Even when it is nobody’s birthday, you are still confronted with birthdays every day! Most Dutch people tend to display their birthday calendar in the bathroom, in order not to forget anyone’s birthday. These birthday calendars only give you the dates. They are without days of the week and the year, so you can use them forever.
Presents are normally inexpensive. Guests often bring a bunch of flowers with them or some chocolate. A bottle of wine is also appreciated. The Dutch do not feel comfortable with people dropping in unannounced, not even on a birthday! Gift certificates are also popular because they are practical, They can decide themselves what to buy.
The invitation to a birthday party is usually after eight in the evening or in the weekend late afternoon. People will sit on chairs in a circle in the room. The more people come in the bigger the circle gets. In summer when the weather is good enough, you can also sit outside.
Congratulations: It is customary to congratulate not only the person whose birthday it is, but also their relatives and close friends. To say “Congratulations on the birthday of your brother-in-law” would be quite normal!
When you have arrived at the party. You will find an empty chair and you will be offered coffee or tea complemented with a piece of birthday cake. Later on drinks(with alcohol) will be served. These drinks are complemented with typical Dutch birthday hapjes(snacks) like: blokjes kaas(pieces of cheese, hamrolletjes met augurk(hamrolls with pickles) , gevulde eieren(stuffed eggs), plakjes (lever)worst(slices (liver) sausage and bitterballen. Normally the kids that are there have the task to go round with the plates with hapjes. After the first rounds of drinks, the guests have to get their own drinks. If you have a good seat and entertaining company next to you, you will try to stay put because the moment you will get a drink, your seat will be taken by another family member!
This of course is a very traditional Dutch birthday party. Nowadays there are enough young people that are horrified by these customs and they swear that they will never have a birthday party like that. Still, it is common and maybe you come across this Dutch phenomenon.
Even at work you are expected to celebrate your birthday.The custom is to bring cake/pastry for colleagues(your department) to enjoy over coffee. Colleagues will come over to you to congratulate you.
The pictures I used are from a photo article. Here is the link: http://www.upcoming.nl/zwoebe/3049/zo-zien-typisch-nederlandse-verjaardagen-eruit