Whilst The Netherlands has a fairly relaxed view on end of life arrangements with the Dutch being open to choose whether they wish to be buried or cremated when they die, it is universally recognised, under Dutch law, that the Dutch will carry out their final arrangements, whether it is a burial or cremation, by the sixth day after death; with any death being registered within five days and any cremation taking place straight after a funeral.

A little more than half of the Dutch population class themselves as non-religious.  Of those that are religious, almost 25% of the Dutch are Catholic.

Despite the low percentage of religious beliefs in the Netherlands, the Dutch do hold values and traditions upon a person’s death to this day closely.

Planning a funeral in the Netherlands is considered part of everyday life in which children are involved and whole families organise their deceased loved one’s final arrangements.

Funerals and death can literally be seen as the Dutch go about their daily lives in the Netherlands, with some funeral homes offering funeral planning evenings, ‘walk in chats’ about funeral planning and unreal arrangements, information shops on death and dying, and touchscreens that can provide the public information around the clock so that they can be fully informed and plan their funeral as if it were an item on their shopping list.

Upon a person’s death in the Netherlands, the deceased is often kept at home for a few days whilst funeral arrangements are being planned and carried out.  Family members, friends and even acquaintances are often invited to the household at which the deceased is being kept, to pass on their condolences and sympathies to the deceased’s family and next of kin. 

It may be that, if viewings do not take place at the deceased’s family’s home, a particular room is hired, at a funeral centre of similar establishment, so that the viewings of the deceased can take place.

The Dutch culture remains that funerals can take place anywhere according to the deceased’s wishes, however, funerals are often an ‘invite only’ event, with the family of the deceased advising the attendees how and when they should participate in the funeral. 

Traditionally, when someone died at home, the Dutch covered their windows with white sheets to ward away evil spirits and married women that died would be dressed and buried in the nightwear she wore on her wedding night, with her initials being sewn into the cloth before the needle was broken in half and either buried or burned in a fire. 

These traditions are no longer in place, nor is coffee and cake being served at the wake after a Dutch funeral which took place historically.

Nowadays, funerals are often very personalised and take place in a variety of places.  They are ahead of the British when it comes to planning funerals in a modern way. 

Family-led funerals are popular in the Netherlands, with the Dutch saving money by doing much of the funeral planning and parts of the funeral services themselves.  The Dutch are more likely to use funeral directors as advisers rather than professionals actually carrying out the funeral arrangements or services themselves.

In the Netherlands, funerals are widely acknowledged as celebrations of life, with crematoria and cemeteries being welcoming for communities to come together.  The design and facilities reflect this belief so that people can meet there to relax together and remember the deceased in a more informal and warm environment. 

The funeral services themselves tend to incorporate the deceased person’s hobby, favourite football team, colour or music, whilst those attending their funeral are often seen to wear traditionally black or dark coloured clothing.

When considering where to lay the deceased to rest, cremation and the scattering of a person’s ashes is more popular, however, there are strict laws with formal permission required as to where ashes can be scattered.  Cremation might be popular due to the high cost and scarcity of burial plots in the Netherlands.  Whilst there are burial plots available, they are often leased by the Dutch at quite expensive rents.