7 reasons why living in the Netherlands will change your life

So, what's the big deal with living in the Netherlands?

I honestly can’t remember what it felt like living outside of the Netherlands. There are so many unique aspects of the country that you can only understand if you have experienced it for yourself.

This article is mainly for you lot out there who decided to move to the Netherlands from your home country. However, I bet your fellow internationals can relate — whether you’ve stayed there or moved away!

1. They have delicious snacks, but a healthy lifestyle

The second I arrived in the Netherlands, it was immediately noticeable that almost everybody was in shape! My first thought was, “well, everything must be healthy”. How wrong I was.

Some classic bitterballen and mustard. Image: Pixabay

Stroopwafels, bitterballen, frites en fritessaus, kibbeling (I know, I know, it’s fish, but it’s battered!), croquettes, cheese, appeltart, poffertjes, and hagelslag (because why not eat chocolate sprinkles in the morning).

Then, of course, there are the amazing Christmas/New Year snacks, like oliebollen, chocoladeletters, speculaas, and kruidnoten. I could go on and on.

Can you resist the call of fresh oliebollen? Image: Depositphotos

I’m not going to pretend I haven’t binged on any of these. My partner and I must have eaten about 20 chocoladeletters last year, just because we can.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #32: Eat a lot of questionable snack food

But what’s the best way to combat all of that? Biking! The Dutch do it so well. The bike lanes make it safe and easier to cycle around.

It makes you get out by either cycling or walking to work, the shops, or anywhere really, even for no reason at all other than just enjoyment.

2. The language is learnable but still challenging

Immersing yourself in a different language is an experience in itself. This is especially true if you’re trying to learn Dutch.

It honestly took me months just to master the “g” sound, like clearing your throat, as I’d never had to do it before.

Going to a shop was scary at first, not knowing what the labels said and having no idea what the shop assistant was asking me. It’s really rewarding when you finally get your head around some of it.

Just make sure you master, “Sorry, ik spreek geen Nederlands.” 😉

3. It gives you a new perspective on traditions and culture

Forgive my ignorance; I assumed that most of Europe celebrated Christmas the same. I had never heard of Sinterklaas before moving here.

For those of you who may be reading this intending to move here and have no idea what I’m talking about, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands by steamboat in mid-November from Spain.

Sinterklaas’ arrival in the Netherlands is especially exciting for kids. Image: Depositphotos

He arrives with his helpers, the Zwarte Piet (yes, it’s a heavily debated tradition — let’s not go there today). The official Sinterklaas celebration is on the night of December 5.

Christmas Day is sometimes still celebrated, but it’s not the main gift-giving occasion.

Why is this cool? For me, it’s because celebrations start early, and that excites me for Christmas.

The festive period is all the more exciting in the Netherlands! Image: Freepik

Dutch people also celebrate two days of Christmas on December 25 (Eerste Kerstdag) and December 26 (Tweede Kerstdag). Who can complain during a longer festive period?

It’s all a much better way of doing things, as Christmas itself isn’t ALL about the gifts, which I think can sometimes happen in other countries.

4. They have stunning outdoors (but also great city life!)

The Netherlands is a very picturesque country too. Whether it’s walking along the canals of cities like Amsterdam or biking through the tulip fields in spring, there is always something nice to look at.

Beautiful forest walk in the Netherlands. Image: Carmen Monge/Supplied

Then, when visiting cities like Rotterdam and Eindhoven, you get an appreciation for architecture and modern living if that’s your thing. In general, it’s just a beautiful place to be.

READ MORE | 5 Dutch nature reserves to stretch your legs and enjoy the sights

5. Their work-life balance is unlike any other place

Apart from living in the Netherlands, working can also be different. People tend to work fewer hours here than in other countries and value home time as much as work time.

No work without some relaxation! Image: Depositphotos

The pay and, therefore, the standard of living tend to be better. In fact, the work-life balance in the Netherlands is among the best in the world!

6. They often have a more liberal approach to law

Another difference (depending on where you are in the world) is the law. As we all know, cannabis in the Netherlands is decriminalised.

