I honestly can’t remember how it felt to not know what life was like in the Netherlands. there are certain unique aspects of the country, and only something that you can really understand if you have experienced it for yourself.
This article is mainly for you who decided to move to the Netherlands from your home country. however, I bet you fellow Dutchmen can relate, whether you’ve stayed or moved on and miss it.
1. delicious snacks, but a healthy lifestyle
As soon as I got to the Netherlands, I immediately noticed that almost everyone was fit. 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 in batter!), croquettes, cheese, appeltart, poffertjes, and hagelslag (because why not have chocolate chips in the morning? morning?).
Then of course there are the amazing Christmas/New Years snacks like oliebollen, chocoladeletters, speculaas and kruidnoten. I could go on and on.
I’m not going to pretend I haven’t bingeed on any of these. My partner and I must have eaten about 20 chocolate letters last year, just because we can.
but what is the best way to combat all that? riding a bicycle! the Dutch do it very well. Bike lanes make it safe and easier to ride a bike, unlike in places like London (which, frankly, can be very dangerous).
It really makes you bike or walk to work, the shops, or anywhere, even for no reason other than just enjoying yourself.
2. a learnable but still challenging language
Immersing yourself in a different language is an experience in itself. this is especially true if you are trying to learn Dutch. Honestly, it took me months to master the “chhhhhh” sound, like clearing my throat, like I’ve never had to before.
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That is unless you move to Amsterdam, in which case you might find more people speaking English.
Going into a store was scary at first, not knowing what the labels said and having no idea what the clerk was asking me. it’s really gratifying when you finally understand 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 during the Christmas period.
forgive me for my ignorance; I assumed that most of Europe celebrated Christmas in the same way. I had never heard of sinterklaas before I moved 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 on a steamboat in mid november from spain.
arrives with his attendants from zwarte piet (yes, it’s a hotly debated tradition, let’s not go there today). The official celebration of Sinterklaas is the night of December 5-6. Christmas Day is still sometimes celebrated, but it’s not the main gift-giving occasion.
why is it great? For me, it’s because the celebrations start early and that also excites me on Christmas day, because it involves all the delicious food that I would never have had before if I had never lived here.
It’s a much better way of doing things as Christmas itself isn’t just about the presents, which I think can sometimes happen in other countries. who can complain during a longer festive period?
4. awesome outdoor activities (but also great city life!)
Honestly, I don’t know what I’d be shooting if I didn’t live in the Netherlands. Holland is a very picturesque country. Whether walking along the canals of cities like Amsterdam or cycling through the tulip fields in spring, there is always something nice to see.
then visiting cities like rotterdam and eindhoven you will appreciate architecture and modern life if that is your thing. overall it’s just a beautiful place to be.
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5. work-life balance is key
In addition to living in the Netherlands, working can also be different. people tend to work shorter hours here than in other countries and value time at home as much as time at work.
pay and therefore standard of living tend to be better. In fact, the work-life balance in the Netherlands is among the best in the world!
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6. often a more liberal approach to the law
another difference (depending on where you are in the world) is the law. As we all know, cannabis is decriminalized.
Where I’m from, possession of cannabis alone can carry a prison sentence. people buy from underground dealers, who often grow their own cannabis in attics. there is an absolute zero tolerance for cannabis, and it is even classified as a class b drug (it is not considered a “soft” drug).
what has my experience in the netherlands taught me? different drug policies may work, but they are definitely not without flaws either.
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7. easy to travel and explore
The Netherlands is a small country, which means that it is very easy to travel from one place to another.
Say what you want about train costs, but the fact that the cost of the ticket is the same, whether you buy it two months from now or 20 minutes from now, means you can travel wherever you want, whenever you want. want and not get caught. with exorbitant prices.
I’m used to having to book three months in advance for a specific time for a single day trip and I’m still paying ridiculous prices.
waiting until the day can cost you hundreds, even if the trip is only a couple of hours. the Dutch system is definitely not without its flaws, but it does mean that everyone, in general, can travel a lot more.
also, being between germany and belgium, and being an adequate driving distance from france and luxembourg, means that if you wanted to go further, it’s possible on the same day (but why would you leave the netherlands of all modes?)
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are you already in love?
in the netherlands, you will live in a world with delicious dutch delicacies, rekindling your love of cycling and the great outdoors. your camera and phone will go into overdrive on 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 working and spending habits; overall, you’ll be more knowledgeable about what works and what doesn’t (who doesn’t like a healthy debate)?
We are not a lucky bunch!
How has living in the Netherlands changed you? Tell us in the comments below!
main image: depositphotoseditor’s note: this article was originally published in December 2017 and was updated in May 2022 for your reading pleasure.