Going back to the Netherlands: 5 reasons why I should’ve stayed

On June 21, 2018, we landed in a very cold and wet Schiphol. That, however, did not put a damper on the excitement of going back to the Netherlands. The weather improved tremendously a few days later.

For my friends, this was a first-time visit to the Netherlands — but for me, this was a revisiting of old haunts 24 years later.

Let me try to explain to you why, within a few hours of being back in the country, I realised that I had made a monumental mistake.

1. Dutch food is unbeatable

Food, what an absolute delight. Yes, I’m South African, and proudly so, and I know good food. But, this is a whole other level.

Maybe it’s just me, but haring met uitjes, kibbeling, patatje oorlog (speciaal), kroketten and my new favourite: krentenbroodjes. I’m a foodie, so trust me when I say these are heavenly.

Did I forget to mention my first breakfast in Amsterdam was poffertjes? I had to stop myself from rubbing that buttery delight all over my body. I could go on, but if I start talking about the cheese and cherries, then I may as well do a food review.

dutch food
Give me all the krockets. Image: dassel/Pixabay

2. Tip top day trips

We did the tour of Volendam, Marken, and Zaanse Schans. The last one I had done before but wanted to experience it with my friends. The air still had a slight chill, but the rain had stopped. I think the cooler weather was needed for all the walking and sitting on the bus. It was just the touristy thing we needed on our first full day in the country.

We could not get enough of Amsterdam. There are no words to describe the feelings conjured up when in this bustling city. Amsterdam seemed fuller and busier than I remembered, but still, an amazing place to be.

Our travels took us from Amsterdam to Naarden-Bussum, to Wijchen and Nijmegen, Huizen, Spanderswoud, Hilversum, ‘s-Graveland, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Scheveningen, Madurodam, Utrecht, Haarzuilens (Kasteel de Haar), Nieuwleusen, and of course Giethoorn.

I really wish we had longer than just 2 weeks. In between all this Dutch sightseeing, we still spent a couple of days in Germany. There are so many places that needed to be seen, but we ran out of time. My all-time highlight has to be Giethoorn. I definitely need to come back just to visit it again.

3. Public transport in the Netherlands is top knotch

Oh, my word. I have absolutely no complaints about infrastructure and the transport systems the Netherlands has in place. What else can be said? The rest of the world has to sit up and pay attention.

Even though this efficiency was in place 24 years ago, I don’t think I fully appreciated it until I came back. Whether you are using a road, train track, or waterway; this is a place where you will reach your destination effortlessly.

Maybe my South African roots are showing, but this has got to be the safest place in the world. I really wish that my daughter will be able to experience this level of freedom of travelling safely. That was possibly the most familiar feeling that I experienced on this trip. I could give up my homeland for that feeling.

One of my friends summed it up perfectly. She said that nobody bothers anyone else. People just joyfully went about their business without causing anyone any grief. Lest we not forget, Wi-Fi on public transport?! I’m floored. 😅

4. All the bicycles

The biggest difference from 24 years ago: What have y’all done to the bicycles with kid carriers? This is not fair.

When I was an au pair back in the dark ages, those poor kids had no protection from the elements other than their clothes. I had one kid on the back of my bicycle in her seat and the other in his seat on my handlebars. This fancy creation you now have is just superb. I walked past a kid sitting eating her breakfast whilst her mom was riding a bakfiets. I think it’s definitely a massive improvement and great innovation.

Look at that those kiddies go! Image: Ballenbak/Wikimedia Commons/CC2.0

5. The endlesss bounds of Dutch hospitality

Imagine, if you will, going back to a country 24 years later and being treated like the returned prodigal son (or daughter). Not only did my au pair family offer me and my friends a place to stay, but we were welcomed with open arms and made to feel at home.

Friends that I’ve not seen since 1994 accommodated us, took us around to visit various sights and generally took care of all our needs whilst visiting. I can’t even begin to thank them for the amazing time we had. I only hope to return the favour when they visit me in South Africa.

