Dutch Language Blog

The Koopavond and Koopzondag Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in Culture

In the Netherlands, shops and stores are opened more and more on Sundays. There is a general trend in the world, also known as the 24/7 economy. However, as obvious as it seems nowadays for shops opening their doors on Sundays, you might be surprised why it is not in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has been a Christian country for centuries, which is the dominant factor for the whole debate. Christian ideas are entrenched in the Dutch culture, such as Sunday as the day of rest. It has long been that way, but in the last years that changed. The 24/7 economy also arrived here. This economy goes together with the freedom of religion, which rejects the sacred values of the Christian Sunday as only truth before the law. Now, I do not want to say that 24/7 shopping is a bad thing. It is quite handy that supermarkets are open from noon until 6 pm when you still need something, or when you and your friends decided to have a dinner on short notice on Sunday night. You should at least bring some drinks, and what can you do if you don’t have any at home? Yes, you buy some. So it also has its good sides.

On the other hand, it is a decay of how the culture in the Netherlands used to be. A compromise was introduced, the so-called koopzondag (literally “purchase Sunday”). Shops open, exceptionally, on Sunday. Another day like that, which is vanishing, is the koopavond (literally “purchase evening”). The idea is the same, just that shops are open until late in the evening, like 9 pm. Whereas normally, they close at 6 pm, or even 5 pm. Supermarkets have made the biggest move in this: they are open 8 am – 10 pm, except on Sundays. More and more, other shops follow, especially the national chains. Smaller, local businesses cannot sustain the koopavond this way. So even that tradition loses ground.

The Sunday has legally been exempted as a day for any shop to open in the Winkeltijdenwet (Opening Hours Act) of 1996. Now, exceptions to that are possible too. Certain branches are not included, and more and more warrants are given to shops under certain circumstances to exempt them. Municipalities have much say in this. They can determine if a certain branch can be open on Sundays. The prime example are the already mentioned supermarkets, which use this opportunity exhaustively.

Do not worry, however, about restaurants, bars hotels, and so on, the so-called Horeca (short for Hotels, Restaurants, and Catering). They do not fall under this law and thus can open on Sundays.

What way it will go, I do not know. Though I could imagine it will go towards more 24/7, and eventually the Winkeltijdenwet will be abolished. Jammer (a shame) or geweldig (great)? Let me know in the comments!


Hoog-Catharijne, a shopping mall at the Utrecht Centraal Station (Utrecht Central Station), offers winkels (shops) that are open 7 days a week, and likes to advertise with it too – which also shows how new it still is.

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Peter Simon:

    Hi, Sten. A nice one, but I miss mentioning factors like the people who have extra workload because of this system. What are their perspectives? How are they going out to take advantage of this move? Who’s going shopping if most staff in shops, supermarkets, restaurants, bars etc. are working. So who are the beneficiaries, or otherwise.

    To me, you also seem to over-emphasize the Christian factor. Most of Europe is Christian, but most keep the faith, even the customs associated with it a lot more than most Dutch (in Ireland, Eastern Europe, Spain for example). Few people observe the Sunday as strictly as some other religions would.

    I see this trend of longer opening days much less as part of any culture (or the losing of it) than an indication of the rush for customers and their money.

    Also, I think that your language is a bit dubious at times. What is your sentence about here, “However, as obvious as it seems to be opened on Sundays, you might be surprised why it is not here.” There is no subject except for “you” in this, so what seems to be opened, what is obvious – it is not a correct sentence. “.. as day ..” is missing an ‘a’, “I could image ..” should be ‘imagine’, “all-around the clock shopping” is also ‘vreemd’. Also, jammer.

    Kind regards,


    • Sten:

      @Peter Simon Hi Peter,

      Currently, supermarkets are the prevalent branch in the Netherlands opening on Sundays. By far, not all shops open on Sundays, so it can be seen like a Saturday – on Saturdays many people have their weekend off and go shopping. So the Sunday begins to look more and more like a Saturday, where many people have time, and only a relatively small group of people is working. Sp the beneficiaries are those that are beneficiaries on the other 6 days of the week.

      The workload is rearranged among the employees, so some that can or want to work on Sundays do so instead of on another day. However, the law regulates a double salary for employees working on Sundays, except for branches where you can expect them to be opened on Sundays normally, which is aimed at the Horeca. Supermarkets are not included anymore in the double pay on Sunday, because it became so customary for them to open on Sundays. For the religious part: Sunday as a day of rest originates in the Christian tradition. Other religions have other days, for example the Saturday, as day of rest. There are also legal rules on this. It can be granted that a Saturday is seen as a Sunday, to prevent religious discrimination.
      I hope that answers your question.

      Thank you for your criticism, I will have a look at the phrasing. It was clear to me, but I will change it then!
      The sentence you indicate specifically, has three subjects: “it” twice, and “you”. Taking it out of context does not make it clear indeed, but in context it can make sense. I will change it though, if it really is not intelligible.

      Coming to your remarks on the Christian factor: that is the reason why it is in place. As you correctly state, few observe the Sunday, and that is exactly why this act is crumbling.

      And the trend – well I would think it is part of the culture, of people’s habits, and if they accept these longer opening hours. Culture also involves “normen en waarden”, norms and values, and morals. Most definitely, those involve money, and where, when, how much, and on what people spend it. So even if this is, I can agree with you on that, a rush for customers and their money, whether people accept or reject this is a question of their cultural behavior.

  2. Miss Footloose | Life in the Expatlane:

    I’m Dutch and grew up in Holland, then moved to the US and on to many other countries. Even in the US I would usually not go shopping on Sundays because to me it wasn’t a fun thing to do on Sundays. However, it was great to be able to run out and get something if you really needed it. I remember visiting my mother in Holland and on Saturday she’d say, “Let’s check to see what we still need from the store today.” And I’d say never mind I’d run out tomorrow if we needed something. Forgetting of course that tomorrow was Sunday and the stores were closed.

    I think having the shops open 24/7 is the wave of the future in this consumer-oriented culture. We still have the choice not to go shopping.

    • Sten:

      @Miss Footloose | Life in the Expatlane Hi Miss Footloose,

      I really recognize that in my life – I have to do groceries for myself only, so I do not look much forward myself. Doing groceries on Sunday can be quite handy then indeed!

  3. irene leeuwenkamp:

    here in the UK we have had stores open on sundays for years and 24 hour opening too, i lived in dusseldorf for a while and couldn’t get used to stores being closed on sundays and closing at 4pm on saturdays, it does give workers a break but for people who work then do they shop? seems so much better having 24 hour opening and creates more jobs too!

  4. Alexandra Alexeeva:

    ..each time i come to the Netherlands, i remind myself about shops openning hours (especially, supermarkets, as sometimes forgetting to shop on Sunday means ‘coffe-and-cookies-and-cafe’ Sundays :)). I’m from Moscow, where 24/7 is a very popular system. With many people commuting to their work and spending 4-4.5 hours/day to work 5 days a week there is no other choice than have shops working 7 days a week and in the late evenings.. Also, very often, Saturday is busy with many activities (study, additional work for some, kids studio and education programs, cultural events, etc), so Synday is the only day left for shopping for a week.. Needless to say, it’s a specific of a country, city and family habits. When i come to a less crowdy town of only 400 000 at my mom location, i dont care if shops are open on Sunday 🙂 I can easily have everything done in a first half of Saturday 🙂