7 ways life in the UK is drastically different to life in the Netherlands

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

These Dutchies would look a lot more relaxed if they were sipping a cuppa tea. Image: William Fortunato/Pexels

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. 

READ MORE | 7 tips for moving from London to Amsterdam

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.

Laughing through the pain of these prices. Image: ELEVATE/Pexels

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. 

Image: Dutch Review/Canva

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

This casual approach to cycling would not be found in the UK. Image: D.Travnikov/Depositphotos

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.

READ MORE | How to get from Amsterdam to London: the complete 2021 guide

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!

Feature Image: 12019/Pixabay & Free-Photos/Pixabay 

Chloe Lovatt 🇬🇧http://globeshuffler.wordpress.com
A British native, Chloe has a love for other languages and cultures, having lived in Spain before moving to the Netherlands. She is keen to explore the Dutch landscape, cultural spots and — the most important — food! After being here for a few months she already has developed a mild addiction to kibbeling.

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  1. What does the typical Dutch insurance bill even look like? I’m a Brit, but live in the US (and have since I was an early teen). I just had some medical issues this year, and have already had to pay about $4000 out of pocket (there will be more). AND I have to pay about $1200 a month for insurance. Are the Dutch insurance bills… less bloody awful?

    • In the Netherlands you have a mandatory health insurance which on average costs about €125 per month per per person of 18 years and older. On top of that you have a fixed amount of €385 per year own risk or deductibles. These are normally the only expenses you have. When you get medicines prescribed you can get charged tiny amounts for certain medicines, but when you’ve paid the amount of €385 you won’t be charged anymore for the rest of that year. No matter how many more medicines you get prescribed. I personally have had several operations in hospitals, but I never got any bill and as far as I know you never get any bills for a stay in the hospital unless you used extra services like using the Wi-fi or watching TV. But I have to point out that insurers have contracts with hospitals. If you decide to make use of a hospital that has no contract with your insurer, it’s likely that you’ll receive a bill, based on the difference on what the hospital charges you and what your insurer covers. So if you had a €20 000 operation and your insurer only covers $18 000, you’ll be responsible for the remaining €2000.

  2. @Neil Ramsay
    We are planning to move to NL at the end of this year. From my own research its between €100 an €120 per person per month. But remember the income tax in NL is astronomical. So if you are a high earner without health issues you can get rich in the US, and probably afford the very high standard of private healthcare the US has to offer. But for lower earners their quality of life may be considerably better in NL due to strong socialist policies. One needs to look at the whole picture to get a sense of lifestyle. What you are willing to sacrisifce. Hopw that helps.


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