One afternoon, as I paced the office coffee room and waited for my water to boil, I found myself staring resentfully out at the overcast sky. The last of my good cheer was slowly being suffocated by this dreadful Dutch weather and, much as I tried to stop it, I felt myself slipping into a morose stupor. Fortunately, just as I’d started to hum a mournful tune, someone interrupted my melancholy. It was the Big Boss, a tall, cheerful, and above all extremely Dutch man.
“Nice day, isn’t it?” he commented.
Naturally, I assumed he was joking and countered his humourous quip with an “oh, yes, lovely”, grimacing all the while.
To my surprise, he then launched into an exhilarated account of the hour bike ride he had just had in the nearby dunes, and the glorious feeling of autumn air on his face, and how it may have been a little bit cold, but a bit of rigorous exercise had taken care of that problem alright, and he so loved these breaks this time of year.
Are the Dutch oblivious to to their terrible weather?
Which, once I’d stopped scratching my head, prompted me to re-evaluate my perspective. Ever since I first stepped foot in this country, one mystery has continued to elude me … Namely: Why do the Dutch seem to be so oblivious to the absolute crap fest that is their year-round climate? How can they be so emotionally resilient in the face of days upon days of soupy white-grey skies? How is it that they go through life without owning a single pair of rubber boots or a rain coat? And how on Earth do they maintain such healthy, robust complexions generation after generation? Surely it isn’t the cheese or I’d have started to notice the effects by now.
I have a theory that, throughout evolutionary history, human beings living in this geographical area have developed a sort of highly useful trait which I like to call ‘weather-specific amnesia’. Unfortunately for those of us who don’t happen to have grown up in the Netherlands, this trait seems to take years to develop. I have however noticed another common theme when speaking to Dutch friends about the weather: unrelenting optimism. And so, in an attempt to do as the Dutch do and see the good in these endlessly grey days, I’ve compiled a list of reasons I’m grateful for this lovely autumnal Dutch weather.
1. It’s the perfect time to get hobbyin’
I am constantly impressed by the incredible array of fun indoor activities my Dutch friends seem to get up to this time of year. At the top of my list is learning to paint with a YouTube art class, such as this one. Thanks to stores like Blokker, Xenos and Hema, you’re only about 20 euros away from channeling your inner Dutch master. Look no further than these fine tumultuous skies for inspiration – but do me a favour, and stop at the first itching you get to cut off your own ear.
Even if you aren’t naturally crafty, the vast array of voordeelshops in the Netherlands offer a seemingly endless variety of DIY materials for prices so low, you may just convince yourself that you have to have 100 meters of glittery ribbon or a twenty four-pack of mason jars.
(For the truly handy, this is also an excellent way to save money on holiday gifts and cards this year, but be warned: he/she who delves into the Christmas boards on Pinterest may not emerge until the wee hours of the morning.)
2. Dutch weather heightens the imagination
A few days ago as we were walking down the Lange Voorhout in The Hague, my (very Dutch) boyfriend and I got into our umpteenth discussion about the weather here. It was one of those misty, lightly-raining-on-you-from-no-discernible-direction sorts of afternoons, where you are essentially wading your way through one giant, soggy cloud of spittle. While I lamented the lack of sunshine, the dampness, and the incessant frizziness of my hair, my boyfriend (ever the Dutchman) proclaimed this to be his favourite kind of Dutch weather because it ‘gives everything a mystical feel’ – like stepping into a Harry Potter novel, if you will.
3. There’s no better time for binge television watching
Boer Zoekt Vrouw, anyone? It starts up again in just a few weeks, and no one could possibly judge you for watching it when it’s pouring outside and you’ve already been so wholesome with the whole painting/crafting/fruit preserves thing (see point 1). Plus you know everyone at work will be talking about it.
Boer Zoekt Vrouw: the height of exciting, fast-paced television.
