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Dutch Quirk #99: Drink beer like it’s a national sport

The Netherlands is home to many big beer brands like Heineken, Hertog Jan, and Bavaria, but the Dutch drink a whooooole lot of it too! 🍻

In the Netherlands, you’ll always find a couple of beers at a table full of Dutchies!

It’s always a very popular menu item, whether you’re sitting on a terrasje or at a restaurant. Lekker biertje erbij? 😉 

Also, beers in the Netherlands are typically served in small glasses and not your usual pint glass — in this way, drinking 10 beer glasses becomes quite manageable. 🍺

What is it?

It isn’t possible to emphasise just how much the Dutch actually drink.

The Dutch have many occasions on which beer is always present — King’s day, New Year’s, birthdays, weddings, student association gatherings and of course, football matches! ⚽️

group-of-friends-drinking-beer-in-the-netherlands-at-a-bar
It’s always beer o’clock time in the Netherlands, cheers! Image: Freepik

More specific to the Netherlands, the Dutch have borrels regularly, where they let loose with some colleagues and drink!

And, is it really a borrel without tons of beer? 🍺 Nee! 

In 2019, the Netherlands was given the title of the biggest exporter of beer in the EU. They must be doing something right with their beer, eh?

Why do they do it?

The Netherlands has been producing beer for a very long time. 🏰 So it’s no wonder that people have developed a liking for it! 

For example, the Amstel Brewery was founded in 1870, and its first brew was produced in October 1871. Little did they know about the success it was about to gain! 

Also, the Dutch love beer! It’s as simple as that.

Drinking culture is very popular in the Netherlands because it helps people in loosening up a bit. 

The Dutch are pretty good at making things more fun, but it’s still important to know your drinking limits! 

Why is it quirky? 

In 2019, 41% of Dutch adults revealed they consumed about one alcoholic beverage per day or less, according to CBS.

It seems like it’s all or nothing when it comes to alcohol and the Dutchies — and the Dutch never pass up on beer discounts either! 🥴

In 2021, a group of friends in the small town of Gramsbergen took their tractors (yes, tractors!) to the local PLUS supermarket and bought €6,003 worth of beer.

And if that doesn’t sound crazy enough, four whole crates of beer were also completely finished that same day.

So, if beer is ever on sale in the Netherlands, get ready for flocks of Dutchies to march into stores and clear all the beer from its shelves!

(Not to mention all the statiegeld they’ll get back from returning those crates. 😏)

Should you join in? 

If you’re above the legal drinking age of 18, absolutely! 🍺

The Netherlands has a great variety of beers to offer to everyone who wants one.

Dutch supermarkets always have a range of beer packs on their shelves. If you’re with a couple more people, they also sell a lot of beer crates. 🎉

What do you think of Dutch beer? Got any favourites? Tell us in the comments below!

Street newspaper seller found with almost €32,000 in cash — but why?

Police officers in the Hague arrested a suspiciously successful street newspaper seller on Saturday. 

To the officers’ surprise, the paper in the seller’s possession went far beyond the expected product. Newspapers, yes, but also stacks of €50 notes — 636 of them.

Providing his papers?

Initially approached in connection with an ongoing check for ondermijning (“subversion”), the vendor was unable to show any ID. 

“That is why he was arrested”, explains a spokesperson for The Hague police to the AD.

Ondermijning (subversion): A term referring to the use of legal companies and services for illegal activities. This could include money laundering practices covered up in legal companies, for example. 

The police explain potential signs as stores without frequent customers, cash-only entrepreneurs or even simply the smell of weed in certain commercial buildings.

Show me the money!

Once at the station, he was asked to empty his pockets onto the table. 

It must have taken a while — after all, counting out €31,800 in €50 notes can’t be quick.

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Police released images of the wads of cash. Image: Politie Den Haag/Press Release

With the total counted, the man was interrogated and found to be staying in the Netherlands illegally. 

So where did the cash come from? No idea. The man has now been released and the mystery money is in the hands of the Identification and Human Trafficking Department (AVIM).

Looks like this newspaper seller has plenty of issues — legal ones, at least.

Were you as surprised as us to hear about this suspicious seller? Tell us in the comments below!

We asked readers about their experiences with the infamous Dutch directness

Ahhh, the infamous Dutch directness: is it a stereotype, or is it accurate? Should it even be called “directness” or simply, “honesty”?