Where I’m from, cannabis possession alone can carry a prison sentence. People buy from backstreet dealers, who usually grow their own cannabis in attics. There is an absolute zero tolerance for cannabis, and it’s not considered a “soft” drug.

READ MORE | 5 myths about weed in the Netherlands

What has my experience in the Netherlands taught me? Different drug policies can work — but it’s also definitely not without its faults either.

7. It’s easy to travel and explore

The Netherlands is a small country, meaning that it is so easy to travel from one side to the other.

Say what you will about train costs, but the fact that the ticket cost is the same whether you buy it two months away or 20 minutes away means that you can travel where you want, when you want and not get caught out with extortionate prices.

Easy train travel in the Netherlands. Image: Depositphotos

I’m used to having to book three months in advance for a specific time for a single-day trip and still paying ridiculous prices.

Waiting until the day can set you back hundreds, even if the journey is a couple of hours. The Dutch system is definitely not without its faults, but it means that everyone, in general, can travel a lot more.

READ MORE | 7 ways you can level up your Dutch life with a personal OV-chip card

Also, being sandwiched between Germany and Belgium and being within adequate driving distance of France and Luxembourg means that if you wanted to go further afield, it’s possible within the same day (but why would you leave the Netherlands anyway?)

Are you in love yet?

In the Netherlands, you’ll live in a world with delicious Dutch treats, rekindling your love of cycling and the outdoors.

You will immerse yourself in traditions that you may not have known existed.

You will experience a country with a different way of doing things, different laws, different work and spending habits — overall, you’ll become more knowledgeable on what works and what doesn’t. (who doesn’t love healthy debate?)

Aren’t we a lucky bunch?!

How has living in the Netherlands changed you? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Emma Brown
Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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  1. I also came to the Netherlands for 3 months in the Spring of 2016, and that’s when I decided that I want to make this my home country! I officially moved here three months ago, but have been coming to NL for loooong visits before my residency got approved in September.
    For me, two things stand out so far:
    1. The fact that as a child, I didn’t even know that a country called ‘The Netherlands’ existed!
    And then all of a sudden, for two years, it became the obsession of my life. Just the quaintness of the country, and the fact that systems here work much, much, MUCH better than in my country.

    2. When I heard my first Dutch word when I was visiting Amsterdam in 2014, I almost SWORE against the sound of language – like WTF is that sound you just made with your throat!?
    But now I am pretty fluent in the language, I understand everything my Dutch family-in-Law says now so I’m no longer left out of conversations (which has both its ups and downs, ha!)

    But yeah! Those are my two highlights that I could type out for now, but there are surely maaaaany more for me concerning my living in this little country below sea level!
    Thanks for your post by the way,

    Vriendelijke groetjes!

    • I totally disagree, netherlands is expensive country, everything costs sometimes 10 x more than in other european countries. Train tickets, fuel is really expensive, so mosts of people drive small shitboxes like Ford Fiesta. U have also pay amazingly high taxes. All bikers feel like a kings on a street, so its hard to move. Dutch people seems to be nice, but this is really fake view. Eating outside costs a lot so finally u stay at home if u dont to waste a money. Here is also nothing interesting, maybe except amsterdam night life. So my conclusion Netherland for sure is nice to earning money, but really not nice for living, relax, traveling, etc.

  2. Thanks for sharing!
    I believe the impact depends on different factors such as the time lived in Holland, circumstances, age, own origin and own culture, etc. I lived there 13 years. First two years as a student were not easy. Then I adapted and lived it fully. My years in Holland have absolutely been a gem. I will list the impact (in points) Holland has had on me or others close to me:

