4 things I wish I knew before moving to the Netherlands for love

We all go through an obsessive Googling phase before making the decision to move to the flatlands of Europe. When I was in it, DutchReview proved to be a trove of useful information. Now that I have been here for some time, survived a pandemic, and learned quite a few lessons of my own, I thought I should pay it forward and help out the next lovepat.

So, here are the things I wish I knew before I moved to the Netherlands for love.

1. Romance aside, you’re going to have to learn the language

You’ve heard it a million times before: “everyone speaks English in the Netherlands!” So you are probably thinking that you can get by without learning the notoriously hard Dutch. You are right! It is perfectly possible to live here without speaking Dutch, in fact, the Dutch are the best non-native English speakers in the world — but it limits life in significant ways.

It’s a tricky language but if you and your partner plan on staying in the Netherlands, you’re going to have to learn Dutch eventually. Image: Alexander Suhorucov/Pexels

Without een beetje Nederlands, integrating in society and striking friendships with the local crowd is trickier, and depending on your professional profile, the job hunt is harder. It is common to see internationals caving in and learning Dutch at some point, some do it six months in, other hold off for a decade — but it eventually happens, especially when your partner is Dutch.

READ MORE | 9 podcasts that’ll have you speaking Dutch in no time

If I could go back in time, I’d start learning Dutch before moving here, and not just on Duolingo!

2. Listen up lovebug, you’re going to have to get used to the culture

It is easy to fall in love with the vacation version of the Netherlands. Especially if it’s the summer vacation version! The picturesque windmills, lovely bike rides, and romantic canals have a way of stealing your heart. It is a great place, where politics is not an absolute nightmare (not quite) and everyone greets you in the street — but the Dutch mindset and culture is one of a kind.

READ MORE |15 weirdly cute things Dutch people do

Even if you are not from a very distant culture, expect that you’ll have some adapting to do when you move to the Netherlands. Pragmatism is the word of the day everyday and this is reflected in every aspect of life, from the health care system to social relations — and everything in between. Their no-nonsense approach to life can be equally refreshing and frustrating. Be prepared!

3. You’ve got your partner, now you need some friends

Making new friends as an adult is challenging, but they are an integral part of a happy life and you’ll need to find some in your new home — and no, your partner can’t be your only friend.

Partner aside, you’re going to be needing some friends for your life in the Netherlands. Image: fauxels/Pexels

There are many events for expats and apps that you can use, but what really did the trick for me was social media — Facebook no less (yes, I was shocked too)! There are groups of expats in each city, which offer great support for doubts and recommendations, but also a platform for you to frankly introduce yourself and find like-minded souls who are on a similar boat.

READ MORE |Attention couples: this new app will help you find the ultimate double-dates

I had better luck in women’s only groups (yes, they’re a thing!), but each experience is different. Don’t overlook this avenue when on the friend prowl!

4. The weather will play with your feelings

Everything you heard about the Dutch weather is true. It has multiple personalities and they all seem to come out at least once a day.

Raincoats and sunglasses are often packed together, and a drizzle will never bother you again once you’ve lived here long enough. As an immigrant from a warmer climate, I tried to prepare in advance only to realise that none of my new clothes and shoes were right.

If I could give my old self a tip, it would be: download the weather app, remember to check it before getting dressed and shop here once you’ve got the hang of it.

5. Integration: you need to be realistic

Integration is THE word when discussing immigration in The Netherlands. It means different things for different types of immigrants, but on the most basic level, you should feel like you’re fitting in well in your new home. And a welcoming partner is not enough to achieve this.

It will take time, but you can do it. Image: FrankMagdelyns 1/Pixabay

After being here for 1,5 years and far from feeling this way, I realise I should have set more realistic expectations for the integration process. Although the Dutch can be a welcoming lot, it is alienating not being able to read the news, fully engage with Dutch culture, and having to pay taxes without having the right to vote.

Against the integration blues, I find that the best remedy is to throw yourself in the making of the building blocks of your new life and enjoy all the fun things that the tiny land of tall people has to offer!

Moving to the Netherlands for love offers its challenges but you can do this, take it one step at a time — and it’s always good to know you have your liefje to help support you.

Did you move to the Netherlands for love? What would you add to this list?

Feature Image: AlinaRosanova/Depositphotos

Maria Rita Reis
Maria Rita is an ex-International Relations teacher on a lifelong affair with the news. She enjoys reading about light topics such as minorities, terrorism, and war. An immigrant, a polyglot and a very curious human, she's always rooting for the underdog. Keeping up with international politics and understanding the power of language are two of her biggest passions. Not surprisingly, a lot of her time is spent drinking obscene amounts of coffee and laughing at silly linguistics memes.

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