Straightforwardness is so valued in Dutch society that there’s even a Dutch word for it: bespreekbaarheid. This translates to “speakability” and means that no topic should be taboo. 🗣️

Having lived in New Zealand throughout my teenage and early adult years, I got used to politeness interfering with honesty. Kiwis pride themselves on being kind and pleasant. 

One of the first comments I heard when I moved to the Netherlands was from someone I had just met an hour earlier.

As I sat in a bar, sipping a Heineken Pilsner, a person announced: “Your hair looks terrible, and your hands are big for a girl”. I laughed and felt lucky I was confident enough to brush this off. 🤷‍♀️

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk 42: Be overwhelmingly direct and never beat around the bush

I personally find Dutch directness extremely refreshing as it creates authenticity and builds good rapport. However, not everyone values it, as it sometimes can just be downright rude.

Two-females-debating-together-outside-in-a-cafe-but-laughing-and-sharing-their-own-opinions
“Your teeth are much yellower than mine, HAHA!” Image: Freepik

We asked our loyal readers, “What is the bluntest thing a Dutchie has ever said to you?”. Here are some of your stand-out responses.👇

Appearances

1. I was at a festival when one Dutchie came up to me and exclaimed: “Your outfit is nice, but your bag is hideous…can I throw it away?” — Holly, Amsterdam.

2. I ran into a Dutchie I used to date, and one of the first things I said to him was: “Well, you’ve lost some muscle, haven’t you?” — Layla, Leiden.

3. Someone once yelled at me: “Watch where you are going, b*tch!”. When I turned around, they quickly followed with, “Oh, sorry, dude. I thought you were a woman”. — Levi, Leiden. 👀

Sore points

4. My neighbour in Haarlem told me off for having a barbecue and exclaimed it was the worst smell she had ever encountered and that my daughters’ voice gave her a headache. Shireen, Haarlem.

5. When I had friends visiting my place, my neighbour said, “Oh, I hear the girl who laughs like a seal is back” — Kavana, Rotterdam. 🦭

6. It was at a bar in Amsterdam, and we had been waiting to be served for over 30 minutes despite the bar being almost empty. We eventually approached the waiter, who was chatting with someone, and asked if he was going to take our orders or if we should just go up to the bar. He replied very rudely and bluntly that if we were there to enjoy friends’ company, then we should just shut up and enjoy the conversation and that he would eventually come by. He added that if we were in a ‘hurry’ we could always go get fast food — Ana, Amsterdam.

Offending people’s nationalities

7. I was accused of being a “mail-order bride” just because I am Hungarian — Hanga, Leiden. 🤦‍♀️

READ MORE | Discrimination in the Netherlands: it’s not just nationality

8. A cashier told me the other day, “I don’t like French people” after I had just told her I was from France — Kimberley.

Rejected and dejected

9. When I offered my homemade cake around, a Dutchie said outright: “No thanks, that looks disgusting” — Aurora. 🍰

10. Someone rudely once told me: “Just because you have my WhatsApp doesn’t mean we are friends” — Renan.

man-looking-shocked-at-his-phone-after-a-password-manager-in-the-netherlands-indicates-a-data-breach
…Ouch? Image: Depositphotos

Dutchies self-reflect and self-defend

“I will just say that my Dutch directness has not served me well at all in my many years outside of the Netherlands, and I recommend tempering one’s honesty a bit. After all, the fine art of diplomacy is to state one’s opinion in such a way that no one takes offence and even agrees with it.” — Norma, The United States.

READ MORE | 14 signs you have successfully been Dutchified

“I am Dutch, and from my point of view, the directness does not come from being honest but from being efficient and pragmatic … we don’t like to lose time and effort in making the situation more pretty than it is.” — Marie, The Hague.

A question for those struggling with Dutch directness

Yes, Dutch directness can be harsh — but here’s something to consider: When you’re looking for true friendship, what do you prefer?

A. Honesty and directness.
B. Sugar-coated sentiments.

If you choose A, then go find some more Dutch friends. 🤗

What has been your experience with Dutch directness? Share it in the comments!

Here’s why your Dutch train ticket is getting pricier (despite a surge in delays!)

