Let me guess, the quantity of beer consumed and life expectancy are the first things to come to mind? (the Brits not coming out favourably in either category). But how does life in the Netherlands compare to life in the UK? What are the big differences between living in these two nations?
At first glance it may not seem like these two old empires have much in common, but scratch the surface and you’ll find they’re old allies for a reason. But what are the big differences between the two rain-soaked countries?
It’s not the abolition of the royal family, that’s for sure.
Politics aside, there are a few clear differences to anyone who has lived in both the UK and the Netherlands. Here are just seven of them!
1. British politeness vs. Dutch directness
You knew this was coming, so we’re going to start off with the obvious. The Dutch are direct, and the British are not — in fact, they’re overly polite.
As a Brit, even I know that the British are far too polite and should just say what we mean (passive aggression is our second language, after all 💁♀️ ). But at the same time, you could also argue that Dutchies could soften the blow of their honesty a bit.
I think it’s safe to say there is a happy medium between the both. I will always be an English gal and apologise for my existence in every email — but living in the Netherlands has also shown me the value of being upfront.
2. British tea-drinkers vs. Dutch coffee kings
You’ll never change my mind that tea is the answer to everything. Ploughing through work? Going through a break-up? Need an excuse to have a biscuit? There’s nothing like a good cuppa to sort you out. But while the British are casually sipping on tea throughout the day, the Dutch are chugging tea’s adrenaline-infused older brother — coffee.
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Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good cup of joe but the Dutch drink it at all hours. It’s not unusual to have a Dutchie to have their third or fourth at 5 PM. How do they even sleep?? And don’t insult a Dutchie by offering them milk. That is literally referred to as a “coffee wrong” (koffie verkeerd).
3. A proper pint vs. een fluitje
Say goodbye to your bank balance, because drinking in the Netherlands is expensive! Okay, the plummeting of the pound hasn’t helped, so the Dutch aren’t fully to blame. Sadly this, and paying €3 for een fluitje will have you longing for a good old English pub.
But there is something that needs to be addressed. Dutchies, why are your drinks so small? The Dutch like to talk a big game about beer, but there’s a reason it’s called een biertje. The serving sizes are tiny — at least in a Brit’s eyes.
Where are the pints?! And I mean a proper pint, none of this 250ml fluitje nonsense. And if you do find an “English” or “Irish” pub, you’ll be looking at €6 for a pint minimum. This is probably better for your liver — but has got me missing the pie and a pint for £7 at my local. 😭
4. Britain’s mountains vs. the Dutch lowlands
Well, the Netherlands is called the lowlands for a reason. It seems like a pretty obvious statement, but the UK actually has hills and mountains. This makes cycling considerably more difficult, but hiking considerably more fun.
It’s the butt of every joke, that the Dutch don’t know what a hill is, but it’s kind of true. Limburg is the only part of the country that has some kind of elevation, but it’s basically in Belgium.
In the UK, a varied landscape is something you take for granted and even loath when you have to run for a bus, but you do start to miss the white cliffs of Dover. After all, unless you live in London, or maybe Birmingham, you’re never too far away from some picturesque countryside.
Now, I’ll hold my hands up, the Netherlands does have us trumped when it comes to beaches. We have to put up with the stoney sea-side compared to the sandy shores of Scheveningen.
5. The NHS vs. Dutch health insurance
It’s a British tradition to complain about something yet actually be grateful for it — like the NHS. This was one of the biggest differences between the UK and the Netherlands to get used to: the concept of health insurance.
Now, it’s not US level with people living in a tent to afford chemotherapy (yeah that actually happens!), but health insurance is an expense you have to consider when living in the Netherlands. Mandatory health insurance is a strange thing to get your head around as a Brit. At least the Dutch government is there to help by providing an allowance for low-income workers, but you still have to cover your “own risk” (policy excess).
Although it pains me to say it as a Brit, the Dutch health care system has its upsides. The waiting times are nothing compared to an NHS hospital. You will receive top-notch care — and rightly so because you’re paying for it (and might have a mini heart attack when you get your first insurance bill.)
6. British make-up vs. Dutch fresh faces
This comes as a cultural shock for a lot of internationals moving to the Netherlands. The Dutch don’t dress up (unless, perhaps, you’re in a student association, that is). They’re the reigning champions of smart casual, or just casual. That means minimal make-up, no heels, and only wear a suit if you’re an accountant or a frat-boy.
You don’t need a native to tell you that Brits love to dress up. Look to any episodes of Geordie Shore for reference. We use so much make-up, we call it “slap”. Now, I don’t personally subscribe to the Only Way is Essex dress code, but I like to feel like I’ve made a bit of an effort for a night out. I also miss the ritual of getting ready to go out on the town, putting on makeup, drink in hand while running in and out of your friend’s bedroom to try on all her clothes.
But don’t get me wrong, the Dutch have style, it’s just very understated. In the Netherlands, you would stand out from the crowd if you were wearing a fancy pair of jeans. Maybe that’s what you want — if so go for it!
7. Car culture vs. bikes ruling the road
It doesn’t take a genius to know that the Dutch are a dab hand at biking. The Brits, not so much. Mostly because biking in London — or any major city — is taking your life into your own hands.
In the UK, you can’t really live without a car because public transport is pretty naff. London is the exception to this rule, but try living in a rural county relying on a bus that comes once every hour, and trains that are in a permanent state of delay. Not only is public transport in the Netherlands is en pointe, but you can even bring your bike on said public transport or rent a bike on your travel card.
Yes, it’s cliche to say that the Dutch don’t drive, especially because it’s not particularly true. But how the Dutch can afford to drive when car tax can be as much as €200 a month baffles us.
The Dutch vs. the British: how we aren’t so different
Okay okay, it sounds pretty sappy, but it’s true. Despite all the ways that the UK is staggeringly different from the Netherlands, we still have a lot in common. The two countries have a long history of cooperation. We’re a fair match when it comes to a drinking contest, and we both appreciate some dark humour. 😉
All in all, it’s unsurprising that many Brits (like myself) have opted to move to the Netherlands. We are, after all, both rainy Northern European countries with an antiquated royal family.
What do you think are the big differences between these countries? Did we leave anything off the list? Tell us in the comments below!