There are reasons why I will never leave the Netherlands, even though it might not be the warmest place to live. Living here can be tough but after living here for a while, I know I want to stick around.
The hardest part is cycling to the bus/tram/train station as each force applied on your bicycle’s pedals is done with a lot of effort due to cycling against the cold wind. Then, you’re in a stuffy train, surrounded by a few people sneezing and coughing because of the flu and you try your best not to catch it.
Dutch winter is that time of the year when you feel like walking and talking drains all your energy. The biggest decision you make each morning is deciding if you should get out of bed or just call in sick and spend the day watching Netflix and keeping your palms warm with hot chocolate or coffee. Oh, what a decision!
As someone who spent a huge chunk of his life in Nigeria, I have to say that I still struggle with Dutch winter. It’s the one season that makes me miss the warmth of Africa. But I have to be honest; living in the Netherlands has been great! There is a lot about the Netherlands that I love and here are a few reasons why I will never leave the Netherlands.
According to Forbes, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time to their employees. Forbes also explains that nearly 1-in-4 Americans do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.
While that may seem rather normal to a lot of Americans, the Dutch do get paid vacations and they definitely do not play with their holidays. They travel a lot and buy a lot of packaged trips to countries all around the world.
This is where the mentality of taking time off became “a thing” for me. My time in the Netherlands has taught me how to work as hard as I can while also rewarding myself with a good vacation each year. One thing I love about the Netherlands is that if you don’t take a few weeks off every year, you’re not doing it right.
I love the fact that even though the Netherlands may be a small country, it is full of opportunities for anyone willing to make something of their lives. Be they expats or locals, if they’re up for the challenge, there are lots of opportunities for everyone to work in the Netherlands, with a wide range of international and multinational companies.
There is a fast-track immigration process for highly skilled workers plus tax benefits (the 30% tax ruling) for some international employees. The government also helps small-scale businesses grow by simplifying bureaucracy, offering tax breaks and continuously updating government policies.
In the Netherlands, things work. Of course, nothing is perfect but the wonderful thing is that they are always working on ways to improve those things that aren’t perfect. Take the NS trains as an example. Though sometimes late, they’re frequent, modern and safe.
Dutch infrastructure is generally well maintained and reliable and one of the best things about transportation in the Netherlands is 9292. This is a website that gives you detailed information on how to get to any destination you want. All you have to do is turn on your GPS or type in where you are and where you would like to go and it shows you the trains, buses, trams or metros you need — all in real time.
Oh, and if for some reason you take the bus or the tram and you forget to check out when you get to your destination, there’s also a website where you can ask for your money back. Isn’t that awesome?
Everything is so well organised in the Netherlands. Rubbish is collected regularly, and streets are cleaned every evening and sometimes in the morning. You can apply for unemployment benefits if for some reason you are out of work, and emergency surgery is covered by health insurance.
Parents get child benefits (kinderbijslag), students get benefits/loans (studiefinanciering) and are also allowed to travel freely (except weekends) within the country, throughout the duration of their study (studentenreisproduct) and senior citizens are also well cared for.
The only thing I don’t seem to get is the division in the Dutch education system. There’s HAVO, VWO, VMBO, VMBO-T and MBO. Then there’s something called a “Gymnasium” and another called an “Atheneum” and for some reason, Dutch teens seem to be very proud that they study there.
The street markets
What is there not to love about a typical Dutch street market? I love how colourful they are and whenever I visit them, I always take pictures and enjoy one or two snacks while chilling under the sun.
My favourite street market is the book fair at Amsterdam’s Spui. This is a very small book fair I visit every Friday in search of old books and to be honest, I’ve been able to score a few rare books over the years. I still remember the pure joy I felt when I stumbled upon a very old Rembrandt Bible and a vintage Arabian Nights.
Dutch markets usually sell everything from local and fresh products, bread, and cheese to flowers and small household items. Visiting a Dutch street market isn’t just about buying stuff, it’s also about spending time with loved ones, having a few drinks and bites and enjoying the weather and scenery as these markets always take place in the summer.
Called Koningsdag by locals, this colourful Dutch festival is a celebration of the Dutch monarch’s birthday — King Willem-Alexander. This holiday is celebrated with parades and street markets and is always marked with a spirit of oranjegekte or ‘orange madness’, reflecting the Dutch national colour.
King’s Day is a day when people enjoy the company of their loved ones, visit street markets and get drunk. It is the day pubs are filled with fun-loving people, the streets are scattered with people in orange costumes and there are too many after-parties to choose from. What could be better than that?
The Netherlands has her mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, like every country on Earth. Fortunately, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a lot of Dutch people who went from being friends to becoming like family.
The Dutch are generally friendly and are always quick to help whenever they can. Basically, if as a tourist, you were to stop a Dutch person on the street to ask for directions or questions on how to use the public transportation, you would most likely get the help you need. They are warm people and while they can sometimes be too direct, they are also very welcoming and tolerant.
It’s not very easy making friends with some Dutch people, but when you do, they can become family to you and that is a bond you have with them for years.
The canals and boats
There’s one thing about living in the Netherlands that makes me happy every time. It’s the canals and how they get filled with boats during the summer. During the summer months, Amsterdam canals are usually filled with different kinds of boats. There are boats for weed smokers, beer lovers, boats filled with colleagues having a good time on a Friday evening (borrel aan boord) after work, boats for tourists seeking to see the sights and of course the boats cruising the canals on Gay Pride or the Amsterdam’s Grachenfestival.
The funniest part is that a while ago, canal cruise companies in Amsterdam were offering cruises for Pokémon Go players. There’s definitely a canal cruise for everyone if they’re willing to find it.
Due to the beauty and peaceful nature of the canals, it is no surprise that boating is a huge part of Dutch summer social life.
The Netherlands is definitely not one of those countries you’d want to leave very quickly. Amsterdam, my city, still remains one of the most beautiful in the world and there are lots of reasons to visit (especially in the summer) and even consider permanently staying!
So there you have it — this is my two cents on why I would never leave the Netherlands. There are so many reasons I cannot name, but my love for the Netherlands runs deep and there is still no reason “good enough” for me to pack up and leave the Netherlands.
Ik houd van Nederland.
Are there any other reasons why you would never leave the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: kirkandmimi/Pixabay
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2018, and was fully updated in September 2020 for your reading pleasure.