Life as a lovepat in the Netherlands: 5 things I took for granted

It’s been a few years since I moved as a lovepat to the Netherlands, and, boy, it’s been an emotional roller coaster.

Even more so when you move for love and not because you were offered a shiny new job, as is often the case for most expats living in the Netherlands.

It’s been a very steep learning curve and uphill struggle — wait, who am I kidding? I don’t feel I’ve even made it halfway up the Dutch hill yet! Culture shock is far too real.

READ MORE | Coming to the Netherlands: 24 things to know and do if you’re moving to Holland

There are quite a few things I’ve learned about Dutch life and Dutch people since moving here, but, for now, I’m going to share five things I took for granted when making the move to the Netherlands for love. 

1. Being a lovepat would be the same as being an expat

Believe me, there’s a difference between being a lovepat and an expat. Image: Pixabay

The Dutch have a word for those of us who move not for work, but for love: a lovepat.

It sounds romantic, but in reality, the lack of a social circle is real. Especially in those first few months when you’re looking for work, setting up a new home, and not speaking the language.

My partner had lived in the Netherlands for a whole year before I joined him. He at least had some work colleagues to see every day, even if those relationships hadn’t cemented into friendships yet.

For me, I wanted to go out and meet people, but that meant travelling into Amsterdam as the majority of meetups took place there. Which was an 80 minute round trip via train every week.

I went and did make a few connections, but none of them lasted. Perhaps because they felt travelling the 80 minute round trip to mine every once in a while was too much, or they simply found it easier to connect with lovepats that lived locally.

My saving grace was finding a church to attend. I connected with people there. Although, 10 months in, I still struggled to follow the sermons as they were all in Dutch.

2. Finding work would be easy

Finding a job in the Netherlands as an expat isn’t as easy as eating apple pie with slagroom (whipped cream)! Image: Freepik

The first thing I wanted to do was find a job. Having taught English as a second language, I figured it’d be an easy transition from one country to another. But every country and culture is different, and English is widely spoken in the Netherlands already.

I had an advantage being out in the sticks, but the general consensus was, “why speak English? We live in the Netherlands, you should speak Dutch.” It’s a fair point. 

READ MORE | Why are the Dutch so good at speaking English?

When I moved to Italy as an expat I threw myself into my new job, work colleagues, and language classes. Being a lovepat, on the other hand, often means no work at the beginning leading to a very slow monotonous day.

So, I decided to reinvent myself. I’ve thrown myself into my writing, which was a passion I let fall by the wayside for a while, and now I can work remotely from home, the library, or even a little coffee shop somewhere. It means I can explore the Netherlands in the day, which combats some of the loneliness that is part and parcel of moving as a lovepat. 

3. Learning the language would be a piece of cake

Dutch is by no means an easy language to learn. Picking up Italian, some Polish, and learning enough Slovak to speak to my mother-in-law didn’t make me a language expert.

If you were someone who took German at school, then you might just about get by and make a connection between the two languages. I took French, and Latin languages did not help me here.

It is a case of persevering and taking it one day at a time. It really does help if you are able to make some Dutch friends, as they will speak to you in Dutch until you at least understand some of what they are saying to you.

That’s if you can make Dutch friends…which brings me to my next point.

4. Making friends would come with the territory

Making Dutch friends to go borrelen with isn’t as easy as it sounds! Image: Depositphotos

I’m a British-born Caribbean woman. Brits are notoriously polite (some would even say overly polite).

The Dutch, not so much. They are abrupt and brash and can come off as downright rude to those who, at the beginning (myself included), simply don’t understand that it’s just their way.

READ MORE | A Guide to making Dutch Friends

Also, it’s true that Dutch people really don’t appear to need more friends. It is often very difficult to break into Dutch circles, as the Dutch simply don’t feel like they need to invest in more friendships. Especially because the likelihood that an expat friend will move on in a few years is high.