4. You may officially prepare for winter hibernation
Could there be a better excuse to carb-load at every meal than the impending darkness and the promise of eight more months (who am I kidding, twelve more months) of rain? Try your hands at one of the million varieties of stamppot, or join in on the Sinterklaas festivities and make your own speculaas cookies! If you’re looking to maximize your total caloric intake, skip the energy expenditure of cooking and head out to one of the country’s many magnificent All-You-Can-Eat concept restaurants.
And if all else fails, you can always sacrifice your basic human rights and cram yourself onto the next RyanAir flight heading South.
How do you fight off the autumn blues? Why are you grateful for Dutch weather?
(Author’s note: Ironically, as soon as I finished drafting this post, the sun came out for three days straight.)
Editor’s Note: Article originally published on 28-11-13 but updated on 11-10-19 for your reading pleasure.
Feature image: Pexels/Pixabay
From South of France myself (yeah, I know, why on earth would you leave South of France for the NL, well…love you know!), I have spent the last 8 months complaining about the weather/cold/rain/snow/ice/grey skies, you name it. But, as time goes, I am just starting, timidly, to find a certain charm and mystery to it. Especially when I can see two rainbows a day, or observe the weather change 6 times in two hours. Makes sunny moments so precious, and forces me to feel gratefull for them! I wish I had a car to go wander in the countryside. Rain and grey skies, and cold, and snow, feel sooo different when you are surrounded by nature.
Enjoy the next rain!
Thank you for this great comment Adri! Definitely puts my moaning into perspective … I do come from Canada, after all, where your hair may be dry and the sky may be blue, but you run the risk of developing frostbite at any given moment (only a slight exaggeration). For someone from the South of France to adapt this quickly gives me renewed vigor in my quest to come to terms with – and dare I say enjoy? – this weather 🙂
I love the Dutch weather because every time I go outside I’m reminded that I no longer live in Los Angeles. And that’s a good thing.
Why am I grateful for the Dutch weather? Because I’m from Britain, and it’s soooo much worse there 🙂
you can focus more on studying. If you had sun most of the days you would like to go out and enjoy it. In Greece it is so difficult to concentrate in the summer while you are giving exams. It’s the biggest torture ever to study and not be on a beach swimming. It’s true that in NL you appreciate much more the sun.
A good point Eva! I wrote my MA thesis in the Dutch ‘summer’ and can only remember a handful of days when I looked longingly outside :p
The weather is not the problem. Even going for a run with the right clothes when snowed or rainy in the park is a beautiful experience. The pain in the a… is that lack of daylight after 4pm that lasts for two many months. Makes me feel like someone is stealing my precious life time… Coming to the office at dark and leaving at dark. Never have gotten used to it.
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When I go mountainbiking during or just after these rainy days, the forest has this special scent, and all the drops of water falling from the leaves makes nature look more beautiful than on a dusty summer day. The rain can be dreadful, but awesome as well. The rain makes me value the few days of proper sunshine.
If you think The Netherlands are under the curse of an evil weather witch, if you are struggling to find a way to survive 7 hours of daylight in the winter without getting depressed, if you want to know how to have full energy and enjoy all the Dutch seasons, this is the workshop for you!
You have got to be kidding. The Dutch ( I am one) discuss the weather non stop and we collectively hate it. Most people dream of a holiday in the sun and save up for it. After their once-a-year holiday in the south of France, Turkey, Thailand or Spain they spend the restbif the year wishing they lived in a more agreable climate. I have never heard another Dutch person say they loved our grey skies unless they were the weather man or were into Dutch landscape art like there is in the Rijksmuseum. Even the weather in the UK is better than ours.
Makes us appreciate the sunny days more.