As anyone who’s used the Dutch rail system in the past year knows, the steep ticket prices feel like the NS adding insult to injury — especially after countless delays and stranded trains. 🚆👀

However, with the NS reporting a €191 million loss for 2023 (as reported by the NOS), the rail carrier is left scrambling to find a solution to its current nosedive into the red. 📉

And that solution? Hike up ticket prices even further.

But why!?

Though a comparatively smaller loss than a year earlier, the rail company has already been forced to increase the prices of most train tickets.

Unfortunately, this price hike hasn’t been sufficient to battle inflation and the growing costs plaguing the company.

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The number of rail travellers has also not increased to pre-2019 numbers — despite what the packed carriages may tell you! Image: Depositphotos

As reported by the NOS, this means that a much larger rate increase will be on the cards for 2025 — amounting to more than 10%.

READ MORE | Public transport in the Netherlands: the complete guide

However, that 10% could well be a conservative estimate. According to NS CEO Wouter Koolmees, there could actually be “a double price increase for tickets”, AD reports

Ageing infrastructure and delayed deliveries

Another thorn in the NS’ side appears to have been the Netherlands’ own ageing rail infrastructure.

For example, NS CEO Koolmees pointed to defective viaducts along the HSL (high-speed railway line), growing subsidence along the Zeeland line, and the work that needed to be carried out near Rotterdam and Schiphol.

READ MORE | Train etiquette on Dutch trains: 8 things you’ll always see

In addition to this, the delayed delivery of new ICNGs (Intercity Nieuwe Generatie trains) due to issues along the HSL also impacted the NS’ rail plans.

Staff shortages are also currently being dealt with

The NS is certainly no stranger to the resulting chaos from staff shortages, having previously been forced to cancel trains due to staffing issues in 2022.

Although recruiting staff is still an ongoing issue, AD reports that around 3,715 new employees were hired — of which 1,006 are to become new train conductors and drivers.

It’s hoped that this surge in new recruits will allow the NS to run a smoother timetable over the coming period with far fewer delays.

What do you think of a possible price hike in NS train tickets? Tell us all your thoughts in the comments below!

How to get a Dutch driver’s licence: the ultimate guide

If you’re considering getting a driver’s licence in the Netherlands, your first question is probably: “But how?”

And let us tell you: it’s not always simple. The answer depends on your situation. You might: 

  • Be able to use your home country’s driver’s licence with no need to swap
  • Be able to swap your home country’s driver’s licence for a Dutch one
  • Need to take lessons, a theory exam, and a practical exam (yikes!) — even if you already have a licence.

So how can you skip the bike and hit the roads like a driving Dutchie? Here’s the ultimate guide to getting your Dutch driver’s licence. 


🙋‍♀️ Who can get a Dutch driver’s licence?

In the Netherlands, anyone aged 17 or older can get a Dutch driver’s licence. A basic car licence lets people hit the road in either a car, moped, or high-powered e-bike (speed pedelec).

Naturally, if you’ve moved to the Netherlands as an international, it’s likely that you’ve already gone through the rite of passage of getting your driver’s licence in your home country. 

Here’s the thing: even if you’ve been driving for 30 years, the Netherlands only allows some people to directly switch their licence. Whether you can depends on the licence your country is from and, sometimes, your visa.  

infographic-showing-who-can-switch-their-home-country-drivers-licence-for-a-dutch-licence
Not everyone can drive on their home country’s driving licence. Image: DutchReview

Members of EU/EEA countries

Are you the holder of a lucky EU or EEA state driver’s licence that was issued before you registered in the Netherlands? Then congratulations: you can use your current licence to drive in the Netherlands — at least for a while

Once your licence has expired or needs to be reissued, you must apply for the switch at your local Dutch gemeente (municipality), where you’ll be issued a shiny new licence complete with the Dutch language. 

Need a reminder of those EU/EEA countries? Here you go: 

EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

EEA: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

People who can swap their driver’s licence in the Netherlands

Not a holder of an EU/EEA country driver’s licence? No problem, it’s possible you’re still eligible to swap your licence to a Dutch one without having to take the theory and practical exam — but only if you fall into two main categories: 

Under the 30% ruling

Do you have the 30% ruling for highly-skilled migrants? Then congrats! Your visa and tax status grant you a huge benefit: the ability to switch your home country’s driver’s licence to a Dutch one. 

