Why driving in the Netherlands is stressful: My experience of living in the Netherlands

Road rage after moving to the NL: 📈

Maybe the hectic driving experience it’s not the first thing that comes into your mind when thinking about the Netherlands, but it’s a factor that you need to consider!

What’s so stressful about it, you ask? Well, put your seatbelts on, because it’s about to be a stressful ride. 👇

Driving in the Netherlands

Like many other people, I imported my car to the Netherlands when I moved here.

Excited to explore my new home on four wheels, I was quickly discouraged: the more I drove, the more I understood why Dutchies like to stick to their fiets.

dog-camping-in-france
He is not stressing too much about driving! Image: Depositphotos

Without a mental map of the streets in my head, I often got lost and did sightseeing tours through all the streets of the the village that I live in now.

READ MORE | How to get a Dutch driver’s licence: the ultimate guide

I often did some bigger detours — but thanks to Google Maps, I always found my way back home (probably 20 minutes later than I wanted to).

Further, I want to mention that since I grew up in a city with two million inhabitants (Vienna), I acquired a quite “aggressive” way of driving. I was lucky that I started working towards my driver’s license at 16, so I could gain a lot of driving experience.

I learned how to drive on crowded streets, how to switch lanes the Viennese way, and I can parallel park in the tiniest spot available — but I was not prepared to take on these Dutch streets.

So, what’s driving in the Netherlands like?

So, coming to the Netherlands I did not expect a lot of differences. I kind of imagined it to be the little boring kind of countryside driving, with lots of cows, no cars, and straight roads.

Boy, was I wrong. Since then, I have identified many sources of stress on Dutch streets. 😰

Sharing the streets with bikes, trams, and people

When driving in a city like Amsterdam or Utrecht, you’ll never be the only person on the road. Instead, you’ll share the streets with cyclists, mopeds, busses, and trams.

photograph-of-a-tesla-car-driving-down-a-street-in-amsterdam
Cyclists rule these streets. Image: Depositphotos

No matter how used you are to busy streets, the Netherlands will have you sweating.

While bikes are cutting ahead of you to your right, trams are “ding”-ing to your left — and all you want is to get out of the madness.

Traffic lights in the Netherlands

In Austria, traffic lights jump from red to yellow to green. When the light is yellow, you press your gas pedal to the ground because the people behind you will start honking as soon as the light turns green.

READ MORE | The Netherlands: Ready as it can be for Self-Driving Cars

Sounds stressful? Wrong. The fact that Dutch traffic lights jump from red to green immediately is stressful.

photo-of-
red-traffic-light-driving-in-the-netherlands-stressful
NEVER. Look. Away. Image: Depositphotos

Still having in the back of my head that everybody honks like mad once it is green, I try to sprint away from the traffic light as soon as I can.

At first, I really missed the two seconds of the traffic light being yellow, but after a while, I figured out that my time delay did not make people mad. Still, the stress of waiting for the light to turn green never went away.

Driving on Dutch highways

The aggressive driving style of Dutch people shows once you are on the highway. People will pass you at 160km/h, because you drive too slow at 130km/h (while the speed limit is 100 km/h).

READ MORE | Renting a car in the Netherlands: driving in Amsterdam and beyond

Five meters further down, cars are stuck behind a truck, and you can kind of wave to them as you drive past — IF they don’t just hit their blinker at the last second and crash into your lane.

Photo-of-Ferrari-driving-fast-on-road
No wonder they like Formula 1 so much. 😉 Image: Freepik

I have learned that the blinker is used to show people that you want to go in a different direction or on the highway if you want to switch lanes. You show people your intention to drive and wait if people let you do so.

READ MORE | Buying and driving a second-hand car in the Netherlands: costs you need to know

In the Netherlands, the blinker is there to show the other drivers that “I am coming NOW.” People rush in between two cars, then one has to brake heavily, causing a chain reaction of braking, causing, guess what… jam

Traffic jams in the Netherlands

Did I mention Dutch traffic jams? I’ve always experienced jams as an accumulation of cars because something happened (like an accident or roadworks).

photo-of-traffic-on-highway
Just GO! Image: Depositphotos

In the Netherlands, it’s not rare to suddenly stand on the highway for ten minutes for no reason — just because of congestion, or… because somebody switched lanes and everybody had to brake hard.


Phew, who knew writing an article could give you so much road rage? 😡

Trust me, as someone who drives on one of the busiest Dutch roads daily, I come across all these points every single day.

I started to accept the traffic lights after a few months, but the traffic jams still cause quite some frustration, and the lane switching will always stress me out.

Do you agree with these notes about driving in the Netherlands? What are your experiences? Tell us in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in February 2018, and was fully updated in December 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Marion Boigner
Marion Boigner
I was born and raised in Vienna, Austria and moved to the Netherlands out of love. I am working as a "German as a foreign language" as well as "English" teacher. My passion for languages helped me to learn Dutch easily and at the moment I am speaking all three languages throughout my days. Furthermore, I am living and enjoying the wonderful but crazy life of having two homes in two countries. This goes along with seeing the beauty of two worlds and broadening my horizon and point of view.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Spot on! Maybe the Dutch driving style has something to do with the way they ride their bicycles: legally absolved of any responsibility to look where they are going. Then, when they get into a car at 17, they already have a ‘spatial skills’ deficit.