    1. It strips you off complexes, if you wish to survive the culture shock and differences and participate in the Dutch living. Adaptation to the Dutch culture trains and stregthens you. It transforms you.
    2.You learn to be assertive and love yourself more. You realize that politness can sometimes foster lack of courage and the Dutch environment pushes you to adjust your approach. You learn to say “No” without fear of social norms and take “No” for an answer without being affected emotionally. You learn to accept differences in opinions and not take expressions of opinions personally.
    3. You learn to dissagree with what you do not appreciate and express it defending your views with arguments rather than emotions. You learn to dissagree or participate in a debate focussing on the issue and not on oneself.
    4. For better or worse you learn to love rules or structure even though it is often said “Nieks moet” (= nothing is a “must do”).
    5. You learn to appreciate the sun more. You learn to not allow the rain be an obstancle in your daily life or love of life and what it has to offer.
    6. Life for some begins at 30, for others at 40. You learn to appreciate life as it is.
    7. You learn to get to know people by sharing a meal together. And you learn to do the same quite soon. In many cultures people do not invited to their home unless they know you well. In Holland you are invited to their house for a (simple) meal precisely because they would like to get to know you better. This is not about the food, it is not to celebrate the food or to celebrate you. This is a time to socialize over a meal cooked for you.
    8. You learn to love living and quality of life. In spite of wealth and consumption the society gives importance to enjoyment that goes beyond consumerism/materialism.
    9. Happiness and strength is often sought within. (You learn exactly that soft drugs are not the answer, as often is believed about Holland due to the reputation re. coffeeshops. The majority of who I have met that consume soft drugs are not Dutch. This is not coincidental.)
    10. It gives you a great opportunity to know other cultures besides the Dutch culture. You can have a great expat life or local life. Particularly the bigger cities offer more of this. The Dutch usually like to explore. You have an opportunity to learn and share.

    These are but a few ways life in Holland can impact one’s life.

    • Wow, that’s sooo good written, I can sign under. I’m here for 2 years now and I’m finally starting to appreciate it, after I’ve been “transformed” under all of the above stated factors. ☺️

    • I left a large acreage home and equipment all for the chance to be with a nice Dutch man South of Rotterdam in a small apartment with his pit bull dog and absolutely lovely sister who lives 2 blocks away……..
      I met him on a YouTube creators pre show chat and I flew from northwestern Canada to be in Netherlands with this sweet, attentive, affectionate funny, silly, thoughtful and considerate man since December 22 with only 3 suitcases.
      We are both in our 50’s and we have so much fun laughing about silly things and not giving a hoot about anything I abandoned in Canada to come here for love and we found each other’s weirdness very endearing.
      I love Netherlands and hope not to go back to Canada again.
      I love my Thrashie and Shadow.

  3. […] Shockingly, some people actually leave this little gem of a country. Once you have left there are certain things you will see, do or eat that will flood you with nostalgia for the land of stroopwafel and windmills. It makes you think that leaving the Netherlands should never be an options. Here’s just 5 of the millions of reasons you’ll miss living in the Netherlands. […]

  4. Trust me. I’m Dutch. Born here in 1989. And no one is living in this dream world ur seeing cause ur making it out to be like a movie. Which is complete BS. People here don’t get payed enough. Young people with zero background tends to get twice as much salary as those knowing what there doing working in that field all there Life to contribute. Just so they can get kicked out or make half the $$$ of a 20 years old idiot with zero experience. I can go on and on what isnt fair about this corrupt country of ours. It’s SUPER corrupt. But yeah, keep celebrating ur ignorance 😉

    • yep….. so is my opinion too…. lived 45 years in that poststamp of the world, now 7 years out of it…. and it is a relief to be out of it! Now 52 years old and i NEVER want to go back anymore…. it really has to be going freakin’ bad with me if i should consider to go back!

      keep on dreamin’ guys (and dolls???) but untill you discover the “real truth” about that country you won’t appreciate this answer…

  5. While I do agree that the majority of people here don’t get paid enough, I do not agree that jobs are taken by young people. As a person who just came out of uni and in my mid-twenties, I can tell you that finding a job has been a nightmare. Most entry level position require a minimum of 3 years WORKING experience (because some companies do not consider internships work) and most of the time those entry level position jobs are taken up by people who are over qualified. This leaves young people like me in a very tough position where it is practically impossible to match the employers requirements.

  6. I was just looking for information about the language, law, culture in the Netherlands. Thank you very much, very interesting and necessary article for me.

