Doei doei! Leaving the Netherlands – 7 ways to deal with emigrating from the Netherlands

Doei doei en tot ziens! Here are 7 ways to deal with leaving the Netherlands

It’s time. Your trusty bike is being pedaled by a new owner, your suitcases are filled with stowaways like chocoladeletters and oud jong kaas, and you’ve said a final “doei!” to your vrienden. All that’s left is to brush the remaining stroopwafel crumbs from your coffee table before you catch the train to Schiphol.

I’m not going to hagelslag it: leaving the Netherlands is hard.

Remember the charm of first arriving in NL? The houses seemingly erupting from the canals, the bikes whizzing down the lanes and threatening to run you over, the delightful ongoing murmur of the gutteral Dutch language, the whirl of sweet, green smoke that filters through your nostrils at every corner?

Yep. It’s time to say toedeledoki. 

I’m speaking from personal experience here when it comes to leaving the Netherlands. Six weeks ago I packed up far too many suitcases, paid my overbaggage fees, and stepped on one of many flights to get me back to my hometown in Australia.

leaving the Netherlands
How can you say goodbye to THIS? Seriously

Maybe one of the hardest parts of leaving the Netherlands is this travel. You’ve just said goodbye to your life for the past however long, and now you’re stuck in the weird time warp that is travelling – little sleep, crappy food, and a whole lot of waiting time.

It seems okay at first on the other end. Your family and friends will be waiting for you, you’re seeing the place that you’re most familiar with. But here’s the thing: reverse-culture shock is real.

You’ve heard of culture-shock: arriving in a foreign environment and needing to adjust to new ways. Meet its lesser-known and much less-liked cousin: reverse culture shock. Because where the things that incited the original culture-shock were also exciting and distracting, like trying new foods, meeting new types of people, you (hopefully) adjusted in the end. Now turn all that upside down (down under in my case), and get used to living home life again.

The worst part of it is that a lot of home will be the same. You’ve been on an amazing adventure, tested your boundaries, lived in a foreign environment – congratulations, you’re pretty much an explorer! Legit though, think about all the people from your home town that haven’t stepped out of their comfort zone like you have. Kudos to you.

Coming home has a lot of benefits: for one, it’s home. It’s the people you have known for the majority of your life. It also has it’s downsides: it’s the people you have known for the majority of your life. And after being on a big adventure, that can be difficult. While you may have changed a lot, it seems like time has stood still.

The good news is that this is completely normal, and affects almost everyone. The even better news is that there are some ways to combat it:

1) Stay in contact with your Dutchies

This may seem obvious, but time and space play a large role in how close you are with people. No matter the time difference, make the effort to stay in contact. It doesn’t matter if you reply to messages nine hours apart, having that contact there will remind you that living in the Netherlands wasn’t just a dream (this will really happen, promise!)

The best thing is that you have a plethora of ways to do this: WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, the good, old phone, play Words with Friends, run a string between two tin cans: the opportunities are endless!

2) Re-engage with your old friends and family

It’s hard being away for a long time, so jump back on that wagon and remember that while your friends and family from back home are different to the friends you made abroad, they’re all your loved ones. Spend time with them! They will be happy to have you back.


3) Re-live your Dutch life in stories, but remember to live in the moment

Those back home will love to hear your stories, but remember to take it easy and don’t overload on them – remember that with all of your adjustment back home they still have their own issues going on too.

4) Leaving the Netherlands: Indulge in your favourite things

Vegemite on toast and two-minute noodles. Tim-Tams and Milo and Violet Crumbles! Killer Pythons and melted Red-Skins, these are a few of my favourite things! And coincidentally the things I overindulged on on my return to Australia. What’s a few kilos when you’re taking care of your mental health?

But seriously, if you dreamt of or were lucky enough to receive a care package while you were in NL, give these same things to you on your return: they will give you a new respect for you home country!

Or, go in reverse. Pack yourself a care package full of stroopwafels, hagelslag, and cheese and bring it out on nights when you couldn’t feel further from Holland.

You’re sure to miss all that bicycle awesomeness:

5) Get out. 

That’s right, I’m talking to YOU. Get out of the house, go see old friends, take a walk in the forest or the beach, just don’t sit indoors and feel sad about what you left behind. Getting out is literally the best thing you can do for yourself.

6) Emigrating from the Netherlands: Transform your travel bug into an experience bug

If you don’t have the funds to get on another plane or train, go and experience new things anyway. Try a new sport, go to a new bar, go on a hike to an unexplored location. Try a stay-cation and experience your city through the eyes of a tourist!

7) Just keep going. 

It’s going to suck. The Netherlands is a great place and it’s really hard to leave. But keep focused on the positives, and start planning when you can head back!

How did you find leaving the Netherlands? How is home life going for you? Tell us about it below!

Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.


  1. Really difficult. I have been living in the UK for almost 2 years now. At the moment i am celebrating the first week of 2018 in Den Haag and i feel so at home, in the right place and i can eat all my things and talk my own language 🙂 I will for sure have a culture shock (yet again) when i am back in the UK on the 7th of this month.

    How do i survive in the UK: i am always stocked up on hagelslag, vlokken, pannenkoeken/appeltaartmix, curry gewurz and katjesdrop. AND after a lot of trials i can currently make my own kroketjes, erwtensoep and jummy boerenkool . But stil nothing is as good as a hema or unox rookworst… There is hope though Hema just opened a shop in london :)……

  2. I left my home country the Netherlands 27 years ago, the most difficult thing was not having my family and friends around. Now most of my family had passed away and you outgrow your friends. When I go back it is not home anymore. A lot has changed, but I do bring back cheese, liquorice and spices.

  3. I left my home country to live in the USA 16 years ago. I am an introvert so it’s not easy for me to make friends, so I do still miss my friends and family from the Netherlands. I still can’t get into the American sports, I just don’t get it. Americans like to chit chat and that’s it, they are in general friendly but they seem to always on the go. I don’t miss the Dutch vulgarness, the vandalism, lack of respect for authority. the traffic. Every time I visit I have get used to the tiny streets again. And I do miss ‘gezelligheid’ and koffie.


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