  2. I think your impression is a bit one-sided, and negative.
    Living as a Dutchman in South Africa, I miss the orderly merging of traffic that we know in the Netherlands when two lanes merge into one (like a zipper). When everybody does this on time, slowing down is reduced to a minimum. In SA, however, people keep passing you when you merge on time and push in later, thereby bringing traffic to a standstill. Others create a new lane on the shoulder of the road and cause more chaos.
    So compared to SA, Dutch traffic is relaxed! Or is this orderly ‘zipper’ behavior no longer practiced?

    The speed difference between highway traffic is usually not too big, and traffic flows smoothly, especially where the speed limit is 100. Your example of 160 kmph racers seems to be an exception to me. The traffic fines are hefty and people can actually get their car impounded if they break the speed limit excessively.

    • As a South African living in the Netherlands I agree with you. I found it super easy and nice to drive in NL. I like the zipper analogy and assertive driving. The 100km/hr can be painful but I seldom see people flooring it or pushing in. Driving from Utrecht to Amsterdam we look like robots all going at 102km/hr. I do however see as many people as in Cape Town talking on their mobiles and going over red lights.

  3. Marion, don’t ever go to and drive in Arab and Asian countries then if you’re already shocked by Dutch traffic. At least people keep to rules.
    I, female, am glad I got my divers licence in the Netherlands and can handle crazy traffic here in UAE with confidence.

  4. Yup, and here we go. Lot of complaints that you are not right but unfortunately for dutch people, you are. Traffic jams from nowhere. Just because everyone is pushing his little engine car left lane to the end, and then cut into right lane and further, just to get to the freeway exit on last moment. 30 seconds earlier at home is veeeerrryyy important for every dutch person or maybe this is just selfish being? Blinkers? What is that? If someone knows about this devil made lever in his car, never use it correctly. As was said, blinker is more like “may I?” but not in Netherlands, here it means ” Get lost, I`m going now”. There is very true joke in Germany about dutch driving. “When you get to much penalty points for bad driving, you get yellow plates”. Just thinking, if you are so gooood drivers, why your own government, changed speed limit in whole country to 100 on freeways? I guess there will be very logic explanation from all of you here but true is, you can`t drive. If you want to say that every country in Europe is wrong about your driving, think twice. Your opinion as a Dutchman is subjective and you are in the vast minority when it comes to determining if you can drive or not.

    • Dutch driver’s are bad and getting worse, thats for sure. Though I would say the 100kph speed limit is actually accelerating the degredation of Dutch driver performance.
      Something important for your to understand is that that speed limit was brought in due to the governments belief that it will reduce the Dutch CO2 emissions to our EU Target (which is idiotic given the fact that cars produce near to no emissions on a national scale), this limit was not put in place due to quality of driving, or any form of safety concern – since 100kmh is more dangerous than 130kmh.

  5. As a South African who is used to informal taxis weaving in and out of traffic, on the road and off the road without any sign of what they plan to do next, driving in the Netherlands has thus far been nothing short of a rollercoaster. Believe it or not, I feel that SA traffic is significantly more orderly than Dutch traffic, due to a variety of reasons: 1) VERY aggressive driving style here in the Netherlands and a very low tolerance for anyone who is actually trying to avoid a fine. 2) Bicycle has right of way. This point I can’t stress enough: it makes NO sense. A car is a vehicle that travels significantly faster than a bicycle and has upwards of 10x the mass. That’s a lot of momentum that has to stop dead for cyclists that do not watch where they’re going. Not to mention the ridiculous bicycle lanes that weave in between traffic routes. No wonder there are more cyclist deaths than road deaths in the Netherlands. Not a stat to be proud of. 3) Constant concern for the obscene traffic fines. One therefore finds themselves in a position where you are trying not to annoy people who are driving aggressively around you, while doing your best not to knock any cyclists, topped off with the incredibly claustrophobic feeling that you somehow, some way have incurred a traffic fine that will make a dent in your salary. To be honest, I miss SA’s roads hugely. There is at least a relatively easy flow. I wholly agree with this article.

  6. Ben nu 34 jaar buschauffeur in Nederland.. Het verkeersgedrag is een afspiegeling van de volksaard. in Nederland wordt je daar niet bepaalt vrolijk van: Kom vaak in Canada en Zweden; het verkeer is er veel rustiger en gemoedelijker en men houd zich veel beter aan de verkeersregels dan in Nederland, in Nederland bepaal je toch zeker zelf wel of die beperkende regels ook voor jou gelden in je dikke Audi of opgefokte VW Golf ?
    Over 53 maanden ga ik gelukkig met pensioen en vertrek dan voor het grootste deel van het jaar naar Canada, Florida en Zweden, weg uit de Nederlandse drukte en ‘t eeuwige jakkeren en jagen..

