So, what’s the big deal with living in the Netherlands?

I honestly can’t remember what it felt like to not know anything about the Netherlands. There is certain aspects of the country that are completely unique, 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 if you’ve remained or moved away and miss it! So lets get to it.

 1-Delicious snacks, yet a healthy lifestyle;

The second I arrived in the Netherlands it was immediately noticeable to me that almost everybody is in shape! My first thoughts were ‘well everything must be healthy.’ How wrong was I. Stroopwafels, bitterballen, frites en fritessaus, kibbeling (I know, I know, it’s fish, but it’s battered!), FEBO vending machine food like croquettes, cheese, appeltart, poffertjes, hagelslag (because why not eat that in the morning). Then of course there is the amazing Christmas/New Year snacks, like oliebollen, chocoladeletters, speculaas, kruidnoten…I could go on and on. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t binged on any of these. Me and my partner must have eaten about 20 chocoladeletters between us since they started selling them, just because we can.

So what’s the best way to combat all of that? Biking! The Dutch do it so well. The bike lanes make it so much safer and easier to cycle to places – unlike places like London (which frankly can be dangerous as hell). It makes you get out by either cycling or walking to work, or to the shops. Even for no reason at all, other than just enjoyment. Admittedly I had not owned a bike for about a decade before I moved to the Netherlands. I’ve somehow managed to cling to my very first bike I bought here, which will be 2 years next spring (someone please tell me how it hasn’t been stolen yet?!). It’s honestly one of the most refreshing things about the Netherlands and the best way to experience the country.


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, starting your life there, in which case you might find more English language (or Dutch friendly enough to speak in English).


Going to a shop was scary at first, not knowing what the labels said and having no idea what the shop assistant is asking you. It’s really rewarding when you finally get your head around some of it. Just make sure you master ‘sorry, ik spreek geen Nederlands.’ 😉

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 3-Traditions and culture;

Depending on where you have lived in the world, in my experience, some traditions surprised me. One was what happens over the Christmas period. Forgive me for my ignorance, but I assumed that most of Europe celebrated the Christmas period exactly the same. I had never heard of Sinterklaas before moving here. In the UK, the only big day is Christmas day itself, and nothing really happens until then. Cities put up the Christmas lights and it’s usually a huge event with a countdown and a famous person turning them on. The tree goes up 12 days before and then down 12 days after Christmas day.

‘Father Christmas’ comes on Christmas Eve night with his Reindeer’s pulling his Sleigh all the way from Lapland. Both the gift giving and celebration all occurs the next day on the 25th. I remember my mother wondering why I bought presents so early and I told her it’s better because of Sinterklaas deals. She responded with ‘what?’

For those of you who may be reading this with the intention of moving here and have no idea what I’m talking about – in short: Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands by steamboat in mid-November from Spain. He arrives with his Zwarte Piet assistants (yes, the heavily debated tradition, lets not go there today). From there, he travels around Dutch cities on (usually) his white horse. The official Sinterklaas celebration is then on either the night of the 5th to the day of the 6th of December. Christmas day itself is still celebrated, but it’s just not the main gift giving occasion.

Why is this cool? For me, it’s because celebrations start early and that hypes me for Christmas day. Also because it involves all the delicious food that I never would have had before, if I had never lived here. It’s all a much better way of doing things as the Christmas day itself isn’t ALL about the gifts, which I think can sometimes happen in other countries. Who can complain at a longer festive period?

And I haven’t even talked about NYE in the Netherlands:

4-The great outdoors;

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. Even if you have never lived here, you only have to log on to Instagram to see how many people are posting about it. Whether it’s walking along the canals of most of the Dutch cities, like Amsterdam, or biking through the tulip fields in spring, there is always something nice to look at. 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.


The Netherlands is quite pretty!


 5-Law and work;

Apart from living in the Netherlands, working can also be different. People tend to work less hours (Brits are workaholics), and value home time as much as work time. The pay and therefore the standard of living tends to be better. People in the Netherlands overall tend to be happier. Especially Dutch children, as in 2013 UNICEF found that Dutch children were the happiest in the world! You can’t argue with that.

Another difference (depending on where you are in the world), is law. As we all know, Cannabis is decriminalized. Why is this a big deal? Well especially if you’re an international, it’s always super interesting to see how things work in different societies. It makes you either a lot more open-minded as a person, or gives you another view on how different countries do things.

Where I am 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 on 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? A different drug policy can work – it’s also definitely not without its faults either. It’s great to have knowledge of different ways of living. I’ve wrote this one here, as it’s something that constantly crops up when I tell people I live in the Netherlands. People also find it really interesting when you talk about it, as more often than not, it’s a very different way of dealing with things than other countries. Knowledge can only be a good thing right? 😉



The Netherlands is a small country, meaning that it is so easy to travel from one side of the country to the other. This means that you can explore every corner of the country within the same day. Say what you will about train prices, 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 3 months in advance for a specific time for a single day trip and still paying stupid prices. If you wait until the day, it can set you back hundreds, even if the journey is a couple of hours. It’s definitely not without its faults, but it means that everyone in general is a lot more travelled.

