Why didn’t they tell me? A guide for visiting the Netherlands

I’ve been frequenting the lowlands for a good many years now, and when I first came over, I had little idea of what to expect. In this post, I am going to share with you the things that I wish they told me from day one.

Let’s face it: the Netherlands doesn’t come with a handbook, so read on for everything you need to know!

1. Casual is always okay

Generally, my wardrobe varies from a combination of jeans and a blazer, the occasional statement scarf and the need for ‘office dress’, which is some variation of a suit and shirt etc.

The summer will see me in the odd flowery dress too. So there is a lot of variation in my wardrobe, I can dress for any occasion.

If I’m going out for dinner or to the pub, I try to ‘make an effort’ and glam up a little, it’s just what we do here in England. In Holland, however, casual is always okay. You can wear jeans to literally any event or occasion.

group-of-international-friends-drinking-beer-and-laughing
Going out? Wear whatever you’re comfortable with! Image: Depositphotos

This is something I wish someone had explained to me from the start. It would have made my luggage much lighter to carry! I love my jeans and comfy shoes, this is not a problem for me if someone would have told me.

Another thing worth noting is that brown shoes will go with EVERYTHING in Holland. They are a fan of the humble leather brogue as am I.

This love for worn-out denim and soft leather handmade shoes is the backbone of what makes the Netherlands and I so compatible.

2. Everyone speaks English

They’ll tell you ‘my English isn’t very good’, but it is. They lie — it is better than you can imagine. What they think ‘isn’t very good’ is like Higher Level language to us. Even the people who say they don’t speak English know what you are saying to some extent.

The reason for this, in my opinion, is that many TV shows and films are in English, the business world negotiates in English too, and schools teach English to Dutch children from a very young age.

Photo-of-two-friends-at-bar-talking
Learning Dutch doesn’t have to be the first thing on your to-do list. Image: Freepik

One of my Dutch friends told me how much they enjoyed listening to the English people’s conversations on holiday and how they could openly talk about people at the adjoining table because very few people who aren’t Dutch speak Dutch. Cheeky right?!

3. They are too honest

Do you think you look a bit fat in that top? They’ll tell you. Are you questioning your actions? They’ll ask you to your face.

The Dutch are honest and direct. I admire them for that but take heed of my warning. There is no sugarcoating done on their behalf.

photo-three-colleaugues-talking-in-office
Get used to those direct meetings! Image: Depositphotos

I think travellers venturing there for the first time need to know. They will be honest with you and upfront about it. Have you overdone the perfume? Yep, they’ll point that out too. It’s great.

4. If in doubt…fry it

I thought we British fried random things like Mars bars and bananas, but it appears that the Dutch have taken it one step further from the humble Fish and Chip Supper and made fried foods one of their main delicacies: fried meat.

photo-bitterballen-things-the-dutch-don't-talk-about-but-should
The Dutch are good at fried food. Image: Pixabay

I’m quite free with my taste buds I’ll try anything, and my goodness, you need that approach over here. I think food and bonding overeating seems to be an important part of their culture.

The Dutch eat a lot, and considering they are all tall and beautiful, it goes against nature for all the fried food they eat:

  • Kroketten — Not my thing. I’ve tried them out and didn’t like them. I tried some that were homemade, and they were in a different league! Super lekker!
  • Frikandellen — These are good. I am more of a ketchup girl than a mayonnaise fan, but still, they are good.
  • Chips/Vlaamse Frites — Who does like chips? And they come in a paper cone, not Styrofoam. Their chips are leagues better than ours. Apparently, the trick is frying them twice. Please note that if you say yes to the sauce, they will pump a gallon of it over your food. I am a minimal-sauce kind of gal!

One of my English friends had never had mayonnaise with chips before…Amsterdam changed her! (see 1:29 on the video!) Vincent (John Travolta) tells Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) about the little differences regarding life in Europe — note the mayonnaise reference.

Whilst we are on the subject of food, let’s talk about Garlic Bread. Their version of garlic bread is not my version of garlic bread.

Again carbs, bread, and fried stuff is all they eat, but their version of Garlic Bread consists of a slice or chunk of baguette with an inch-thick slice of butter mixed with garlic on top.

One of the major things that put me off living in Holland would be the amount of weight I would gain!

I can’t look at too much-fried stuff without bloating up to the size of a house. I just couldn’t do it! Maybe it’s the cycling that counteracts it?! Yep, definitely the bicycles!

Have you experienced these Dutch phenomena? What would you add to a handbook for the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Maria Smith
Maria Smith
Born and raised in England Maria is a Dutch obsessive. Not just in love with the windmills and tulips her passion for all things Orange has spanned over 10 years. Proud feminist and campaigner, Maria works in UK politics whilst dreaming about eventually moving to the Netherlands.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. The casual thing really can not be emphasized enough, they wear jeans to weddings, funerals and more.

  2. Dutch honesty – a thing I read a lot on here by the way – apparently does not go for everybody. Maybe it’s because a lot of you never venture towards the east of the country, I’m not sure, but a lot of these articles seem to have been written with the western side in mind. Yes, we’re probably more honest than people from other countries, still, but there’s also a thing as “staying silent” which some of my family members and I tend to practice.
    I would rather die than outright telling someone that their overuse of perfume is assaulting my senses, for example. If someone were to ask me “does this top make me look fat?” I would probably go completely silent, contemplating whether or not they want me to be honest or just reassuring that they’re not fat…

    Then again, my social antennae are very badly developed. 😉

  3. This is just so worn down. There are blog posts from the 2000s even pointing out the same things. Yes the Dutch are direct. Yes they were casual clothes. So what? It’s time to move on.

  4. Dairy products, but I think you have to write a special handbook for them because they have a ton of different options of them, I’ve been here for a year and I couldn’t even try all of them ?

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