While I always try to look for the positive in life, I will admit that a part of me has a hard time trying to turn not-so-great things around — an aspect that didn’t serve me well when I first came to live in the lowlands.
Honestly, I did not expect how many surprises awaited me. These are some of the things that, well, truly haven’t grown on me over time despite my best efforts.
Perhaps you won’t agree — and that’s okay! But remember it takes courage to be honest, even just for matters of opinion — and remember, you can share your opinion in the comments below. 👇
1. The Dutch’s terrible driving skills
This was quite a shocker to me. The preconceived idea I had about the Dutch was basically that they’re law-abiding citizens, with everyone following the rules, and no one dared to stand out for ‘thinking outside the box.’ And, oh boy, was I wrong. 😱
Let’s use parking as an example. I know parking doesn’t come easy for everyone, but the first 10 times I saw a car going directly over the sidewalk just so they could sneak into a parking spot without too many manoeuvres, I knew things were not quite like I had imagined.
The story continues because once the driver manages to park, it’s clear that they do not care much about tires (no matter how expensive they might be!) because they leave them perched precariously on the sidewalk gutter, and everybody knows that is an excellent way to preserve them. 👀
2. The smell of weed hovering in the air
The fact that the possession of marijuana is decriminalized in the Netherlands is forward-thinking. It means everyone is free to do as they please, and this all sounds very nice — until you find your nostrils invaded with sickly-sweet fumes when you turn a corner on your way to the supermarket. 🤢
When I go to the park with my son and he is happily playing on the swings or going down the slide, the last thing I want for him to smell is weed. As far as I know, smoking it in public spaces is forbidden, but that does not seem to stop many people (just another example of the rules being bent).
3. The Dutch approach to healthcare
This is one of the most contentious points for internationals in the Netherlands, but like everything in life, it depends on what you compare it to.
In my case, I enjoyed universal healthcare in Spain for free (which you pay with your taxes, obviously), but there was absolutely no extra health insurance necessary.
In addition, if you need to go to a specialist, you can just book an appointment without a referral: think routine gynaecologist checkup, paediatrician, etc. 🩺
When I arrived in the Netherlands, it was not easy to wrap my head around having to go to a GP for everything and, on top of that, only getting paracetamol prescriptions (Which I can buy from the supermarket, thank you very much).
Bottom line, I will never get used to the Dutch healthcare system, period.
4. The staggering cost of daycare
What is up with the cost of daycare in this country? 💰 Sure, when your child turns four, education is free and apparently awesome, but what do you do for the first four years?
Applying for childcare allowance (kinderopvangtoeslag) might help, but only if you qualify.
Also, what if you have more than one kid? I see families with two or three children running around and the only possible explanation I can think of is that they are all millionaires.
It is easy to see why almost no one makes use of daycare five days a week.
Much like a game of Tetris, you need to desperately find childcare for your 32 hour work weeks, padding it with a day where the grootouders (grandparents) can help out and, of course, make use of papadag (a day where the dad should take care of the kids). Without these extras, having children is simply not sustainable for the common middle-class family.
5. That darn Dutch weather
Obvious? Maybe. Still important? For sure! While different people have different standards when it comes to measuring the quality of life in a country, for me, weather plays a huge part in that process.
Although I don’t mind the cold, adding in the extreme humidity (my hair has gone from straight to what’s happening?), the savage wind, and constant, out of nowhere rain, makes a very hard time adjusting to the Dutch way of life.
Needless to say, throwing in a bike in the midst of that madness is complete insanity — I have seen some pretty nasty falls, ouch! The weather is a hard pass for me.
As a result, I spend a lot of time indoors, much more than I would like. 🏠
Now that it’s off my chest, I remind myself that life is all about balance. The positive things about living in this land outweigh the negative ones. Still, the life of an international in the Netherlands can be undoubtedly hard.
What are some of the things you would not miss if you left the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2021, and was fully updated in October 2022 for your reading pleasure.