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Dutch Quirk #104: be prescribed only paracetamol by every Dutch doctor

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #104: be prescribed only paracetamol by every Dutch doctor

Got a headache? Paracetamol. Sleepless nights? Paracetamol. Broken leg? Hm, maybe try a paracetamol. Or two, that’ll do it. 💊

This, ladies and gents, might as well be a recorded conversation between a Dutch doctor and their patient.

Why? Because the Dutch are known to rely on paracetamol as a cure-all to a ridiculous extent.

What is it?

So, there is this rumour that the Dutch prescribe paracetamol for everything. We might not have any statistics on it but isn’t there a grain of truth to every stereotype?

Speaking from lived experience, if you have a headache and ask any Dutchie if they have paracetamol, they will pull a pill package out of their pocket.

@dutchreview Paracetamol or nothing. #dutchreview #dutchdoctors #fyp #netherlands #dutchhealthcare ♬ original sound – Zoe

Instead of opting for hard drugs or intensive treatments, the Dutch just sort of tend to shrug it off, pop a paracetamol and wait until it passes.

READ MORE | What the Dutch are getting right: antibiotics in the Netherlands

A 2019 study even showed that the Dutch are turning away more and more from stronger medication. A side-effect of their love for the lighter paracetamol?

Why do they do it?

For one, while in other countries you can only get paracetamol in the pharmacy, the Dutch can buy the magic pills prescription-free in any supermarket, drug store or even gas station.

Naturally, this makes it an easy fix. Why go home because of a headache or a stomach ache if pain relief is a mere ten-minute supermarket trip away?

Another reason for the Dutch paracetamol affinity might be their healthcare system. Before being referred to any specialist, you’ll first have to visit your Dutch GP (huisarts).

READ MORE | Looking for health insurance in the Netherlands? Cigna is here to help

And before you have convinced your general practitioner of the seriousness of your illness, you’ll have to penetrate the Dutch no-nonsense attitude.

Doe normaal, right?

Why is it quirky? 

The Dutch just approach many things in life with a calm and levelled attitude.

Paracetamol does the trick for most of our everyday ills: headaches, fever, coughs or stomach aches.

READ MORE | Going to a doctor in the Netherlands? Here’s the ultimate guide

Want to know just how much the Dutch like their paracetamol? This music video about two hungover guys singing how paracetamol will help them drink even more tonight might give you an idea.

🎶 Where, where, where, where

Where is the paracetamol?

I have a hangover

Because of the alcohol

Where is the paracetamol? 🎶

Should you join in? 

This is really up to you! If your Dutch GP is giving you trouble, don’t be afraid to put your foot down and tell them that you’d rather be referred to a specialist than wait it out with a pack of paracetamols.

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2022, and was fully updated in September 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Freepik
Cara Räker 🇩🇪
Cara Räker 🇩🇪
Cara moved to the Netherlands at fifteen and she is here to stay! After all, there is so much to love about it, except maybe the bread (as every German will tell you). Next to finishing up her bachelor's degree in European politics (dry), Cara loves to do yoga, swim, and cook delicious veggie food.


  1. Actually in the US it’s known as Tylenol and can be found pretty much anywhere. Only the Codeine laced version needs a pharmacy prescription.

  2. The Dutch believe that your body is responsible for ridding itself of most illnesses. By relying on medication, you’re only making your body dependent on drugs rather than teaching your body to recognise the invader and fight it. Basically, it’s natural vs artificial immunity. Which one is more effective?

  3. The problem with that is that it’s quite possible that the patient’s pain is a symptom of something serious. It was for my husband, already a cancer survivor. When we finally got help in the hospital it turned out that the cancer had come back. He died a few months later. I’m not suggesting it wouldn’t have happened anyway. But I am saying he didn’t have to live in terrible pain and uncertainty for as long as he did.


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