Before you move to a new country, the Netherlands or otherwise, you are sure to be showered with tips, tricks, anecdotes, recommendations, and more than a few warnings.
When I announced I was moving to the Netherlands, it went a little something like this:
- “That’ll be lovely — all the tulips, the windmills…”
- “Don’t smoke anything.” Or the alternative, “Smoke everything!”
- “Be careful out there, keep your wits about you! You know it’s a land of vice and sin!” — said by my dad in a half-joking, half-serious voice.
- “Watch out for the canals, many fools have fallen right in.”
- “Maybe you’ll get to sail along the canals in a boat?”
Needless to say, not all of these comments were correct, relevant, or necessary. I have seen one windmill in four months, not a single tulip, and I have yet to be invited onto a boat. 💁
Moreover, my host of advisors managed to leave out some key aspects of life on this sinking land.
1. The Netherlands is actually a kingdom
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is the official title given to the sovereign state of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten by King Willem-Alexander. A Dutch king, I mean, who knew? Likely a great number of people, yet I was not one of them.
The king resides in Villa Eikenhorst on the De Horsten estate in . He is mostly a figurehead but he is celebrated in true Dutch style* every April 27 on King’s Day.
*With lots of orange, beer, and parties.
2. There are checkpoints for bike lights
The politie occasionally set up checkpoints to ensure all bikes have lights. And I mean, it’s a big deal. It begins with the circulation of the “Brace Yourselves Check Points Are Coming” message, usually via WhatsApp. 🤳
The next step is to buy some lights as yours are, without a doubt, broken, out of battery, or non-existent. Run to SoLow, Kruidvat, HEMA, or Action only to find empty shelves where bike lights should be.
But fear not, even without lights, you can survive the checkpoint. You can, of course, avoid the suspect streets. But if that’s not an option, you have two more choices:
- When you know the checkpoint is coming, hop off your bike and walk. Easy as pie!
- If worse comes to worst throw yourself — bike and all — to the ground. In the chaos that follows, maybe, just maybe, your lack of lights will be forgotten.
3. Red Light Districts are everywhere
4. Visa and Mastercard? Nope
Visa and Mastercards are, largely, not accepted here. Why in the world not? I’m still reeling from the embarrassment and confusion I experienced during my first several visits to Albert Heijn.
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Although no card means no drunken contactloos pinnen. And believe me, THAT is a good thing. 🥴
5. Dutch staircases are hella steep
The rest of the world refers to them as ladders. But here’s an image of how narrow and steep they usually are in the Netherlands. 👇 How more folks have not fallen and snapped their necks I do not know!
6. It’s not a party without balloons
Mention the word “Netherlands” anywhere outside of the Netherlands, and those around you will say one or all of the following — “weed!” “marijuana,” “roll a joint,” “420,” or “blaze it.” And sure, that’s all cool, but do you know what’s cooler? Balloons.
Not just any balloons — balloons filled with nitrous oxide, or, as it is more commonly known, laughing gas. The gas is a depressant type drug that slows down the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria, difficulty in thinking straight, and fits of uncontrollable laughter. In short, one heck of a high, even if it does last only for a few short minutes.
You’ll often see lads with a canister, doing laughing gas straight on the street. While the government has banned the sale of laughing gas at clubs and pubs, this is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon.
7. The Dutch are a little cat crazy
8. People at home will only ask “So, how’s life in Amsterdam then?“
When you tell people you are living in the Netherlands for the first time, you will likely share with them the name of the city you will be living in.
Let me tell you now however that you really shouldn’t have bothered. They will continue to assume you live in Amsterdam, or at best that you live very close to Amsterdam.
9. You may just end up loving those Dutchies
Anyone can tell you that the Dutch are direct, blunt, and cut straight to the point. But few told me about how nice Dutch people are! Waiters and shop assistants are always super friendly and make an effort to chat with customers.
Every time the chain has fallen off my bike (that’s many, many times) someone was always willing to help me or offer me a tissue for my oil-stained hands. It warms your heart, which is great considering how cold it can be here. 🤗
What have you found since living in the Netherlands for the first time? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Kirk Fisher/Pixabay
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in January 2019 and was fully updated in November 2021 for your reading pleasure.