Also, being sandwiched between Germany and Belgium, and being within adequate driving distance of France and Luxembourg, it 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?

So, how can I summarise how living in the Netherlands would change your life? You’ll live in a world with delicious Dutch treats, rekindle your love of cycling and the great outdoors. Your camera and phone would go into overdrive at all the beautiful things to capture.

Even more so if you use this to your advantage and travel a lot. You will immerse yourself in traditions that you may have 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)? Trying to get your head (or your tongue) around a new language and trying to work out what everything means. This can sometimes be a pain, especially when you can’t pronounce anything correctly AT ALL, but it is all part of it.

Aren’t we a lucky bunch.

How has living in the Netherlands changed you? Looking forward to your comments!

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  1. I also came to the Netherlands for 3 months in the Spring of 2016, and that’s when I decided that I want to make this my home country! I officially moved here three months ago, but have been coming to NL for loooong visits before my residency got approved in September.
    For me, two things stand out so far:
    1. The fact that as a child, I didn’t even know that a country called ‘The Netherlands’ existed!
    And then all of a sudden, for two years, it became the obsession of my life. Just the quaintness of the country, and the fact that systems here work much, much, MUCH better than in my country.

    2. When I heard my first Dutch word when I was visiting Amsterdam in 2014, I almost SWORE against the sound of language – like WTF is that sound you just made with your throat!?
    But now I am pretty fluent in the language, I understand everything my Dutch family-in-Law says now so I’m no longer left out of conversations (which has both its ups and downs, ha!)

    But yeah! Those are my two highlights that I could type out for now, but there are surely maaaaany more for me concerning my living in this little country below sea level!
    Thanks for your post by the way,

    Vriendelijke groetjes!

  2. Thanks for sharing!
    I believe the impact depends on different factors such as the time lived in Holland, circumstances, age, own origin and own culture, etc. I lived there 13 years. First two years as a student were not easy. Then I adapted and lived it fully. My years in Holland have absolutely been a gem. I will list the impact (in points) Holland has had on me or others close to me:

    1. It strips you off complexes, if you wish to survive the culture shock and differences and participate in the Dutch living. Adaptation to the Dutch culture trains and stregthens you. It transforms you.
    2.You learn to be assertive and love yourself more. You realize that politness can sometimes foster lack of courage and the Dutch environment pushes you to adjust your approach. You learn to say “No” without fear of social norms and take “No” for an answer without being affected emotionally. You learn to accept differences in opinions and not take expressions of opinions personally.
    3. You learn to dissagree with what you do not appreciate and express it defending your views with arguments rather than emotions. You learn to dissagree or participate in a debate focussing on the issue and not on oneself.
    4. For better or worse you learn to love rules or structure even though it is often said “Nieks moet” (= nothing is a “must do”).
    5. You learn to appreciate the sun more. You learn to not allow the rain be an obstancle in your daily life or love of life and what it has to offer.
    6. Life for some begins at 30, for others at 40. You learn to appreciate life as it is.
    7. You learn to get to know people by sharing a meal together. And you learn to do the same quite soon. In many cultures people do not invited to their home unless they know you well. In Holland you are invited to their house for a (simple) meal precisely because they would like to get to know you better. This is not about the food, it is not to celebrate the food or to celebrate you. This is a time to socialize over a meal cooked for you.
    8. You learn to love living and quality of life. In spite of wealth and consumption the society gives importance to enjoyment that goes beyond consumerism/materialism.
    9. Happiness and strength is often sought within. (You learn exactly that soft drugs are not the answer, as often is believed about Holland due to the reputation re. coffeeshops. The majority of who I have met that consume soft drugs are not Dutch. This is not coincidental.)
    10. It gives you a great opportunity to know other cultures besides the Dutch culture. You can have a great expat life or local life. Particularly the bigger cities offer more of this. The Dutch usually like to explore. You have an opportunity to learn and share.

    These are but a few ways life in Holland can impact one’s life.

  3. […] Shockingly, some people actually leave this little gem of a country. Once you have left there are certain things you will see, do or eat that will flood you with nostalgia for the land of stroopwafel and windmills. It makes you think that leaving the Netherlands should never be an options. Here’s just 5 of the millions of reasons you’ll miss living in the Netherlands. […]

  4. Trust me. I’m Dutch. Born here in 1989. And no one is living in this dream world ur seeing cause ur making it out to be like a movie. Which is complete BS. People here don’t get payed enough. Young people with zero background tends to get twice as much salary as those knowing what there doing working in that field all there Life to contribute. Just so they can get kicked out or make half the $$$ of a 20 years old idiot with zero experience. I can go on and on what isnt fair about this corrupt country of ours. It’s SUPER corrupt. But yeah, keep celebrating ur ignorance 😉

  5. While I do agree that the majority of people here don’t get paid enough, I do not agree that jobs are taken by young people. As a person who just came out of uni and in my mid-twenties, I can tell you that finding a job has been a nightmare. Most entry level position require a minimum of 3 years WORKING experience (because some companies do not consider internships work) and most of the time those entry level position jobs are taken up by people who are over qualified. This leaves young people like me in a very tough position where it is practically impossible to match the employers requirements.


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