This trip was the best, but also the worst. I was heartbroken when I had to leave. Again. This country holds such fond memories. I immediately recalled everything I loved about it. New places were seen and new memories were made. Reconnected with old friends and definitely made some new ones.

This only means one thing: I can’t wait another 24 years before going back again. Tot zo!

Can you relate? Let us know in the comments! 

Feature Image: 0805edwin/Pixabay 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated in December 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Nathalie Europa
Nathalie Europa
Born and raised in Cape Town South Africa on Sinterklaas 1970... I knew since I was 7 years old that I would become a teacher (or a dancer) and I qualified as a teacher in 1991. I currently teach at a skills school for learners with special academic needs. I have a daughter, who keeps me on my toes and informed. I lead an active lifestyle and enjoy the outdoors. I lived in Naarden - Bussum for a full year and worked as an au-pair from 1993 -1994. The country and the people have crept into my heart and I will always feel like I left a piece of it behind.

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  1. Snap.

    1998 – 1st visit

    2018 – 2nd visit

    I’d love ❤️ to be able to study, work and live in the Netherlands ?? but just can’t seem to figure-out how to do it.

  2. I went there last year for the first time, for a week during tulip blooming time. It was totally enchanting and impressive with its technology and transportation systems as well as everything else you mention. I’d love to live there! And their attitude towards marijuana is totally refreshing!

    • Strangely enough, I have yet to see the tulips. My holidays never match that time of year. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to go back and see them someday soon.

      • Come on! You can’t be serious about food… Please go visit Italy, France, Greece and Spain, then you might reconsider your opinion about Dutch food. Beside that I can relate to all the rest 🙂

  3. Borne and raised in holland moved to Canada
    In1967 still love going to visit
    Go see a voetbal game hup p.s.v.
    Enjoy eindhoven and visiting family
    Love the N.S. buy a daypass and travel the country

  4. I’m happy you enjoyed your trip. I came to the Netherlands nearly 60 years ago. I’m always grumbling about it, but it’s a nice country and I love it. Kom gauw terug.

  5. Yes, yes, exactly. I was born in 1949 and lived in Alkmaar. 1969 I moved to Sweden and the first years I was back in the Netherlands maybe every 3 years. Now I am back 2 times a year (or more) and the same experience with food and other things. So now I have a big problem because of Covid-19. Help, no dropjes, hagelslag, conimexkruiden and so on. As soon as possible….. Ben ik weer lekker in Nederland.

  6. I didn’t realise you back in South Africa.
    We are on the last hurdle in moving to Netherlands from SA and your page has been so helpful.

    Thank you.
    Maybe I can take you for a cup of coffee to pick your brain 👍🏻

  7. It has been 25 years since I have been back. Lived there for 3 years. Miss the food and country. Thought I would be back sooner..
    Hopefully one day. Those bicycle kid carriers always amazed me. I’ve seen 3 kids at a time.

    • I hope you get to go back soon. I could not believe that I stayed away so long once I went back for the first time in 2018.

  8. After reading this article I am even more homesick fir my home country! It has been 10 years ago I visited my family and that was because my mother was dying. I stayed 4 months and helped emptying her little house. Made plans with my husband and kids to start saving and make a trip again. It is time!

  9. I immigrated to NL nearly 4 years ago, my South African roots fully understand what you mean about freedom in general. I was expecting it, but it blew me and my family’s mind on arrival. The lack of fear is wonderful and hard to explain to the locals.

  10. I fully agree. I really wish my daughter will experience it at some point. She doesn’t really understand that how she was raised relates directly to where she was raised.

  11. I hardly ever comment but I thought I just can’t leave without saying dutch food sucks. I mean just put in “why is dutch food” and first things to pip up are bad,bland and expensive. Now if you have no other frame of reference then I understand but just go to a u.k Chinese and get crispy chilly beef or a naga curry from an Indian your taste buds will explode


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