5 things that will surprise you when you first arrive in the Netherlands

Welcome! 🇳🇱

When my husband and I were first presented with the opportunity to live in The Hague, we didn’t really know what to expect. We were super excited to have a new experience, but also full of uncertainty.

When our moving date came around, we hopped on a plane from Madrid to Schiphol with our one-year-old (in case you were wondering, it is super fun flying with a toddler… not!) and never looked back.

Actually, that is not entirely true; there was a whole lot of looking back… as well as overthinking absolutely everything about our new life in the Netherlands.

Some things surprised us; some things even shocked us — but we ended up getting used to them all. Either way, enjoy this list of things that caught us off guard when we first came to the Netherlands. 👇

If the sun is out, everyone is out

photo-bustling-terrace-in-the-netherlands
Terraces are usually jam-packed on sunny days. Image: Depositphotos

It rains a lot in the Netherlands; that’s not exactly a secret. Dutchies are used to practically living in rain boots and can cycle through a storm without batting an eyelash.

However, when a sunny day comes around, you will see flocks of people enjoying the park, the beach, the café terraces or even simple chairs outside their front door.

You’ll find them leaning back, faces up, and soaking up the golden rays like there is no tomorrow.

I guess it’s true that you never really appreciate something until you know you can seldom have it. It is also likely that you will see me sporting my winter coat (maybe without a scarf) while all the locals are already wearing T-shirts and sandals (sometimes with socks).

Bikes, more bikes — and bikes again

Cycling-in-the-Netherlands-is-common-people-riding-bikes-everywhere
They’re everywhere. Image: Depositphotos

I mean, everyone knows cycling is the most common way of transportation in the land of cheese and windmills, but you never realise how many bikes there truly are, until you get here.

READ MORE| Seven types of cyclists found when biking in the Netherlands

Trust me, they’re everywhere and anywhere!

Need to cross a street? Better watch out for bikes coming at you from every direction, even if there is no bike lane, even if you are on the sidewalk minding your own business.

Now try pushing a stroller through that. It’s not easy. 😅

Stairs, that sums it up

Photo-of-steep-Dutch-staircase
Many Dutch houses come fitted with extremely steep stairs. Image: DutchReview/Supplied.

Aw, Dutch colonial revival architecture, how pretty!

Yes, the buildings are super nice to look at; combine them with the endless canals and cute bridges, and the landscape is complete.

The catch to all this beauty becomes apparent when you open the first door and look up to some really (I mean REALLY) steep and narrow stairs.

READ MORE| The Amsterdam canal house: why are they so wonderfully weird?

I know Dutch people are tall, but come on!

Again, carrying the stroller up while holding my child’s hands seems like an impossible mission.

Needless to say, when we were apartment hunting, our number one item on the wish list was to have a lift… and let me tell you, it was not easy finding it.

Speak English? You are good to go!

Photo-of-women-talking-Dutch-how -long-does -it-take-to-learn-Dutch?
Dutch? Don’t need her. Image: Pexels

Before moving here, we knew that we’d have to make most of our communication work in English.

After all, if you are unsure about the time you will spend in a new country, it is unlikely you will dive head-first into learning a new language.

To say that Dutch is not a particularly easy language to learn is the understatement of the year, so we were beyond pleased to find out that English proficiency in the Netherlands is the best in the world.

This is obviously great for all the expats living and enjoying this life in the lowlands.

The dreamy surroundings

the-hague-netherlands-parliament-house
The Hague is an undeniably beautiful city. Image: Depositphotos

Whether you need to step out of the house to run some errands or just to take a walk, the beauty you encounter on almost every corner is not one to go unnoticed.

The couple of swans in the canal on your way to get coffee or the peace you feel when you take your little one to the park is truly remarkable.

Most places look like they came from a fairytale; I mean, have you ever strolled around the Peace Palace in The Hague?

READ MORE | We promise that these photos of The Hague are the best you will see


All kidding aside, the Netherlands is a great place to be — even if some things may surprise you at first.

After a little over a year of living in such a cool expat city, I can say we officially call The Hague home — at least for now.

Are you an expat in the Netherlands? What has surprised you about life here? 

Laila Robles Martínez
Laila Robles Martínez
Laila is a journalist born and raised in Mexico City, and has lived in Canada (a semester in high school counts, right?), Spain (where she met the love of her life and completed her Master’s Degree in Humanities) and most recently, The Netherlands. She has great passion for exploring new cultures, mothering her beautiful three-year-old son, tasting all kinds of vegan treats and, of course, writing.

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