But if you are living in a smaller town, like myself and my partner, making Dutch friends is a must as the expat community becomes little to nonexistent.

5. The Netherlands may never be your home (and that’s okay)

You’re in a different country, life is not going to be the same. Image: Depositphotos

It doesn’t matter how many places we move to; England will always be my home. I grew up there, my family are still there, and my friendships are there.

I knew I’d see less of my friends and family when making a permanent move, but I guess I figured a one-hour plane journey would be easy to do more frequently. I’ve managed to see my mum just three times this year, only one friend has made the journey to visit.

I have to realise that just because I moved doesn’t mean I could press the stopwatch on life in England. Life goes on. My friends have their lives to get on with, and my family get busy and forgets to call me once in a while.

Christmas is strange, as they’re the smallest Christmases I’ve ever had, and there wasn’t any traditional Boxing Day madness with the whole family. So I’m set on making new traditions with just me, my partner, and our new dog.

Yes, moving for love and being a lovepat in the Netherlands is hard. Many sacrifices must be made, and you take for granted all the things you’ll miss and how much harder it is to make friendships as an adult.

But, on the plus side, I never thought I’d embrace the cold, wet and windy weather and still be smiling whilst pedalling full speed on the fietspad (bicycle path). I’m embracing new adventures and taking the ups with the downs.

Are you a lovepat in the Netherlands? What did you take for granted when moving to the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in 2018, and was fully updated in December 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Aisha Brown
Aisha Brown
Aisha is an aspiring poet and author from Luton, England. She became a “Lovepat”, following her (not even Dutch), partner to the Netherlands. She now calls the beautifully underrated town of Hoorn home. When she's not falling off her bicycle or hunting down trousers for her petite frame, you'll find her in a vegan haunt, drinking Earl Grey tea, or musing museums. This British-born wanderer hopes to call the Netherlands home.

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  1. If it helps, only one of my friends visited during the first year I lived in the Netherlands. Sometimes they have to get used to you actually being away.

  2. So true, I can resonate with all your points. Somehow it is so difficult to establish the kind of friendships we made back home even though back in Singspore where I grew up and came from, I too made alot of friends including expats easily there; bot sure why it’s so difficult here to make and establish those kind of friendships here with locals. It takes time. The hardest for me is to find job indeed. What I have earned as salary and position became not as valued here.

  3. Spanish living in Cologne for a year before moving to the Netherlands as a lovepat. You’ve summarized every single thing I’m scared of even though I know it will happen. I try not to take anything for granted, maybe the Kroketten, but that’s about it. I wish you luck and tons of patience. If you ever visit Brabant, it would be great to have coffee or a cuppa tea!

    • Maria,

      I haven’t been to Brabant, so I look forward to exploring it soon. Lovepat life is hard but we grow and learn at the same time. You will ge used to to it. I enjoy the Kroketten too. Thanks for the offer of a cuppa, I may just take you up on that someday.

  4. Hey Aisha,
    I’m a british lovepat too! So much of this resonated with me. My work is tricky here so i’ve turned to creating more art while i’ve been here which i can also do at home. It can be abit lonely and Hoorn is super far away but if you’re ever near nijmegen or tiel then we can grab a drink or go round a museum if you like (i know a great bicycle one – sounds boring but i actually loved it!) ?

  5. I met my wife in Australia nearly 5 years ago /i was born in Perth to Dutch parents who immigrated there after the war i am 67 years old . My wife was travelling in aust when we met and over the years we got married and i have been living here for 3 years full time now
    I agree with everything you say it is very hard to learn the language and break in here and make your own friends mainly through the language barrier , i do have family here from my mothers side who is still in aust but they all pretty much live their own lives
    I find the Dutch are always in a hurry on the road in the supermarket doesn’t matter where on the train etc etc etc I don’t know what the big rush is here / i find most Dutch people are very friendly but because the language barrier very hard to make new friends ,they would sooner talk to people who know their language than struggle to understand someone new

  6. Those problems are the same wherever you move as a lovepat.
    I experienced that as a Dutch person in California.

  7. Eleanor,

    My plan is to see more of the Netherlands this year. I shall take you up on that offer if ever I am that way. I also have found work tricky and have branched out into Work From Home ventures as well. Success with the art and I look forward to that museum bicycle ride soon.

