I landed in Amsterdam Schiphol all glittery-eyed and raring for a new start in a beautiful new city. Call it newcomer’s excitement, naivety, or sheer ignorance, but I have so far only been able to come up with ways that Holland is infinitely better than the UK.

Of course I miss pints being the standard unit of beer measurement, and as a West Country girl of course I miss vintage-matured cheddar cheese and ice cold cider. But that’s it… really, it is!

And so: flip the UK the finger, side-saddle the back of my fifty euro bike, and let me pedal you furiously through some of the pros, advantages, and utter gifts that come with living in the Netherlands.

1Exhibit A: bikes in the Netherlands

Cycling is second-nature here. Image: 1681551/Pixabay

Of course this made the list. Because it’s the best damned thing about living in Amsterdam. I used to have a bike (a hideously heavy thing I had to hunch over like Gollum to ride) and it sat neglected and staring longingly at me the full year it lived in my flat in Liverpool. I didn’t ride it once.

Why? Because cycling in UK cities is like a hellish nightmare on wheels. If you’re not risking death by car bonnet, you’re tackling heinously steep hills which bully you into getting off and pushing; the ultimate walk of shame. You also arrive at your destination dripping with sweat and looking like you’ve just jumped out of a plane.

Here — no no no — in Amsterdam, you swan around in your work attire, never breaking a sweat and perhaps even sneakily catching up with a friend on WhatsApp as you traverse a busy crossroad. You own that road. You lord it on that bike. Cars and pedestrians are second class citizens, mere peasants to you. You’re in charge and you get drunk on that power.

2Exhibit B: rent

Yes, I mean it. Now I can’t speak for other countries because, from what I have heard from other people, they find the rent in the Netherlands very expensive. But compared to the UK, well that’s a different story. To live on a houseboat in Amsterdam Centrum I pay the same rent as I did for my flat in Toxteth, Liverpool — one of the cheapest cities in the UK. I won’t even begin to compare to prices in London — the mind really does boggle!

3Exhibit C: liberal drug laws

smoking weed Amsterdam coffeeshop
The Netherlands is known for its liberal drug laws. Image: Abuzer Van Leeuwen/Supplied

Now, we’re getting a bit political here but it is definitely worth acknowledging! This is a perfect example where the phrase “give people an inch, and they take a mile” does not apply. With marijuana on sale in the controlled environment of coffee shops, do you think there are 13 year old kids shotting weed and whizzing around delivering to customers on their Halford’s mountain bikes? I think not. And that’s certainly prevalent in the UK.

People in Holland are given an inch and — generally of course — they don’t take too much, they don’t smoke too much, and they don’t drink too much — the British lads holidays do enough of that for everyone!

4Exhibit D: bar snacks

Forget scampy fries and pork scratchings, forget the packet of hand-cooked Tyrell’s sea salt and cider vinegar crisps open on the table for all to share, because Holland wins this one. How? Bitterballen. Don’t know what bitterballen are? Well you could describe them as scotch eggs, minus the egg, with whizzed-up stew in its place.

But that would make it sound foul. So, I will let this American fella who burns his poor mouth explain and demonstrate the fried enigma that is, bitterballen.

5Exhibit E: Dutch honesty

The British are renowned for their “politeness”.  But what this really means is inwardly seething when someone pushes in front of you in a queue and resolving to audibly tut and sigh, but my god you will not spell it out for them.

It’s finding someone occupying your reserved seat on the train and deciding to stand for the duration of your journey, because you don’t have the heart interrupt their M&S Egg and Salad Cream Sandwich and turf them out. It’s having a busy, important and rude businessman shoulder barge you at 100mph, following which you spin around crying wildly, “Oh, I’m so sorry!”, despite being the innocent victim of a rhino attack.

However much I love this painfully polite aspect of British culture, nothing beats Dutch honesty. They say what the feel and they feel what they say, bro. And what a breath of fresh air it is!

What did we miss? What are your favourite things about the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Joyce Huis/Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2017, and was fully updated in September 2020 for your reading pleasure. 

29 COMMENTS

  1. I am so sick of reading stuff of Dutch people claiming to be direct. In a 4 year experience in the Netherlands, Dutch people are only “direct” a.k.a. not knowing how to approach people in a civilised way when they think they are right about something. When the Dutch individual is wrong or whatever, they everything but “direct” and curl into a ball and act all innocent.

  2. I am so sick of reading stuff of Dutch people claiming to be direct. In a 4 year experience in the Netherlands, Dutch people are only “direct” a.k.a. not knowing how to approach people in a civilised way – when they think they are right about something. When the Dutch individual is wrong or whatever, they will do anything but being “direct” – they curl into a ball and act all innocent.

  3. Six weeks? Wow! You’re such an expert!

    Rents throughout the Randstad are comparable to London. How is rent in Amsterdam in particular in anyway shape or form to be considered cheap?

    Leave the Amsterdam bubble for the provinces and watch the Dutch get drunk out of their minds and start fighting on the streets, just like the inhabitants of pretty much any northern European country. Go to Venlo, its hilarious, honest.

