A snapshot of Dutch culture: Lunch

By Anni Reenpää

Food is tied to culture. That becomes apparent when you go to another country and realize everything is different from your home country. This photo reportage gives glimpses of everyday life in Groningen, coloured with radio music, cars passing by and noisy cafeterias.

Click on the audio files and dive into the different peoples’ lives in different jobs, enjoying their moments of rest.

Stroopwafel (traditional Dutch cookie) salesman Maarten Sijpkes

Maarten has a healthy shake at 12.


One striking feature about Dutch lunch habits is bread. “Ham en kaas”, literally translated “ham and cheese”, in itself means a sandwich with ham and cheese, without having to mention the word sandwich. Bread is a self-evident part of Dutch lunch habits.

Construction workers Nils Bakker and Bert Striesenou

Nils and Bert have bread and coffee at 9 and 12 o’clock.


Moniek Westerman, a Groningen-based nutritionist, recognizes the Dutch love for bread. “We have a habit that if we have a hot lunch, we won’t eat another hot meal later. Somehow in the Netherlands it’s not a part of the system. You only eat your vegetables once a day,” she says.

Florists Henk Van Der Veen and Merel den Boogert

Henk and Merel have bread at 12:30.


Doctor/Nuclear Medicine Physician Jan Pruim

Jan has bread, soup, yogurt and a smoothie at 12:15 in the hospital’s canteen.


The sandwich culture might be a result of desk jobs and busy lifestyles. Many see breaks interrupting their workflow, Moniek Westerman argues. This is not ideal, as the lack of a proper lunch means that you get more quickly hungry again and eat unhealthy snacks during the day.

Saleswoman in a vintage clothing store, Emma Schippers

Emma has bread and grapes at 12:30.


However, bread is a quick fix to hunger, especially for office workers or students, who cannot prepare their own meals during the day. Even Westerman, working from home, sometimes has bread for lunch.

“In theory I try to avoid eating too much bread. I have changed a lot. But ‘ham en kaas’ is okay and it’s easy. Cheese is quite healthy. We need the protein and the calcium.”

Take-away owner Andy Tsui

Andy has bread at 13:30.


Lunch means different things for different people, but some things bring us all together. A tight schedule and quickly prepared sandwiches are a common sight in Dutch food culture. Despite this, everyone takes the time to stop – however briefly – for lunch every day.


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