  8. Until now i didn’t even know I was a lovepat! I’m polish and the cultural shock was the biggest in the field of hospitality. After 15 years here I can count my dutch friends on the fingers of 1 hand; most of my friends are expats. Learning Dutch was also an experience. My first dutch friend told me she is not paid to tutor me in Dutch and we can talk in Dutch when I’m better at it. What has helped (I reccommend it to everyone who wants to learn the language) was an organisation connecting dutch citizens 50+ with foreigners. My tutor is now my friend and for 8 years or so we meet weekly just to chat.

  9. Im a Peruvian woman, hence, we love food, social gatherings and spending time with friends… So i really miss all that, specially food and friends, and now that its my first winter here…. I miss the sun and the day being longer, it really gets me when its almost 5pm and pitch black outside. I miss teaching, find it a bit hard to find my way to getting a teaching job here…. But anyways, i love my hubby and will just have to take it one day at a time and find things i will eventually get to love in the netherlands

  10. I recently moved to The Netherlands with my parrot from America this past June to be with my fiance. He and his family welcomed me and my bird into their home, and I’d say overal it’s been a very pleasant experience.

    I can understand the loneliness of not having any friends, and I definitely feel the loneliness and feelings of being ostracized due to the language barrier. Luckily, I’m an introvert, so the not having many friends didn’t bother me much at all. The language barrier sucks because I am not able to do the simplest of things like asking where something is at the grocery store or making my own doctor appointments. Having to depend on my fiance or his mom in those social situations really makes me feel useless. There’s also the anxiety in public of praying that people don’t talk to you; not only because you don’t like talking to people, but because you *can’t* talk to them!

    On the bright side, I’ve been able to make positive relationships with his family at home, and I feel truly loved by them. He has a little sister who’s 11, which I’ve never had one before, who sees me like her older sister and friend. We all hang out and play video games and go places. She’s fluent in English so there’s no problems with a language barrier and she loves to teach me Dutch and in turn I help her with her rekenen (math problems).

    Hopefully with time I’ll be able to integrate with the culture and language. At this point, I’m just taking one day at a time.

  11. Hi,
    I can relate to this article, I moved for love once to Stockholm where making swedish friends was a piece of cake and the second time we moved to the Netherlands where making friends is one of the most challenging things I have ever experienced in my life.
    And if you don’t live in Amsterdam as it’s my case it’s even more harder. But I wanted to say that you write beautifully, you should be a novelist, I really enjoyed every word you wrote.
    I’m m sharing this to my family and friends so they can understand me better (:.
    Thanks for putting in words how is it to be an love pat!

    • Thank you all for your lovely comments and sorry for some it’s 2 years or more since you wrote. Now dutch review don’t have guest writers but if any of you want to connect you can find me….4 years on still in Hoorn 😀
      Instagram @aisharebeccawrites

  12. Dear Aisha,
    I am happy to know that I am belong to at least a community in the Netherlands, lovepats. I think the most hardest thing that we havent been arriving here becauss this country was our dream destination. We are here because of the love. Hard to love my partner but at the same that hate the feeling that I have to live here. I was living here 10 years for 3 months and I have told myself I have never come back. And now I am here because of this cute clever perfect match dutchie. I am suffering to like this country. Other people who moved here because of the country or advantages what the country gives them they can keep themselves together. The lack of motivation of being integrated, I think I have to feel more for this country to be able to with my soul settle down. Love only your partner being isolated not able to connect to the country and people thats tough.


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