  7. As a foreigner you tend to see mainly the brightside.
    I had to move from the Netherlands to the UK at the ripe age of 49 simply because the excellent dutch social security system meant i could not get a job in spite of 5 languages and lots of customer service experience offer.
    It meant i would be too fear or so they said
    I did so because it was a bonus that i was going to live in the most beautiful country in the world
    Scotland. Wages are low, social security hardly exists but never without a job because of being multilingual.
    I would dread returning to the Netherlands. Too different, as small as Madurodam and very expensive in every way

  8. I came to the Netherlands two years ago as a contract worker from the UK and stayed , Im 55 years old , not been easy but shoudnt be , If life is what you make it then Ill make it Orange!

  9. Moved here from Australia 3.5 yers ago after meeting my now wife whom i met in aust when she was there on holiday i am now retired so moving was not such a major problem
    I love the traditions here sinterclass ,zwarte Pete , Christmas , New Years celebrations with carbide shooting and fireworks here are great i hope they never loose any Of these traditions
    Everyone here has a birthday party gebak coffee then beer or borrel a spirit drink geneever with hapjes , a plate with bits of cheese meat gherkins and other small treats on it ,to cut it short you are always eating drinking celebrating someone’s birthday this gets a little tiring sometimes as you might have 3 or 4 in the week but no you cant miss any of them
    It is all great fun but sometimes a bit over the top maybe in time i will get used to it , i will keep practising , overall it is a great place to live with friendly people and so many really good traditions

  10. I read this and well… I have been thinking about moving there, it is more of a love situation. My problem is, I don’t know where to look for a job!!! I work at an NGO here in Mexico (I am also French, so I dont worry about Visa), but I really don’t know where to look, can somebody help me? I am trying to study a Masters, but it is super expensive. I am also a certified Spanish teacher, that I could do!!! Does anyone know where I can start looking? I also wanted to open an online shop for Mexican handcrafts, please say that might work! Any help is pretty much welcomed!!!

  11. I read this and well… I have been thinking about moving there, it is more of a love situation. My problem is, I don’t know where to look for a job!!! I work at an NGO here in Mexico (I am also French, so I dont worry about Visa), but I really don’t know where to look, can somebody help me? I am trying to study a Masters, but it is super expensive. I am also a certified Spanish teacher, that I could do!!! Does anyone know where I can start looking? I also wanted to open an online shop for Mexican handcrafts, please say that might work! Any help is pretty much welcome!!!

  12. Well I was excited about the Netherlands and living there. Learning my Dutch was a little slow because my friend spoke English to me and that was our home language, although I could read dutch fairly easy. I got residency in February. I have P.T.S.D. and disabled from past tragedies in my life and wanted a quiet place to live. The Netherlands was just that,quiet and laid back, but not a place to move to with P.T.S.D. The law here does nothing to protect it’s citizens. A peeping tom on a second story apartment…so what was the reply. A man (stranger to me) attacked me with a huge thick board, in America would be attempted murder, was called mishandling. I had to have 2 surgeries and replace a perfectly good pair of glasses that was smashed off my face. The man got 100 hours community service and they thought that was a stiff sentence, not even a slap on the wrist, never even a night in jail. So, I was assaulted and had to pay for new glasses and suffer almost a year, I do not feel safe in Netherlands, and am trying to get me and my things back to America where at least people are punished for crimes.

  13. I am emigrant during 20 years. The first country was Portugal (till today it is a part of my heart ) The second one was England. I can’t say nothing bad about this country, but the weather is little bit complicated. If you emigrate into this country you have lot facilities to start your life in England. ( You don’t feel the inequality very much information for the family . If you don’t speak English they have a translator. In any government agency.) In the final the third one is Nederlands . The most buitiful country I have never seen .In this country, everything is well thought out. People in this country are very hardworking.Compared to England there is little information for immigrants.Well, in my opinion, the Netherlands is the best country for immigration.

  14. I like your post, there is one thing that bugs me though and that is describing Sinterklaas as part of the Christmas period. It is not, it is a completely different and independent holiday.