Try to do this within 185 days of registering in the Netherlands. Just apply at your local municipality, they’ll take your foreign licence, and you’ll be issued a nice Dutch card instead. Makkelijk! (Easy!)

infographic-showing-information-about-dutch-drivers-licences-and-a-picture-of-a-dutch-drivers-licence
A Dutch driver’s licence is super handy to have. Image: DutchReview

After 185 days, your foreign driving licence is no longer valid, and you won’t legally be allowed to drive on Dutch roads until you formally make the switch. 

Even better than this cosy 30% ruling benefit, if you have a partner who came to the Netherlands with you, they get the same advantage. Leuk!

Special inter-country driver’s licence agreements

In some ultra-special cases, the Netherlands has signed agreements with other countries or regions that agree that they think their citizens drive pretty well. 

These places are Andorra, the Canadian province of Albert, the Canadian province of Quebec, Gibraltar, the United Kingdom, Guernsey, Israel, Japan, Jersey, Man, Monaco, Northern Ireland, Singapore, Taiwan, the former Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten), and South Korea. 

If you hold a driver’s licence from one of the above places, you’ve won the jackpot and can exchange your home licence for a Dutch driver’s licence. Woo-hoo! 

photo-of-municipality-person-helping-expat-exchange-drivers-licence-for-a-dutch-one
If eligible, you can submit your documents to the municipality to exchange your licence. Image: Freepik

How to exchange your licence

If you’re one of the lucky ones above who can exchange their driver’s licence, what you need to do is pretty easy. 

  1. Head to your local municipality (where you’re registered) with the following documents:
    • A colour passport photo
    • Your valid foreign driving licence
    • Your 30% ruling notification from the Belastingdienst (if applicable)
    • Your passport
    • Your Dutch residence permit and (if applicable) 30% ruling statement
    • A completed Health Declaration from the CBR (you’ll need to do this in advance) 
  2. Request to exchange your foreign driver’s licence and fill in the appropriate form
  3. Your municipality will send the documents to the Dutch licence authority, the RDW
  4. If approved, you’ll receive a letter within 10 days advising when to collect your licence from the municipality

Let op! Your home country’s driver’s licence will be returned to the country that issued it — so kiss it goodbye (unless you want to take the Dutch tests!) 😘


People who need to pass the Dutch driver’s licence tests

Uh-oh — if you’ve read this far, that means you’re not in one of the exemption categories above. 

Perhaps you’re from Australia, South Africa, India, New Zealand, or one of the other many countries that didn’t make the list? 

Here’s where we’re the bearer of bad news. If you: 

  • do not have a licence from an EU/EEA country, 
  • don’t have the 30% ruling, 
  • And don’t have a licence from a specially-exempted country above,

you cannot exchange your driver’s licence in the Netherlands. Instead, you’ll need to pass your theory and practical driver exams and will likely need to take lessons to do so. 

The good news? Getting your Dutch driver’s licence is very achievable! In fact, this Australian writer did just that. 

Been driving for years? I can personally recommend the Arrive and Drive program from LesDirect. This unique English-taught course is designed for expats to quickly and easily get their Dutch driver’s licence from theory to the practical exam — in as little as one week. Find out more.  

The other good news? (Yes, there’s more!). You can likely drive on your home licence for 185 days after registering in the Netherlands. 

Take our advice: these 185 days are a great time to practise on Dutch roads and start the process of getting your Dutch driver’s licence. 

Driving in the Netherlands as a tourist

Not registered in the Netherlands because you’re only in the country to gaze at canal houses, wander through tulip fields, or chow down on cheese? 

If you’re not living in the Netherlands, you can drive on your foreign licence. If your licence isn’t issued by an EU/EFTA country, then your licence needs to have categories on it: A, B, C, D, E. 

If it doesn’t have these categories, it’s highly recommended to get an international driving permit from your home country to use with your licence before you visit the Dutch.


🪪 How to get your Dutch driver’s licence

Alright — you’ve drawn the short straw and can’t switch your home country’s driver’s licence. Or, perhaps you’ve never had a driver’s licence. 

Either way, to drive on Dutch roads, you need to get a Dutch driver’s licence. While the process is a little time-consuming and can be expensive, there are some tips and tricks to make it faster and easier. 

Here’s how to get your Dutch driver’s licence in six easy steps. 

1. Find a driving school

Hear us out: even if you’ve been driving for years, you almost definitely need Dutch driving lessons

It’s one of the cold, hard truths of the Netherlands. The country is known as being one of the hardest countries in the world to get a driver’s licence. 