I didn’t and moved to Queensland Australia… 😀
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We just moved here from Costa Rica, originally from the States. (Why, you ask?–family and a change to modern indulgences…namely, good cheese and wine). I just was asking myself, “If it’s this cold, rainy and awful at the end of July…what will it be like in January!?” And then I plunged under my covers and realized I was becoming depressed. Then I got up and read this post, and although it did not make me feel any better about the weather, it did give me a laugh. So thanks for that. I guess I’ll just have to squeeze my eyes shut and think of the tropical life I just left to keep me warm, and eat this delicious brie.
bullshit bad weather always sucks and there is no reason to like it. don’t try to force us to think we could love it just like you lied to yourself
Well, I’ve been living in the NL for 8 years (also complaining from time to time about the weather) …but I just arrived from a week holiday in Alicante and I never though I would say: home sweet home in a rainy summer day!
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Oh I love autumn in Holland.. the fresh crisp cold air after rain and beautiful autumn colours!
What is this, some sort of verbal self-medication. Carbo-loading, hobby-ing, hibernation, watching reality shows? This isn’t living, or even coping, this is more like escaping the reality, which is very simple: weather in the Netherlands is horrible and nothing you do to pass the time would ever make it better. I must say that I get extremely suspicious when someone openly recommends watching TV, especially Reality shows, what a waste of time.
As an expat, unless you have a very valid reason to be here (job, partner, the need to live some place free/tolerant) then I just hope you realize that there is only one way to deal with the problem is to leave the place and it’s dreadful climate for some place sunny as often as you possible can, or permanently. I personally travel to the sun on monthly basis. No, I am not very rich, it’s all matter of priorities. Life is too short to fool yourself. Unless you are born here, genetically predisposition to cope or you don’t know any better (UK comes to mind), getting used to this climate is likely to turn out either impossible or not even worth it.
Loved your honest opinion. Being from sunny Cape Town myself the length of the European winters can be depressing. Having said that I actually enjoy a proper winter where you can wear your winter clothes the whole day without stripping down to short sleeves later in the day. I am fortunate to be at home and can enjoy the bit of sun we do get and yes you do appreciate the sun much more than back home. Summers can be too hot and long too. Before we left SA (again) 2mths ago we have had hardly a winter and I used my pool about 5 times in summer because it is just too hot to be outside. I enjoy the outdoors here much more than back home where you have to be out of the sun by 11am. The only way to get through the long winter is a few sunny breaks.
Almost all of my Dutch friends complain about how bad summer is this year. They all want sunny warm days, which is why most of them are on holiday just now 🙂
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I was born in the Netherlands and I’ve lived here all my life. So it rains a lot! Big deal! The worst thing that can happen is you get wet. It will dry again. There’s nothing so refreshing like a good ‘regenbui’.?
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Sorry, No. It is now 16 June and everyone still must wear jackets to keep warm. If it wasn’t for having an athletic dog which requires regular walks, going regularly to the gym, cooking most of my own meals with healthy ingredients and taking regular dosages of multivitamins including vitamin D, I am not certain how I would have coped this long and I’ve been here nearly 3 years. Even my Dutch colleagues can’t stand the weather here but many are forced to deal with it due to commitments or if there are no clear, logical opportunities to migrate elsewhere to healthier climates. The lack of natural vitamin D, serotonin and the impact to circadian rhythms are not healthy and is a source of depression experienced by many in the Netherlands. It is certainly not healthy living as modern day cave-dwellers by spending the majority of our time indoors due to the weather whereby increasing the lack of tolerance to natural sun exposure when it finally makes an appearance. Unfortunately, there is not enough Vitamin D or serotonin in a tablet or in our foods to match the benefits of what one may get from exposure to natural sunlight. In addition, spending a waiting for the next holiday to get sunshine is quite limiting especially when there are many other economically viable places in the world to live where average sunshine hours are in excess of 2000 hours per year. Thankfully, I am fortunate enough to be in a position to move on after my assignment is complete. In the meantime, I continue to go the gym and walk my dog
Apologies for the grammar… “spending time anticipating and waiting for the next holiday to get sunshine is quite limiting especially when there are many other economically viable places in the world to live where average sunshine hours are in excess of 2000 hours per year.”
Loved your article and I love Dutch weather! Thanks!
I wish I could see you again Reverend.