9 top tips to help you fit in in the Netherlands

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Moving to a new country always involves a bit of culture shock. You might not like the food (think slippery, slimy herring) or you may need to get used to the cultural norms and practices. But never fear, with this starter pack you’ll be acting like a true Dutchie in no time.

We’re not saying it’ll be easy or that you’ll feel at home from day one. However, these tips will help you keep up with all the Dutch quirks you’ll meet in the Netherlands and make your relocation process much more enjoyable! 🎉  

We turned to the relocation experts at Jimble to bring you these tips. Jimble doesn’t only help you make the move — but also with adjusting to life afterwards!  

1. Learn some Dutch  

While many Dutchies speak impeccable English and you can get away with communicating through English most of the time (especially if you live in the Randstad), we can guarantee that your experience of living in the Netherlands will be much easier and more enjoyable if you put in the time and learn een beetje Nederlands (a bit of Dutch).

READ MORE | Learning Dutch: 7 questions answered  

2. Understand the liberal mindset

Sure, Amsterdam is known for its Red Light District and coffeeshops, but the Netherlands’ liberal attitude towards sex and drugs isn’t about carelessness or tourism

So before you make assumptions about sex work in the Netherlands or buy into myths about weed, educate yourself about the policies behind these controversial practices — and hear what Dutchies have to say.

Drugs

First of all, drugs aren’t legal in the Netherlands (nope, not even weed!). 🙅‍♀️ However, there are 33 legal drug testing locations spread across the country where people can get their drugs tested — and yes, people get them back after a small educational talk about drug use.

Though this may seem contradictory from a legal point of view, the primary concern is public health and safety. So, the Netherlands makes sure drugs are used in a safe way, through coffeeshops and test locations. 

amsterdam-red-light-district-street-with-people-standing-outside-coffeeshops
Coffee anyone? Image: Phototraveller/Depositphotos

Let’s talk about sex, baby 

Another thing that might take some getting used to when arriving in the Netherlands is how openly Dutchies talk about sex. With age-appropriate sex education starting already at age four, it’s no surprise that most of the taboos and giggles have been stripped from the subject by the time Dutchies reach adulthood. 

READ MORE | The complete and unadulterated guide to sex in the Netherlands

3. Learn to be direct 

It’s no secret that Dutchies don’t beat around the bush. Living in the Netherlands requires thick skin. Sometimes, the Dutch can seem a bit arrogant or harsh — but despite the blunt delivery, they’re usually just interested in hearing your opinion and getting to know you better. 

READ MORE | Dutch directness: 5 questions you’ll get in the Netherlands (and how to answer them)

Plus, most of the time they’ll switch from intense discussion to cracking a joke in the blink of an eye, so we wouldn’t take it personally. 😅 In the end, being direct does save time and Dutchies will respect you for it. 

4. Surround yourself with Dutchies 

Being around Dutch people will help you learn things about the country and the culture, as well as pick up some local tricks to make life easier. There are simply some things you’ll never learn if you spend all your time with internationals. 

So, head along to your local sports club, introduce yourself to your neighbours and go to a borrel. Before you know it, you’ll have found a ton of new friends in the Netherlands. 🥰

5. Inform yourself about cultural sensitivities (and the lack thereof) in the Netherlands

Despite their directness, the Dutch are recognised as tolerant and welcoming people. However, the country’s colonial past tends to trigger discussions — both between Dutchies of different generations, and internationals. 

So, to understand the Dutch traditions and opinions better (and avoid getting caught up in a Zwarte Piet debate), inform yourself about some of the deeper roots of Dutch culture. 

READ MORE | Zwarte Piet: the full guide to the Netherlands’ most controversial tradition

It’s heavy stuff but read up on things like the VOC and the life of slaves in the Dutch colonies. This is a part of Dutch history that’s talked about more and more and it’s important to understand where the Netherlands’ wealth originally came from. However, it’s just as important to remember that it wasn’t the fault of any currently living Dutchie.

In present-day Holland, some people pride themselves on living in a multicultural society and some want stricter immigartion laws. Learning to fit in doesn’t have to mean agreeing with the majority or what your neighbour thinks. Instead, listen to both sides and form your own opinions once you’ve done your research. 

6. Get yourself an agenda

“Want to grab dinner tonight?” isn’t gonna fly in the Netherlands (or at least it’s not very likely). The Dutch swear by their agendas and perhaps you should as well — to be fair, being organised is never a bad thing. 💁‍♀️ 

A tip for combating some of the potential cultural differences you’ll run into in the Netherlands is to plan, plan, plan when meeting up with Dutch friends or acquaintances.

two-women-friends-writing-in-agendas-to-confirm-plans
Time to dig the washi tape and stickers out again. Image: GaudiLab/Depositphotos

7. Embrace the gezelligheid (cosiness)

Gezellig is an untranslatable Dutch word and it’s safe to say that it captures a feeling quite unique to the Netherlands. What the Netherlands lacks in mountains, it certainly makes up for with a “cosy” atmosphere. There’s nothing like having a biertje at a canal-side terrace or strolling Amsterdam’s wintery streets with a cup of mulled wine.

8. Look for discounts 

Dutch people are known for being stingy. You’ll notice this when you inevitably receive a Tikkie for a negligible amount. But this also comes with its perks. Dutchies are sensible with their money, avoid debt, and they always know when there’s a sale on — cha-ching! 💃

So, scope out a good sale, direct your eyes to the bottom shelves of the supermarket aisles (where the housebrand goods are usually kept), and get yourself an Albert Heijn Bonuskaart. Even if your friends and family find it cheap, your wallet will thank you!

9. Celebrate your birthday like a true Dutchie

If you haven’t felt the culture shock since moving to the Netherlands, this might change when your birthday comes around, or you get invited to your first Dutch birthday celebration.

To say that Dutchies celebrate birthdays differently is a bit of an understatement, and there are some pretty non-negotiable birthday norms. Expect to be trapped in a circle of felicitations as the whole party literally sits in a circle and congratulates each other on knowing the birthday person. Yes, it’s cute and weird at the same time. 👀

Also, don’t forget to bring your own cake, pick up the tab, and invest in a birthday calendar for your toilet.

READ MORE | The full guide to celebrating your birthday in the Netherlands 

Ready to move? Before you find yourself the perfect birthday calendar, you need somewhere to hang it. Jimble will help you find and relocate to your new home in the Netherlands.

What helped you fit in in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Kireyonok/Depositphotos

Christine Stein Hededam 🇩🇰
Christine Stein Hededam 🇩🇰
A Dane with a special place in her heart for Minnesota, Christine is now falling in love with everything Dutch. Between finishing her bachelor’s degree, learning Dutch, and doing yoga teacher training, you will find her wandering about the Hague. Always up for visiting new places, she loves to explore the Netherlands with friends and takes pride in scoping out cute cafés (wherein to discuss books, big plans, and food).

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