Surviving Dutch airport customs

By Kate Sullivan


When travelling with your family or friends, particularly when you’re leaving the first day of the school holidays, there is a certain airport etiquette you need to adhere to. Be prepared to battle the crowds, especially at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam, as it can really resemble a dog fight.

When entering the huge glass doors and coming literally face to face with hundreds of others, you need to keep your wits about you. Hold onto your luggage and your kids and race to join one of the many seemingly endless queues to check in. Swiftly move through the crowds with one hand tugging on your kid’s shirt collar and the other manoeuvring the trolley of luggage that always has a mind of its own when it comes to direction. Don’t worry too much if you shove someone out of the way or run over a set of toes. It’s customary to pause briefly, because it was an accident and you are sorry, but quickly continue on when you remember you’re in a hurry and there’s no time for apologies and doing toe counts. ‘They’ll get over it’ you tell yourself.

When reaching your intended line, quickly scan those around you for anyone who may be momentarily distracted and may miss shuffling forward in the queue, and slip in front of them. When others have a go at you for pushing in, tell them that ‘no one was standing there!’. Even when it’s brought to your attention that you’ve jumped the line, it’s customary to stay there anyway. Do not under any circumstances apologise, or say that you didn’t realise and give the innocent person their spot back. This is not done! There may be a few heated words exchanged and surrounding people temporarily entertained by your encounter. This is normal.  

When the dust settles and the heat is off, this is the time to raise your eyebrow or give ‘the sign’ to other parties who may be travelling with you, to join your stolen spot in the queue. But remember the importance of subtlety. Other travelling buddies should casually stroll up besides you and enter into a gentle discussion before making it obvious that they too are joining you in the line, and you didn’t just run into each other and stop for a chat. When it comes up to your turn at the counter, end any conversation and leap onto the person behind the desk practically throwing them your passport and ticket. If you’re really clever… your travelling team can spread out and each join a different potentially faster queue and you can be guaranteed the fastest possible journey to receiving your boarding pass.

Another alternative could be to arrive extra early because you know the lines are going to be huge and wait patiently, however…this does not seem to be typically Dutch.