    The fact that people give gifts at Sinterklaas in the Netherlands while in other countries it is more common to do this at Christmas, does not make Sinterklaas a Christmas holiday. You also would not describe Christmas as an extension of the Saint Nicholas holiday, so why do it the other way around?

  15. If you don’t feel like talking about the discussion then don’t include it. Don’t include a picture off ZP just talk about Sinterklaas because that’s what it’s mainly about.
    And please for other people reading this. Do your own research and don’t make a decision based off this weird rose collored review off the Netherlands please.

  16. Yes, the US is a great fascist state with draconian punishments for slight infractions. It has the highest incarceration rate in the world, high recidivism, crime everywhere, guns everywhere. If you are black or brown, you are subject to death-by-police for just being alive. Police have no accountability, answer to no one but right-wing nut job politicians. No common sense gun laws. Go to the grocery store, or out to eat, and some redneck comes in with an AK 15 military gun and ammo belts across his chest. Why in the world anyone would feel ‘safe’ in the US is beyond me.

  17. I agree that foreigners tend to view a country through a slightly favourable lens.
    I have lived in the Netherlands, New Zealand, UK and now Australia and every country has dark secrets (in the latter; high levels of family violence, undertones of racism, badly run aged care facilities etc) these aspects of society wouldn’t be portrayed so much in ‘Home and Away’ and ‘Neigbors’ and therefore outsiders see bbq’s and amazing beaches.
    While we can officially measure standards of living by the various different indexes, material or non material, everyone’s experience remains subjective and their takeaway is always going to be unique to them.
    Imo, The Netherlands still has a fairly high standard of education, healthcare system social welfare and one of the first to model off multiculturalism, but what I truly value as mentioned by others (apart from the drop and every other delectable) is the refreshing and honest/direct way of speaking which is something many cultures lack and does your head in….just give it to me straight!!
    Where I will retire one day is still open but The Netherlands – by no means perfect – has me watching closely and is definitely still a contender.

  18. I am planning to come to Netherlands to study and settle, I want to know if it is easy to get citizenship in Netherlands, must I know how to speak Dutch before I get there nationality, i am an English speaking person, and how long does it take to learn Dutch language, please some body should help me.

  19. I am reading now your commentaries and still wondering how similar most of these complaints to what we have in Russia. In spite of having different standards of living people tend to complain about every single country. If you don’t see direct faults, you may try noticing insignificant ones. Here, in Russia, some people, in remote villages don’t even have a normal toilet and come outside every time it is needed. And you are talking about some man who broke your glasses and never was accused. Well, there are countries with no legacy at all when speaking about fights.

  20. The country is beautiful – channels , windmills, cheese, fresh herring , etc. – makes it a nice tourist attraction. Nearly everyone speaks English, bikes are everywhere (although cyclists are rather rude).

    On the side of living long-term, it does not feel right, but it is of course a personal view. Living for 2-3y when you are young – nice! Living for 5y as a high-paid expat (as long as 30% ruling lasts – which was cut in a pretty rude way sometimes ago btw) or as a tax-free employee of an international supranational entity – also nice. Long-term life in NL – hardly see any reason, value and fun.

    Just a few remarks:

    1) Very high taxes (they even tax your bank savings, the whole body of it, not just interest). In fact, no reasons to learn, progress in career, achieve…The government will take most of your marginal income. The country is expensive. Some things might be cheaper than in other countries (flowers?), but you will unlikely find anything, which is really cheap compared to other European country or even globally. Restaurant food (with rare exceptions of ,say, Surinamese places) is expensive, not tasty and it takes about 1.5h of waiting time between the dishes. Cars and gasoline are very expensive (taxes…).
    2) Taxes paid will go to support social system (people on endless sick leave, with semi-fake “burnout” diagnosis, etc.) – you will unlikely see benefits of your taxes, they will go to others. The country is essentially building an outright socialism, and it is getting more and more socialistic. With COVID impact on Sovereign debt levels – it will most likely get even worse. If you want to lead an average social-oriented life , fully agreeing on anything the government does (the country will keep voting largely for social-oriented parties anyways) , without particular life and career ambitions – it could be fine (weather aside). Otherwise, the socialistic bearing of the country will push you and your motivation down.
    3) Climate, in particular near the seaside is bad. Nearly constant wind, clouds, rains…Changes 4-5 times a day, very unstable.It is really depressing (many locals tend to jump under the trains from depression, btw).
    4)People tend to follow rules, but only the rules, which are good for them. Which is egocentric. So laws and rules do exist, but followed selectively, and violations are not really punished. Opinionated, stubborn and arrogant approach to many aspects.
    Overall environment is safe though, unless you go to multicultural areas.
    5) Healthcare is very specific. Everything goes through huisartst that has max 10 minutes to listen to you. In 19 out of 20 cases you will be given Paracetamol and/or suggested to go home and see how it goes and come back in 2 weeks/month. Getting a referral to any specialist is nearly impossible (in fact, it looks like the house doctors play a role of a wall , which does not let you go to specialist…). Healthcare costs about 150 eur/month, obligatory pay,dental not included. Service is the same for everyone. COVID management in the country has generally been a failure so far (testing capacity, tracing failure, facemasks denial, ICU capacity, rule following and monitoring, infection and death rate, protection of elderly in the elderly houses, now delay in vaccination, etc.).
    6) No views on schools, they say better than public in UK , but the system severely lacks teachers.
    7)In 2-3y you will explore almost everything in the country and it will get boring. Driving to Belgium/Germany is nice, but they cut speed limit to 100kmh nearly everywhere – takes you half a day now to reach the border…
    8) Sonterklaas is of course nice, but many other countries have a lot of fun traditions, I would not say NL stands out in a special way. Take Thanksgiving, Diwali, Shrovetide, Carnival in Brazil, etc. – you name it…
    9)Last but not least, real estate market is crazy…Rotterdam modetn 1-bedroom is gradually approaching a condo value on Manhattan, and has well exceeded 6-7 -bedroom 500m2 villa somewhere in resortish Thailand…

  21. How lovely to read about people enjoying the Netherlands so much! The country and traditions have many pros for the ones that can appreciate that.
    I also read some very bitter responses, downright attacking you on your rosy outlook on dutch life. It is obvious why those people don’t like the Netherlands, their attitude toward the experience of others does not suit Dutch culture.
    I was born and raised in the Netherlands but adopted Australia as my country.
    I am still proud of the Netherlands and think it has so much to offer but to me it is not where I want to live permanently. I love Australia too and prefer to live here.
    Isn’t it great we have the luxury of living where we want and be appreciative of the blessings that come with all places? Nog een heel gelukkig nieuw jaar gewenst 😘

  22. <My rream job after political science school was treh International Criminal Court so I checking out ont eh Netherlands
    and yes I have apolitical science degree seven years of experience and yes I can speak the sixu nlanguages Arabic Chinese English French Russian and Spanish

  23. The Netherlands is a soul-less apoetic country, not suitable for people from a latin (americAn or European) and probably others (african) culture as well. Its Natural landscapes have nothing oF stunning; people is greedy , dome are quite rude (not basic manners), individualistic, and incredibly focus on money, career, in general, pragmatic boring things about life. I guess is the case in many western societies. After 4 years living here and a 7 year relationship with a dutch man , which ended because I imagine that if staying In The Netherlands to live at some point I will go through a depression, I really conclude Netherlands is not for people from a latin background

  24. Hey Maria, thank you for sharing. I swear to God that you are the only person that has written something that I can relate to. As a person of colour, the Netherlands is a no no, especially if you want to advance on your career, and I mean any career.
    Let’s just say Dutch people prefer their white counterparts and go on sugarcoating everything as if they like people of colour meaning Latinas/Latinos, black and Asian people.
    Sorry, not a very sociable country.

    I am so sorry for what happened to you and your relationship.

  25. You would have to come from a 3rd world country to feel any improvment in live by living in The Netherlands. I spent 30 years there, won´t go back!

  26. basis school and middelbare school:
    expectations based on responsibility and problem solving with minimal emphasis on following rules.


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