5 things you won’t miss if you leave the Netherlands

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

Don’t expect the Dutch to be the talented drivers you might expect! Image: Unsplash

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

Get ready to plug up your nose if the smell of weed is off-putting to you. Image: Depositphotos

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.

The cure-all of the Netherlands. Image: DutchReview/Canva

4. The staggering cost of daycare

Be prepared to fork out an arm, leg, and shoulder for daycare costs. Image: Unsplash

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

Make sure you’ve got your umbrella on you at all times. Image: Depositphotos

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.

Feature Image:Joyfull
Laila Robles Martínez
Laila Robles Martínez
Laila is a journalist born and raised in Mexico City, and has lived in Canada (a semester in high school counts, right?), Spain (where she met the love of her life and completed her Master’s Degree in Humanities) and most recently, The Netherlands. She has great passion for exploring new cultures, mothering her beautiful three-year-old son, tasting all kinds of vegan treats and, of course, writing.

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  1. I agree mostly about Dutch drivers. I don’t understand why so many people are in a hurry. They love sitting on your bumper when driving the speed limit. And no matter where you are driving, they just want to pass you even when it is very risky. You would think that spending around 2 thousand Euros getting a driver’s license would make you a responsible driver. But a large segment of the Dutch population are “eigenwijze.”

  2. Regarding Dutch drivers: one may infer from the article that Dutch drivers are not skilled which is not what I observed. They are highly skilled but not rigidly observant of rules that may not be relevant to a given situation. Parking on a sidewalk when no one is inconvenienced is an example of what I mean. Seeing cars up on the sidewalk was a bit surprising to an American like myself. That would get you a big ticket in the USA. In NL this was ignored. As to medical care, maybe more complicated than Spain but not as bad as the entire USA. If you have the good fortune to have health insurance at all in the USA, which many do not, you must go to a GP first for everything, and be prepared for production-line medical practice. American GPs typically, My observation is they aim to dispose of ten (10) patients an hour. I don’t know the the Dutch word for superficial but that’s how I characterize six minute doctoring.

  3. The parking problem, and having to pay for parking almost everywhere! The weather can be downright depressing, dark and dismal. The winter days are so short, and dark. Otherwise I do miss the gezelligheid, biking, the holidays, and my relatives that live there.

  4. Some notes: The part about Dutch drivers is correct. Being Dutch myself I always say that Dutch drivers lack 3 V’s : Verstand (Brains) Voertuigbeheersing (Handling your vehicle) and Verkeersinzicht (Traffic insight). Dutch drivers are notorious for being very bad drivers in our surrounding countries. (Partly) Parking on the sidewalk is often allowed to prevent congestion. As to Dutch healthcare: The GP is the gatekeeper. They make an assessment and will refer you to a specialist if needed. And that’s what defines Dutch healthcare: You get the treatment you need, not the treatment you want. You don’t get antibiotics or painkillers for a common cold. No matter how much you think you should get them. The smell of weed is usually from tourists who think that smoking weed is allowed everywhere in the Netherlands.

  5. I couldn’t agree more to all the points.
    The feminist country i believe when i moved felt apart quickly when i learn the lack of support for women that want to have a career and being a mum and the incredible number of part time mums and lack of women in high positions. It’s truly a pity that is not more self reflection in this matter and they for once left the cockiness away and learn about other countries.

    The other big trouble all foreigners encounter is health care and I just have to laugh for hearing about you get what you need which is complete false. Its a system that prioritized cost vs prevention and as a result has highest rates of death cancer because when is identified guess what is too late. That for getting the healthcare when you need and prevent. Or crazy things as having 2 children before 30 never had a check up or seeing a gynecologist which is nuts. I won’t even get to the no epidural brainwash when is truly a cut cost or that your basic healthcare WONT allow you to give birth in the hospital unless totally necessary or you pay of course. I dint know any other European with that prehistoric mindset which is modernized to “humanized” labor which us catchy and most import Dutch word CHEAPERRR

  6. These may be the things the writer will not miss, it’s actually a very short subjective opinion piece and somewhat elementary in execution. Nederland has its issues ( all countries do). The writer apparently hasn’t had much experience in the real world, which is evident from this “fluff” piece that was written.

  7. The weed is pretty much exclusive to amsterdam as far as i know, and in my opinion it smells way less bad than cigarettes. As for the healthcare, one often doesn’t need as many checks and such, there’s no need to visit a specialist for something that will go away automatically. And just wear a raincoat when it rains, or use an umbrella.

  8. Shoebox gardens, wind, their mindset of being the centre of the universe and their lack in taste (manners, clothing, food, you name it), their ignorance of and carelessness for others’ needs. Restaurant food- and petrol prices, as well as prices of other goods that will always be more expensive than at least in Germany, think Ikea, shoes or clothes, brands. Bread (the Dutch type). Fried or otherwise overly fatty food.
    That said, I’m happy here. I have a very nice in-law family, none of whom fit the stereotype, luckily. I am surrounded by nice people in the neighbourhood. We had daycare by mum-in-law and now have after-school-care by her 3/2 days a week.


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