In fact, the average Dutchie has to take 43 hours of professional driving lessons before getting their licence. 

Luckily, you’re not an average Dutchie. 🍀

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This is a simple roundabout in the Netherlands. The road markings, signs, and bike paths just make things different! Image: Depositphotos

If you’ve been driving for years, you shouldn’t need 43 hours, but you will need more time than you might expect. Driving in the Netherlands is just different: there are priority and non-priority roads, turbo-roundabouts, and millions of bikes.

The extensive Dutch road infrastructure takes a lot of getting used to, and it takes some time to develop awareness of the other road users. You’ll need to flex those neck muscles!

Plus, in the Netherlands, only licenced driving instructors can give unlicensed drivers lessons — there’s no Learner’s Permit. That means you need to sign up with a driving school. 

But not all driver’s schools are created equal. Many internationals have reported being squeezed for far too many unneeded lessons, unscrupulous instructors, or instructors who have difficulties with English. 

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A good Dutch driving school will estimate how many lessons you need and take you to practice in a variety of settings. Image: Freepik

Take your time to select a good driving school with great reviews and a high exam pass rate. Even if the price is a little bit higher, it’s often worth it. As the Dutch say “Cheap is expensive” (Goedkoop is duurkoop).  

Once you’ve chosen your school, they’ll take on the task of booking your exams and will do everything they can to prepare you for Dutch roads. 

Want to get your Dutch driver’s licence fast? With Arrive and Drive, you can get your licence ultra-fast, even with the long waiting lists for practical exams! LesDirect’s English-speaking instructors watch constantly for new appointment openings so they can help expats get on the road fast. See the course. 

2. Prepare for and pass the Dutch driver’s licence theory exam

Here’s a fun fact: over 50% of test-takers fail their theory exam on the first attempt. 

Alright, maybe it’s not so fun. The Dutch driver’s licence theory exam is heralded as one of the hardest in the world and is made up of three parts: 

Part one: Hazard perception

In the first part, you’ll be shown an image from the perspective of a driver in a car. You’ll have to look through the “windshield” at the situation, your speedometer, and your rearview mirror before making a decision to brake, reduce your speed, or do nothing. 

The catch? You only get eight seconds per question and have to do 25 scenarios in a row. It’s intense, and it will often feel like multiple answers are correct. 

Luckily, you are allowed to get 12 of the 25 questions wrong. However, this is a tricky part of the exam and requires a lot of online practice. 

Part two: Traffic knowledge

Whew, made it through the stress of hazard perception? Now, you’re onto the next set of questions: traffic knowledge. 

In this section, you’ll be asked 12 questions about speed limits, traffic signs, types of roads, the positioning of your car, and more. But beware! You can only get two questions wrong, and they can be tricky. 

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You’ll need to practice hard for the theory exam. Online platforms simulate the test environment. Image: DutchReview

Part three: Traffic insight

Finally, the third part of the Dutch driver’s licence theory exam consists of applying the rules and understanding how to act. There are a massive 28 questions here, and you’ll need to answer 25 correctly. 

TIP: Worried? The good news is that you can take the Dutch driver’s licence theory exam in English or with a translator if needed. 

3. Submit your Health Declaration

This is an easy step on the path to getting your Dutch driver’s licence: you’ll fill in a simple questionnaire online about your health history. Expect questions about your eyesight, general health, and even psychology. 

Once complete, the CBR will let you know if they need further information. Sometimes, you might be sent for a check-up with your huisarts or a specialist. 

4. Take driving lessons

Alright, this is where it gets fun! Jump behind the wheel of a car with your instructor, and they’ll coach you on driving the Dutch way. 

A lot of this involves “Het Nieuwe Rijden,” introduced in 2013, which is a more economical and environmental way of driving modern cars. It involves rolling up to stoplights, turning off your engine in certain traffic situations, and changing how you use your gears. 

photo-of-girl-adjusting-mirror-during-driving-lesson-netherlands
Your driving instructor will teach you the Dutch style of driving that you need to pass the exam. Image: Freepik

Most of all, your instructor will prepare you for both the Dutch driving exam and generally driving on Dutch roads safely. There’s more than you expect to get used to, so enjoy!

While the average Dutchie takes 43 hours of lessons, as an “experienced driver”, you’ll likely need a lot less. Expect to take at least 10 hours of driving instruction (normally completed in three to four lessons), while some internationals might need 20 hours or more.

