I can guarantee that if there is one element of Dutch culture that is bound to inflict some form of culture shock on the unsuspecting international, it’s the cycling culture.
More specifically, it’s the people attached to the bikes, sometimes carelessly, sometimes barely, sometimes seeming to defy the laws of physics.
Not sure what exactly I’m talking about? Don’t worry, allow us to run through the seven types of cyclists you are bound to encounter during your cycling career in the Netherlands.
7. The flying Dutchman
These are the most common species of cyclist that you will encounter on the cycle path. I would not be surprised if these Dutchies came out of the womb on a bike: cycling is so deeply ingrained in their nature that it’s just like walking to them.
For this reason, they will happily whizz past you at an uncomfortably close distance without bearing in mind that their actions may convince you that both of you are about to crash horrifically.
As your life flashes before your eyes, the flying Dutchman will have already manoeuvred their way around you and may even throw a “what the hell are you screaming for??” glance over their shoulder as they swoop away into the horizon.
6. The speedy McBreezy
Not to be confused with the flying Dutchmen species, these cyclists will have passed around you so quickly that you wouldn’t even have time for your fight or flight to kick in.
In fact, apart from the streak of lycra and the odd muffin top that swoops through your peripheral vision, the only indicator of their presence is the occasional annoyed huff in your direction. Because a city cycle path is, OF COURSE, the best place for their latest time trial.
5. The clingy couples
Most terrifying of all cycling species are this duo. From the distance on a poorly lit night, these figures look like something from a horror film.
To be fair, the silhouette of two people holding hands while on bikes can be truly horrifying for those new to cycling. You never know what the protocol is for these situations. It seems that these two have no intention of detaching from one another as they cycle closer and closer to you. Do you give way to them? Or cycle on resolutely, hurtling towards them like the latest conflict in the relationship?
Perhaps this is the true test of a Dutch relationship, will they chicken out last minute and detach from one another? Or succeed and decapitate a poor bamboozled international.
4. The international newbies
Of course, us internationals are no angels on the cycle paths either. In fact, we can be quite a nuisance, especially if we are just stopping by for a flying visit. You know what I am talking about — those tourists who cycle at a dangerously slow pace whilst attempting to hold a selfie stick.
My superiority complex really kicks in as I overtake these folks. “Absolute newbs,” I tell myself, as I fail to signal my left turn for the 550th time.
3. The seasoned international (you wish)
They are everything you wish to be. Almost indiscernible from Dutchies, these internationals glide down the cycle paths and signal with such ease it’s as if they too were plucked from the womb and placed on a bike.
The only indication that they are expats may be a light international accent as they curse you out in Dutch. You have a moment of “oh, hey they’re like me!” and “oh wow their Dutch is good” before the offence kicks in.
2. The brave bakfietsers
I don’t know who is braver, the person cycling with a bucket full of children strapped to the front of their bike, or the children.
If I were told to place a precious and fragile bundle of youth in a bucket on the front of my bike, I would have worrying flashbacks to the time I nearly threw myself and my bike under a lorry, or the time I was standing a little too close to the bus.
Then again, those who undertake this task have probably entered the final stage of the cyclist’s evolutionary trajectory.
1. The tiny tots
These little darlings shouldn’t trigger your fight or flight response — unless you mistake them for a Chucky doll on wheels, in which case you need to lay off on the psychedelics.
The serotonin boost that results from spotting a tiny tot teetering along on an equally tiny bike is undeniable. These little angels can hold up the cycle path for me any day. I’m pretty sure even the speedy cyclists wouldn’t be mad.
Cycling in the Netherlands comes with both challenges and perks, can you think of any other interesting characters? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Norali Nayla/ Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2020, and was fully updated in March 2021 for your reading pleasure.