    The Dutch drug laws are so liberal if you’re caught with more than one pill at a Dutch festival you’re whisked off to a special tent where you have a judge and a lawyer who can fast-track prosecute you right there and then on the spot, liberally providing you with both a fine and criminal record in one fell swoop! http://www.vice.com/nl/read/mocht-je-op-een-festival-gepakt-worden-met-drugs-weiger-dan-om-direct-je-boete-te-betalen-245

    This Dutch directness thing is also a bit of a nonsense. Its not directness, its just being socially inept and it only seems to happen in Holland, i.e. not the wider Netherlands. As soon as you have a ‘difficult’ issue that might cause some offence or involves any suggestion of guilt on the part of the Dutch participant then they will close up like a clam and escape that situation asap. Try talking about institutional racism with a white Dutch person, you won’t see much ‘directness’ then. Conflict avoidance is the number one past-time in this country, why doesn’t anyone ever write about that?

    Sorry of this come across as a bit strong, its just we read about these fantastic ‘insights’ over and over again, when for the most part they’re just nonsense 🙂 I guess we should blame the editor for featuring articles written by people who have been in the country for just 6 weeks.

    • Hey! Thanks for the feedback! I’m sorry you feel it’s nonsense.

      Just to clarify, I don’t claim to be an expert – in fact, at the start of the article I say these observations could be ‘naivity or sheer ignorance’ of the true facts. I wouldn’t know, as you rightly pointed out I have only been here 6 weeks and am still learning about the country. I can only comment on my own experiences and observations so far, however, and so this is what the article is based on 🙂

        • Surely the actor Jeremy Irons has got better things to do than bully young journos? Why don’t you just skip off and revisit Brideshead for 6 weeks? Make sure you’ve been there for more than 6 weeks though before you make any comment on your experience. If you don’t there might be a clever actor there who has been there longer than 6 weeks, and knows all the facts, who will be able to show you how wrong you were about all the things you said and point out why you and your bosses should be embarrassed!

          I went to see a gig last night, but I couldn’t possibly tell you how it was because I didn’t watch the band play continuously for 6 weeks so I would probably get it wrong.

          Sorry if this has come across a bit strong its just that you sound like a bit of a “socially inept” Dutchman. I guessed you were a Dutchman because being socially inept “only seems to happen in Holland”. Either way you seem like a bit of a tosser, or should I say a fluff person.

          • Yeah you’re right, sorry I was being a wanker, the internet is full of us.

            At least Ms. Brady is getting things done.

            Toodle pip.

          • Dutch direct talking!
            Yes, its very direct.
            A 54 year old female buying Rotterdam film festival tickets and trying to get information about any discount opportunities…..young Dutch girl selling tickets takes the first option for student card discounts but then looks at the female and giggles, well, we have student discount but that doesnt applies to you obviously anymore.
            The female smiled and so did her 32 year old son.
            Pretty direct.
            Or young Dutch guys pushing through any waiting queu who ever stands in front of them, they will jump over and wont say sorry or even notice you standing there.
            Or young Dutch female drivers on motorway- so fucking angry, aggressive drivng……no idea why.
            I definetely prefer not so direct British saying, u ok luv? alrite darlin?

  4. Totally agree on the comments about rent! Coming from Denver, Colorado, a 2 bedroom apartment went for 1600 dollars per month (included nothing and that was on the budget side of things)… here we have an entire house (3 stories, front and back yard) for 855 euros per month… to me that’s insane!

  5. Fun to read all this…
    Dutch people are direct? I’m dutch, but far away from direct as in at least 90% of the people here.
    Perhaps u can call it sarcastic with a peace of truth that actualy no one wants to hear, cause you will feeling screwed in matter of ways when it’s about you. That’s pretty much the directness of dutchies :’)
    About the rent, yes its very expensive in big cities. But hey, you don’t have to live there, you can search something outside the city. Half the costs. Btw, 3 story high home with front and backyard, ofcourse € 850 but not in a big city, sounds like a very small village in the middle of nowhere. The price of studio in Amsterdam is more like € 500 (probably higher) and all u have is a room without bathroom, toilet or kitchen. That you have to share with your fellow students.
    A normal 3-room (2 bedrooms and 1 livingroom) appartment in Amsterdam is also € 1500 a month incl nothing, depends where it is. At some places in Amsterdam the rent will be higher than this for less.
    So yes the rent is very expensive here.

  6. Hi I totally agree with this article. And I have been living in the Netherlands for 11 years outside of the bubble of Amsterdam. Yes the Dutch are more direct than the British and yes the Dutch do drink in more moderation than the British. Even the drunk ones. But I do still miss Bristol and the westcountry. ?

  7. The Netherlands is infinitely better than the UK in every possible way. I wish I was never born in the UK and I must have been possessed to have spent 12 years of my life in the most overrated city in the world; London. I have been living in Amsterdam for four years and I have never looked back 🙂
    It’s funny how I immediately feel depressed as soon as I set my foot in London when visiting family and friends.
    Sorry but there is no comparison; The UK is a shit hole.

    • That’s funny, I’m Dutch and I feel depressed as soon as I set foot back in The Netherlands! I think it’s a matter of what you’re used to. If you live somewhere your whole life, you’re bound to have negative experiences there, find it boring and be more critical of the place, basically because you know it ‘inside out’. Moving somewhere at a later age is like a new start and an adventure, which will automatically make you feel more positive about it. I think neither England or The Netherlands is better than the other. Some things are better in NL, some are better in England. Which is ‘better’ is in the eye of the beholder, I think. I like England a lot. Sure it’s not paradise, but where is? I’d swap places with you any day!

      • Hear ye, hear ye, I agree! Luv the meat pies in the UK and hates the haring here; luv the dutch directness and didn’t like at all arrogance of some Brits; luv the Yorkshire country side and hates the flatness here…so all in all, you can’t really luv nor hate a country in its entireness.

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