5. Pass your practical exam 

Feeling confident? Strut your stuff for a CBR driving examiner. In your 30- to 40-minute practical driving exam, you’ll need to: 

  • Prove you can drive confidently on Dutch roads 
  • Demonstrate awareness around traffic situations, particularly bikes and pedestrians
  • Merge onto and exit off a highway
  • Perform at least two special manoeuvres (like a three-point turn or reversing around a corner)
  • Use a navigation program (for example, Google Maps) to direct you somewhere (this can be used in your preferred language)
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The Dutch driving exam doesn’t require a perfect score. Image: Freepik

It’s important to know that you don’t have to drive perfectly, and small mistakes are okay. Did you:

  • Touch the curb with your wheel while parking? All good! 
  • Drive five kilometres an hour over the speed limit? It happens! 
  • Tear through a red light because you stopped by an Amsterdam coffeeshop before your test? Um, we’ll draw a line there; that’s a fail. 

The most important thing is to make your driving examiner feel comfortable letting you drive on Dutch roads. So, keep a balance between traffic flow and safety.

Tips to pass your Dutch driving exam

  • Try to drive the maximum speed as much as possible (where it’s safe)
  • Use the right speed when approaching all different priority junctions and traffic situations
  • Change gear at the correct time and fully release the clutch before entering a bend
  • Avoid using the clutch and brake pedals unnecessarily
  • Maintain a balance of traffic flow and safety

TIP: Need some moral support? Your driving instructor is allowed to ride along for your test — if you wish. 😉

6. Apply for your driver’s licence

Gefeliciteerd, you passed! Your examiner gave you the go-ahead, your driving instructor gave you a huge high-five, and now you’re ready to hit the road — almost. 

Before you can legally drive, you have to apply for your new Dutch driver’s licence, a process that takes about a week. Luckily, it’s pretty painless. You’ll need to: 

  1. Get some fresh-lookin’ passport photos taken
  2. Take them to your local municipality (at least two hours after your exam) to request your licence who will send the information to the RDW, the Dutch licence authority
  3. Wait about a week for your fresh Dutch driver’s licence to arrive (or pay a priority processing fee to pick up your licence within one to two days).

That’s it! You can hit the road with your wallet one card heavier and weighed down with your huge ego after passing the Dutch driver’s licence exams. You go, schat!

TIP: You can only collect your official Dutch driver’s license after you’ve been registered in the Netherlands for at least 185 days. Before that time, most internationals can drive using their foreign driver’s license for their first six months!


💰 Costs to get a Dutch driver’s licence

We’re not going to sugar-coat it — getting a Dutch driver’s licence can be expensive. 

If you’re lucky enough to be able to swap your home country’s driver’s licence for a Dutch one, your costs will be pretty minimal — approximately €170. 

If you are unable to swap your old licence for a Dutch licence, the costs begin to stack up. Expect to pay between €500 and €1500 for the exams, lessons, health declaration, and licence fees. Here’s the breakdown: 

ItemApproximate cost
English theory exam€54
Theory exam preparation materials€40 to €125
Health declaration€43.50
Driving lessons with an instructor€550+ (Based on 10 hours of lessons at an average price of €58 to €68)
Practical exam€137.50 to €167.50
Driver’s licence fees€51.10 + cost of passport photos

⏰ How long does it take to get a Dutch driver’s licence?  

If you’re lucky enough to be able to switch your home country’s driver’s licence for a Dutch licence, you’ll receive the licence within a week or two.

If you can’t switch your home licence, it is possible to qualify for a Dutch driver’s licence in as little as one week after passing your theory exam. However, only if you’re very committed, have a good driving school, and have luck scheduling exams. 

In general, most internationals who have previously held driver’s licences in other countries can get their licence within two months, including studying for the theory exam. 

Want your Dutch driver’s licence fast? LesDirect’s unique Arrive and Drive program is specially designed for internationals who already have a driver’s licence in their home country. With this, you can get yourself a Dutch driver’s licence in as little as one week after passing the theory exam! See the course.

