You could say the Dutch are “early birds.” From what I’ve observed, they like their routines, they like to do things on schedule, and they like to do it early. For example, at my office, we work 9am to 5:30pm – literally.
One night I tried to work “late,” and before 6pm the manager came to my desk and asked me to hurry up and leave so he could lock up the office. Nobody stays late. People show up on time, work hard and efficiently, take thirty minutes lunch, and leave on time. Oftentimes, everyone leaves the office together in a group to catch the same train home (and similarly, they arrive together in the morning on the same train from Amsterdam).
The Dutch also have a habit of eating regularly and eating early. In my office, we all eat lunch together as a team every day starting around 12:45pm to 1pm (a normal time for me). But in my boyfriend’s office, lunch is from 12pm sharp to 12:30pm. He told me that some people go for lunch as early as 11:45 or 11:30am! Likewise for dinner, I’ve walked past restaurants at 5:55pm and seen people already being served their main course. I just can’t imagine how a Portuguese or Italian person would cope with that.
Shops also tend to shut very early; at 6pm on most days. My office is located above a shopping centre, and if you walk through it at 6pm, everything is already shut and the place is deserted. I never understood how these opening hours are compatible with full-time work. Perhaps that is why everyone is in such a rush to leave the office at 5:30pm?
On Saturdays place close even earlier (at 5pm) and on Sunday shops aren’t open at all (except for the first Sunday of the month, which is “shopping Sunday.”) On Thursdays, there is “late night” shopping and the stores are open until 9pm. I don’t think there are any 24/7 stores.
Anyhow, I best get going, it’s 11:45am and it’s time for lunch!