I honestly can’t remember what it felt like not to know what life looks like in the Netherlands. There are certain unique aspects of the country, and only something you can truly understand if you have experienced it for yourself.
This article is mainly for you lot out there who decided to move to the Netherlands from your home country. However, I bet you fellow Dutchies can relate — whether you’ve stayed there or moved away!
1. Delicious snacks, yet a healthy lifestyle
The second I arrived in the Netherlands, it was immediately noticeable that almost everybody was in shape! My first thought was, “well, everything must be healthy”. How wrong I was.
Stroopwafels, bitterballen, frites en fritessaus, kibbeling (I know, I know, it’s fish, but it’s battered!), croquettes, cheese, appeltart, poffertjes, and hagelslag (because why not eat chocolate sprinkles in the morning).
Some classic bitterballen and mustard. Image: Pixabay
Then, of course, there are the amazing Christmas/New Year snacks, like oliebollen, chocoladeletters, speculaas, and kruidnoten. I could go on and on.
I’m not going to pretend I haven’t binged on any of these. My partner and I must have eaten about 20 chocolate letters last year, just because we can.
But what’s the best way to combat all of that? Biking! The Dutch do it so well. The bike lanes make it safe and easier to cycle around — unlike places like London (which frankly can be dangerous as hell).
It makes you get out by either cycling or walking to work, the shops, or anywhere really, even for no reason at all, other than just enjoyment.
2. A learnable but still challenging language
Immersing yourself in a different language is an experience in itself. This is especially true if you’re trying to learn Dutch. It honestly took me months just to master the “chhhhhh” sound, like clearing your throat, as I’d never had to do it before.
That is unless you’re moving to Amsterdam, in which case you might find more people speaking English.
Going to a shop was scary at first, not knowing what the labels said and having no idea what the shop assistant was asking me. It’s really rewarding when you finally get your head around some of it. Just make sure you master, “Sorry, ik spreek geen Nederlands.” 😉
3. A new perspective on traditions and culture
Depending on where you have lived in the world, many of the Dutch traditions will surprise you. For example, what happens over the Christmas period.
Forgive my ignorance; I assumed that most of Europe celebrated Christmas the same. I had never heard of Sinterklaas before moving here.
For those of you who may be reading this intending to move here and have no idea what I’m talking about, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands by steamboat in mid-November from Spain.
He arrives with his Zwarte Piet assistants (yes, it’s a heavily debated tradition — let’s not go there today). The official Sinterklaas celebration is then the night of December 5 to December 6. Christmas Day is sometimes still celebrated, but it’s not the main gift-giving occasion.
Why is this cool? For me, it’s because celebrations start early and that excites me for Christmas day also, because it involves all the delicious food that I would never have had before if I had never lived here.
It’s all a much better way of doing things, as Christmas Day itself isn’t ALL about the gifts, which I think can sometimes happen in other countries. Who can complain during a longer festive period?
4. Stunning great outdoors (but also great city life!)
I honestly don’t know what I’d take photos of if I didn’t live in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a very picturesque country. Whether it’s walking along the canals of cities like Amsterdam or biking through the tulip fields in spring, there is always something nice to look at.
Beautiful forest walk in the Netherlands. Image: Carmen Monge/Supplied
Then, when visiting cities like Rotterdam and Eindhoven, you get an appreciation for architecture and modern living if that’s your thing. In general, it’s just a beautiful place to be.
5. Work-life balance is key
Apart from living in the Netherlands, working can also be different. People tend to work fewer hours here than in other countries and value home time as much as work time.
The pay and, therefore, the standard of living tend to be better. In fact, the work-life balance in the Netherlands is among the best in the world!
6. Often more liberal approach to law
Another difference (depending on where you are in the world) is the law. As we all know, cannabis is decriminalised.
Where I’m from, cannabis possession alone can carry a prison sentence. People buy from backstreet dealers, who usually grow their own cannabis in attics. There is an absolute zero tolerance for cannabis, and it is even classified as a class B drug (not considered a “soft” drug).
What has my experience in the Netherlands taught me? Different drug policies can work — but it’s also definitely not without its faults either.
7. Easy to travel and explore
The Netherlands is a small country, meaning that it is so easy to travel from one side to the other.
Say what you will about train costs, but the fact that the ticket cost is the same whether you buy it two months away or 20 minutes away, means that you can travel where you want, when you want and not get caught out with extortionate prices.
I’m used to having to book three months in advance for a specific time for a single-day trip and still paying ridiculous prices.
Waiting until the day can set you back hundreds, even if the journey is a couple of hours. The Dutch system is definitely not without its faults, but it means that everyone, in general, can travel a lot more.
Also, being sandwiched between Germany and Belgium, and being within adequate driving distance of France and Luxembourg, means that if you wanted to go further afield, it’s possible within the same day (but why would you leave the Netherlands anyway?)
Are you in love yet?
In the Netherlands, you’ll live in a world with delicious Dutch treats, rekindling your love of cycling and the great outdoors. Your camera and phone will go into overdrive at all the beautiful things to capture.
You will immerse yourself in traditions that you may not have known existed. You will experience a country with a different way of doing things, different laws, different work and spending habits — overall, you’ll become more knowledgeable on what works and what doesn’t. (who doesn’t love healthy debate?)
Aren’t we a lucky bunch?!
How has living in the Netherlands changed you? Tell us in the comments below!