived in small families. There are two words for family in Dutch. The immediate family of parents and children is known as gezin. This is the heart of Dutch society. The Dutch use a different word, familie, for the extended family of grandparents, cousins, and other relatives.
The tradition of small families began in the Netherlands
long before it became common in other European countries. The Dutch valued
children very highly, and it was felt that more attention could be given
to each child in a small family.
Houses in this crowded country have always been relatively small. Even today most people live in rowhouses or in apartments. Traditionally houses were compact because building on boggy or reclaimed soil involved sinking pilings deep into the ground. The structure on top of the pilings had to be kept light and reasonably sized, so many houses had shared walls.
Spring-cleaning is an important Dutch custom. Traditionally
the entire house was emptied once a year so the housewife could wash it and clean
everything in it.
Living close to their neighbours has made Dutch people value snug rooms and tidy garden retreats. Quiet evenings at home are treasured and family dinners are important.
The Dutch like to stay well-informed. Almost every Dutch household subscribes to a daily newspaper. There are four major national dailies and many local papers. One paper has been published continuously for almost 350 years.