8 huge differences between the Netherlands and Australia

There are multiple differences between The Netherlands and Australia that might come in handy at the weirdest times. Are you an Aussie about to arrive in The Netherlands? Or a Dutchie about to travel to Australia? Then you are probably wondering what you are about to encounter. Here are some irrelevant, but (possibly) intriguing differences between the Netherlands and Australia!

When I arrived in the Netherlands at age 25 from Australia, I was so excited but had absolutely no idea what to expect. I remember constantly looking around me and comparing everything to what I knew from my home country. There are many differences between these two countries. Of course, there are obvious differences like speaking different languages and driving on different sides of the road, but here are some others that I found a bit peculiar!

Differences between the Netherlands and Australia: visiting the grocery store

Coming from Australia, I was used to huge supermarkets with endless aisles of products. It was like walking into a massive food hall, full of everything you could ever need for cooking your perfect meal! When you approach the counter, all you need to do is empty your trolley and then you can relax, take a breather and have a little chat to the check-out person (if you feel like it). The employee (standing) behind the counter will pack everything up for you nice and neat in bags- perfect and off you go!

After arriving in The Netherlands, grocery stores appeared miniature to me in comparison to Australia. I quickly noticed that I often needed to visit up to four different grocery stores to find all the ingredients I needed for one recipe! I also learnt quickly, that I must get my game face on in the grocery store because the employee (sitting) behind the counter was not going to pack my bags!

Dutch grocery store employees simply scan the item – and that is it. So, after my first visit, I began quickly rushing. Sweating and trying to get all my items bagged before it became time to pay. Now, I have mastered this and have my bags ready, my pin card in my pocket ready. I am ready to pack, go and get out of there as quickly as possible!

So Dutchies in Australia, enjoy and relax! For the Aussies in the Netherlands- hurry up and get packing!

Differences between the Netherlands and Australia: making a doctor’s appointment

In Australia, when you need to make a doctor’s appointment you call and schedule a time and that’s pretty much it. You arrive at the doctor’s, give your name and take a seat. After I arrived in The Netherlands, making my first doctor’s appointment was not what I was used to!

differences between The Netherlands and Australia

When I made the call to schedule an appointment, which is already awkward because I did not speak Dutch. I was asked by the person on the phone “why I needed to see the doctor?” I was confused because I thought this was supposed to be private and between a doctor and patient. However, it seems there are no secrets in this country. You need to say exactly why you are needing to visit the doctor.

Not only that, when you arrive at the counter of the doctor’s surgery, they will also ask you (again) “why you are here to see the doctor” After my first experience with this, I turned around to all the people sitting in the quiet waiting room and felt the blood rush to my head, “um… because…” Dutch culture is open and honest, and this also includes your visits to the doctor!

Differences between the Netherlands and Australia: store signage

Signage in Australia is huge, loud and proud and you will probably be able to spot a store from at least half a kilometre away! If you are looking for a doctor’s surgery, it will have a few huge signs out the front on a few different angles ad different text (For example; BULK BILLING/ OPEN 7 DAYS/ BEST SURGERY IN TOWN)!

The Netherlands is definitely different with signage. The first time I went looking for my doctor’s surgery there was a tiny sign, about 5cm X 10cm, that I didn’t even notice! This wasn’t handy when I couldn’t even read the 20+ letter street names yet. This is the same for many other stores in The Netherlands, the signage is small, and you may just walk past a place and not even realise what it is.

Differences between the Netherlands and Australia: beaches

Australia and the Netherlands are both lucky to have awesome long stretches of sandy beaches. When I think of a beach in Australia, I think of lifeguards, surfers, nature and relaxing.

After visiting my first beach in The Netherlands (Bloemendaal), it was clear the use of beaches were very different than in Australia. The Dutch make full use of their beaches during the summer by setting up a long line of beach houses. These beach houses are fully equipped with terraces, restaurants/ cafes and amazing places to party.

heatwave in the netherlands
Suns out, Dutchies out. Image: ikroeker/Pixabay

If the sun shines in the Netherlands, everyone flocks to the beaches and these beach houses are full and pumping with beats! Of course, there are plenty of beautiful quiet nature beaches in The Netherlands as well, but even they have beach parties too!

Differences between the Netherlands and Australia: price of beer

There is a huge difference between the price of beer between these two countries, the difference being the Dutch get a bargain price. A crate of beer in the Netherlands is sold for around 20 euros and in Australia around $60 AUD. This price difference is huge but very good for Australian’s in the Netherlands!

Differences between the Netherlands and Australia: rental houses

When you rent a property in Australia, you need to sign a contract which basically says you will leave the house the same way as when you moved in. This means you can not hang anything on the wall, paint or touch anything. Being used to this it was a shock coming to The Netherlands.

When I moved into a rental, it was completely empty, I mean stripped to the bones! There are no lights, no floor, no oven, nothing. This is awesome because you can decorate and make the place how you like, but on the other hand, gives you a lot more to do. Obviously, there are also private rentals in The Netherlands which you also can’t touch, but I love that there is an option. I have learnt how to DIY and now pride myself on being a fine painter!

buy or rent a house in amsterdam
Wanna rent? NAH SORRY YOU CAN’T. Image: djedj/Pixabay

Differences between the Netherlands and Australia: outlook of the weather

After living in The Netherlands for longer, and visiting my home country recently, it is obvious there is a different approach when it comes to the weather outlook. The Dutchie’s just won’t let the weather dampen their plans.

