The Dutch have the reputation of being one of the happiest nations in the world. But how? Is it the cheese? The altitude? The godforsaken rain?

Having observed this rare breed of happy people for a few years now, I think I have uncovered that their secret lays in the Dutch mindset. Here is a Dutch guide to happiness but shhh — keep it just between us.

Dutch mindset: don’t get hung up on the details

If you’re like me and you feel like your life is a huge mess (even though you’re 100% the one that makes it so), you may want to take a leaf out of the Netherlands’ book.

The Dutch don’t mess around with insignificant details. The Dutch don’t get hung up on complications. The Dutch tackle issue after issue with poise and pragmatism.

This translates back to their incredible time management skills. Efficiency comes even before gastronomy in the Netherlands. If you want to save time and focus on your goals for the day, try the Dutch diet:

  1. take a buttered slice of bread
  2. add a slice of cheese
  3. fold it up

… and you have got yourself a sandwich.

Repeat as necessary with any topping variation; ham, another kind of cheese or another type of meat. And for dessert, treat yourself to a buttered slice of bread with hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) on top.

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The Netherlands and sprinkels are in a long and sugarcoated relationship ("Hagelslag korrels". Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hagelslag_korrels.jpg#/media/File:Hagelslag_korrels.jpg)
There. Didn’t that literally save you hours of your time? Image: TeunSpaans/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Dutch mindset: you do you

There is something both insulting and absolutely freeing in the fact that Dutch people do not care about you. You could wear feathers in your hair (and in fact, at least one Amsterdammer does) or decide to only eat kale for a month (though I strongly advise you to reconsider) and nobody will say a thing about it.

Do you know how Americans always exclaim “This is a free country!”? Well, the Netherlands is free-er. We’re talking about a place where weed is (semi) legal and prostitution is regulated. We’re talking about a place where you don’t need to be Dutch or to speak Dutch to be treated like an equal by the locals.

On top of this, the Netherlands has got to be one of the most accepting places in the world when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. This is really a come-as-you-are country, and the Dutch rightly take pride in that.

Dutch mindset: don’t make excuses

The Netherlands is a land for tough individuals. The Dutch do not faff around making excuses. Yes, it’s raining, and yes they will cycle for half an hour to get to the meeting/party/classroom regardless.

If the Dutch did let the dreadful weather bother them, they would never get anything done. They would only go outside for about 5 days in the year and they would hibernate from October to June. This goes against the go-getter spirit of the Dutch; sure, they will spend about 85% of their time complaining about the weather, but they sure as well aren’t going to let that ruin their life.

Dutch mindset: go back to basics

Again, nobody cares about you. Nobody worries about what you look like, so there is absolutely no point in dedicating any extra time to make your hair voluminous — which, to be honest, the rain will flatten that out in a few seconds’ time — or to wear perfect makeup. Well, unless you want to of course. Remember, you do you.

Chill. Don’t worry. It’ll be fine

The Dutch mindset in a nutshell? Chill. In the Netherlands, national celebrities don’t get harassed. Even the Prime Minister rides his bike because he is just like any other person.

An increasing number of high school graduates take gap years instead of jumping into studies they don’t feel 100% sure about. And if they do start studies they don’t like, no worries. People change their minds and don’t apologize for it. It is common to find 23, 24-year-olds starting their first year of a bachelor’s degree — and the age range doesn’t end there.

No pressure. Whatever experience one gets is good to take along on the journey. There’s no need to have it all figured out; just don’t take life too seriously.

Whatever the case is, the Dutch mentality is certainly an interesting one, that extends in all aspects of Dutch life. Be it with their lunch culture, their Calvinist roots or even their insistence on you paying them back for that 0.90 cents, there’s much to discover!

What do you think makes the Netherlands such a happy nation? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: Sasha Freemind/ Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2016 and was updated in September 2020 for your reading pleasure. 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Hagelslag is not a dessert, nor is bread with hagelslag. Hagelslag is a normal topping like cheese, ham, peanutbutter, etc.

  2. Actually I hardly know any Dutch student that started a Bachelor’s at 23 or 24 or took a gap year.
    Ageism us very very strong in The Netherlands. Typically you graduate from high school at 17 or 18 and with a degree at around 21. Someone who gets a PhD at 27 already gets the remark ‘aren’t you a bit old?’
    The pressure on graduation on time is rather high, because many employers will consider you ‘too old’ by the time you reach 30.

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