If you've never been to a 'traditional' Dutch birthday party this article probably won't make any sense.
Birthdays are celebrated in most countries, some more so than others. In the Netherlands birthdays are a big thing and whether you love them or hate them you can’t deny that they have a special place in the Dutch culture.
1. Shake hands with everyone present and introduce yourself
2. Find a place to sit in the circle of chairs
3. Round 1: coffee/tea with cake
4. Round 2: beer/wine with snacks, nuts etc.
5. Shake hands with everyone and take your leave
And whilst I am in no means suggesting that all birthday parties here are the same (they aren't) or that all follow the pattern above, in my experience there are quite a number of them that do.
(By the way, when we got to #4 above I discovered why my flatmates weren’t that welcome; it wasn’t that the hostess didn’t like them or anything like that, but they were Irish and she was afraid that they would drink all the beer).
Birthdays are greeted with enthusiasm in the Netherlands (how many ‘birthday calendars' have you seen hanging on toilet doors?) and it is often considered anti-social to ignore one’s birthday. Both friends and family are invited to the party. The Dutch form quite a individualistic society and once children have grown up occasions for meeting up with family members decrease for many to weddings, funerals, holidays and birthdays. Birthdays therefore become a big focus point for many families. Over the years I have heard many internationals give out about Dutch birthday parties and could write a book on all the stories I’ve heard. And whilst I’m not a huge fan of the traditional Dutch birthday party thing myself if that’s the way someone chooses to celebrate their birthday so be it, who am I to criticise.
No one is forcing you to go, if you don’t like them use the “sorry but I already have an appointment that day” excuse and don’t go. Whether you feel that attending such a party is painstakingly laborious or hugely insightful into the Dutch culture may be irrelevant. It’s their culture and way of doing things, not yours, so who are you to judge?