I guess due to all the appalling weather the Dutch must face means they have a strong backbone when it comes to the rain (although it doesn’t stop them complaining). However, when I was back in Australia recently, it was evident that as soon as there was (actually)(finally) a rainy day, everyone wants to stay home and cancel all plans. It is cute, but if Dutchies had the same mentality I think the country may fall apart!

rain, netherlands, dutch
Prepare for the Dutch rain!

Differences between the Netherlands and Australia: pastry and sauce

Both Australians and Dutch love pastry! They have their own speciality items such as kaas broodjes (cheese pastries) for the Dutch and for Australians, well, we love pies! I found it interesting how the Dutch love to coat their fries in a ton of sauce, like Aussies do their pies. Except, it seems, for kaas broodjes. 

When it comes to kaas broodjes (cheese pastries), the Dutch eat it dry with no sauce. The first time I ate one of these Dutch delights, I was confused. Is there no offering of tomato sauce to cover that pastry up? How am I going to eat this? I am still wondering why kaas broodjes are eaten without sauce. I believe sauce would only enhance that cheesy pastry goodness!

So, there are 8 intriguing differences between The Netherlands and Australia that I have encountered since moving here! Have you experienced any others? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Canva

Vanessa Hope van Engelen
Vanessa Hope van Engelen
Vanessa is a quirky, 30 something year old from sunny Queensland, Australia. She recently completed a Bachelor of Communication, majoring in Public Relations. She has an infectious laugh that can travel through walls, a huge passion for traveling and cooking vegetarian food.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Loved the story , all very very true indeed xxx the grocery store was the most usual one for me when I was in Utrecht visiting (I’m Australian) it was a very different experience indeed.
    Can’t wait to read your next story Vanessa love love loved it.

  2. What about the Glass Wallis on the terraces of r estaurants and similar places where you eat or drink ooutside avoiding to età Sand?

  3. Thanks for sharing. Being Dutch having an Australian parter its always very interesting sharing the diffences between our countries. I like the topics.

    I must say that I don’t reconize the grocery store or doctor story. When I arrive for an appointment at the doctor nobody is asking why I am there (because of privacy) so I think your experience doesn’t count for the whole country.
    And as a former supermarkt manager I really enjoyed that my groceries are packed whenever I visit Coles in Australia but other than that the supermarkt experience seems the same to me. Coles is similar to the larger grocery stores like Albert Heijn. Even the self scan. Ofcourse if you visit a small grocery story it is possible that you don’t find everything you need.

    Thanks for sharing

  4. Hi there, loved the article. Always fun to see how people experience the difference between these two countries. I am Dutch and my partner is Australian so we compare a lot.
    I do want to comment on the first two topics because unlike the other ones I completely don’t resonate with your experience.

    Your first sentences about huge supermarkets with endless aisles of products and the doctor’s appointment where you make a doctor’s appointment you call and schedule a time, go there, give your name and take a seat are in general the same in both countries. At least that’s how I experience it and I lived in both countries.

    When I go to visit my doctor it’s the way you describe it because of the privacy rules. Yes, our culture is open and honest but most people wouldn’t feel comfortable if they would experience it as you did. So it’s probably a very local example and doesn’t count for all visits to a health practitioner.

    As a former supermarket manager of Albert Hein I am proud of the massive food hall they represent, full of everything you could ever need for cooking your perfect meal. In the larger supermarkets, I can get everything as easy as going to Coles in Australia. I even recognize the same sales strategies both stores are using and they are quite the same. So it just my guess but I assume you went to a small local supermarket but that would be like comparing apples with mushrooms.
    The biggest difference might be the packing if the groceries by the store employee that’s true but with the automation and self-scan (in both the Netherlands as in Australia) that’s gonna look more alike in the future as well.

    I would love to hear about more differences in the future. I know my partner has a couple of other ones like for example the Dutch rigid thinking of providing free water in restaurants and bars. Or paying for public toilets.

    • First time my wife was getting castor sugar at the supermarket, she asked for “bastard sugar”…
      And on a recent visit to AH in Nieuwegein, near Utrecht, the girls, my wife and her sister, went shopping in that store, while a made them a (free) cuppa coffee…most relaxing
      and very good cuppa too…
      And yes, the beers are dirt cheap in Holland.. 1 crate X 24 X 375 ml @ € 8-10…

  5. Football. The Dutch have just one ‘football’ code, the roundball game.
    Here in Australia we have four: the roundball game, sometimes called soccer, Australian rules, rugby league and rugby union.
    Australian rules is the big code in four states – Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. The two rugby games are most popular in New South Wales and Queensland. Soccer is played across the country – it’s usually the second most popular code in each state.

  6. Very true. Also we have very different ideas about what constitutes a good day to go to the beach. I love how the Dutch go to the beach when its overcast, drizzly and blowing a gale.

  7. As a Dutchie I can explain the doctor’s visit thing: the assistant merely asks when you call to make an appointment so he/she can gage how urgent your case is, and so where best to schedule your appointment They will usually only ask if it’s busy, so that if you have some minor ailment, you can wait a day or two so patients with more urgent complaints can be seen sooner. You are not obliged to answer that question if it makes you uncomfortable. You can simply say that it is something you would rather speak about with your GP in private, and that’s fine. 🙂

    As for the grocery stores; the larger ones have everything you need. I think you may have visited a smaller, inner city store, which can be medium sized to very small depending on the size of the (historical) location. The Albert Heijn XXL is enormous though!

  8. Australians love to eat their chips with either tomato sauce or with salt and vinegar. Whereas the Dutch, and I, love them with mayonaise.

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