  7. I think every Dutch behind the wheel is inspired by Max Verstappen, no? 🙂

    I moved to the NL from Singapore and I still am afraid to drive in the village because several Dutch signs and road rules are unknown to road users from Singapore. For example, on unmarked junctions – I didn’t know that the car on the right has the right of way. And One Way signs and No U-turn are not universal. Many pedestrian crossings are also badly lit. Not to mention the extremely narrow streets that have to be shared with traffic on both sides, parked cars and cyclists.

    I do find that a lot of drivers on Dutch roads are aggressive. We had an incidence once where a guy threw a can of beer at us while we were driving on the highway. He got even more aggressive when I started filming him.

  8. Ha, ha lots of good replies, I don’t drive here, I’m one of those eternal bikers and I never relish being in a car in NL – with anyone! I’d say try NOT being part of the Problem – get out of your car and live the good life like we ex-pats always wanted.😀

  9. I live in the UK and drive for a living, mainly around the London area. I also spent 6 months living & driving in the Netherlands (namely Amsterdam). The only thing I found scary about driving in the Netherlands was driving the narrow canalside roads. I found Amsterdam to be an easy city to drive in (once you got used to it, which took me less than an hour) & I certainly didn’t experience any rudeness, sudden unexpected lane changes or aggressive driving.
    Admittedly, some of the cyclists could be scary, especially when you’ve looked both ways, go to pull out and a cyclist suddenly appears.
    I found the general standard of driving in the Netherlands to be better than the UK

  10. I mostly agree. Actually the situation is even worse. The beep you on the highway and pass on the right lane even if you are going on the edge of the speed limit, just because they cant stay behind.
    Not to mention that somebody should tell them that ”yes, in a junction without signals who comes from right has the way, unless you already occupied the junction!!! When you are already in the junction, the priority is only one: to exit the junction!”.

  11. You seek to fault the local system, but if even something as basic as traffic lights gives you discomfort, you should perhaps be a bit more critical of your own knowledge of the local system. Road rules and etiquette are not universal; rather, they are country specific. Drive in any system that is not the system in which you were taught, and you will find things that will bother you unless you take the effort to get familiar with the system. Taking a few driving classes and studying the local traffic rules can help with that.

  12. Lethality in the netherlands in one of the lowest in the world. Pedestrians are more save than car drivers in the US surrouned by tons of steel.

    And yes, in the Netherlands you are taught during driving lessons to put your blinker out when you are sure there is space, and then you go. You are not allowed to put your blinker out as suggestion of what you might want to do. Because this leaves rooms for misinterpretation and crashes.

  13. I agree about blinkers, for some reason this is how Dutch teach in driving schools. For me indicating right before the manoeuvre is the same as not using blinkers at all, not using blinkers to indicate the intention renders them useless.
    With the rest I disagree, I guess who has never tasted bitter, knows not what is sweet. After years of driving in Russia I can only say that driving in NL is one of the best driving experiences I had in my life. Yes, people speed, yes there are traffic jams like in any other country. Nevertheless I feel safe on the road when driving a motorcycle, people are mostly quite considerate of each other and usually not driving like they own this road. No one is trying to make an extra lane out of the shoulder if there is a traffic jam. People give way to ambulances. People stopping at crosswalks to let people cross the road. Transport system and the quality of the roads are amazing. Intersections are mostly safe and efficient. After 8 years of living here it’s a gift that keeps on giving and every day I am amazed by how good the transportation system is.

  14. Nice light hearted article. Thanks! I always love being in the Netherlands, but I have experienced some confusion with stress related to bus and bike lanes! 😂. It’s always an adventure!

  15. I entirely agree with this post. I am an expat living in the Netherlands. I have lived in three different European countries and have visited and driven in more than ten European countries. And I must admit that my driving experience in the Netherlands is the worst in Europe.

  16. √the queues appearing to come out of nowhere, there s really not much you can do. Fact o life.
    √it depends on what you re comparing with, i see somebody mentions traffic in South Africa in the replies here..
    √The mopeds and cyclists are not just hindrance..when you hit them you got to pay. This has something to do with stimulation of cycling. Set aside that cyclists have no insurance on their wheels, so what happens at a crash , in a land with no actual civil.lawyers (just a building5 and a nameplate) its not so easy to think out what a more reasonable but practical route would be. Kids have 10e pocket money weekly, to make this somewhat more tangible..what s an audi a1 cost these days ? 40k when it was an Renault 5 back in the days…weird times, financially isn t it.

  17. Maybe you just can’t drive?
    Only true thing is that the dutch love to block the highway for no apparent reason especially when it rains, and we all know it rains almost every day 😁

  18. Bro, if you think that is stressful , try driving in Romania, especially Bucharest . As a daily driver in Bucharest , what you are telling there sounds really basic and not a problem at all. Again, try driving in Bucharest and then realise driving in Netherlands is really chill compared to that.

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