If you need to go through the whole process but have previously held a licence, most people typically allow: 

  • Between two and four weeks to study for the theory exam
  • Between three and 15 hours of lessons held over one to six weeks 

Of course, you can stretch that over as long a period as you like. After passing your theory exam, the result is valid for 18 months


Ready to hit the road? Getting your driver’s licence in the Netherlands can be a pain, but it’s not impossible — and it’s well worth it when you’re cruising down the A2 with Snelle beats blasting. 

Have you gotten your Dutch driver’s licence? Tell us your experiences in the comments below!


⁉️ Getting a Dutch driver’s licence: Frequently asked questions

How long are Dutch driver’s licences valid? 

Can I drive in the Netherlands on an international licence? 

Can foreigners get a driving licence in the Netherlands?

How much does it cost to get a Dutch driver’s licence?

How long does it take to get a driving licence in the Netherlands?

How hard is the Dutch driving test?

BREAKING: The Netherlands’ most wanted criminal just got sentenced to life in prison

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Do you remember the murder of Peter R. de Vries? How about when Princess Amalia was kept from leaving the house due to threats to her well-being? Well, the criminal allegedly tied to these crimes just got sentenced to life in prison.

The man in question? Ridouan Taghi, one the Netherland’s most notorious criminals.

Along with seventeen other suspects, he was on trial for nearly six whole years.

Did you know? The Netherlands is the only European country where life imprisonment is actually life-long. It is the toughest sentence that judges in the Netherlands can impose, and is only given very rarely.

What crimes did he commit?

Ridouan Taghi was at the head of ‘a well-oiled murder organisation’, according to the Public Prosecution Service (OM).

This group is allegedly responsible for six murders between the years 2015 and 2017, four attempted murders and preparations for even more assassinations.

What’s most interesting, however, is that the crimes were committed as the trial was ongoing. As the NOS writes, these include:

  • The murder of the brother of Nabil B., who was named as crown witness to the case in early 2018,
  • The murder of Nabil B.’s lawyer, Derk Wiersum, in 2019,
  • The murder of Peter R. de Vries in 2021, who was Nabil B.’s close confidant.

The so-called ‘Marengo trial’ also imposed sentences upon 17 other suspects.

These sentences range from life sentences (for two of Taghi’s closest co-criminals), to just one year and 9 months.

(Fun fact: Although this is one of the most important criminal trials to have ever taken place in the Netherlands, its name was randomly generated by a computer.)

READ MORE | 7 notorious Dutch criminals that will leave you shaking in your clogs

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The first ever ‘wedding’ between a hologram and a human will take place in Rotterdam this year

Feeling lonely? Forget Tinder or Hinge. Perhaps it’s time to get yourself a holographic partner. Who knows, perhaps you’ll get married! The Dutch certainly won’t mind, it seems.

In fact, the Netherlands is about to become the first country in the world where a wedding ceremony will take place between a human and a hologram.

The Spanish artist, Alicia Framis, is currently preparing to marry her hologram boyfriend, AILex, in a ceremony that will take place on the roof of the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam.

But…why?

The ceremony is all part of a ‘performance’ by the Spanish artist.

According to Euronews, with this project, she hopes to reflect on the relationships between humans, AI, and contemporary art.

Framis writes on her website:

“Love and sex with robots and holograms are an inevitable reality. They make great companions and are capable of expressing empathy. Just as telephones saved us from loneliness and filled the void in our lives, holograms as interactive presences in our homes can take it even further.”

AILex was created by Framis using a profile of people she knows. She also decided that he should be a Dutchman!

READ MORE | 7 innovative Dutch projects for a sustainable future

“I want this man to be Dutch because most of my boyfriends were Dutch, but this time, it’s a romantic relationship between a woman and artificial intelligence.”

In a series of videos and images shared on her Instagram, Framis shares her interactions with her hologram partner.

To be fair, if he wasn’t see-through, I would have been fooled into thinking AILex was a real man.

By marrying her holographic boyfriend, Framis hopes “to explore the practical and ethical issues concerning humans in close relationship with AI.”

What do you think of Framis’ mission? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

REVIEW: We slept our way from Amsterdam to Berlin on the new European Sleeper train

Aside from low-rise jeans, bubble tea, and the return of the mullet, there’s one thing that’s really popping off in the Netherlands in 2024 — international train travel. Especially when it’s so easy you can even do it… in your sleep. 😉

As the climate crisis steps closer and closer into the foreground of our everyday worries, it’s no wonder that the idea of travelling in a more sustainable way is becoming increasingly popular. 

In fact, the only thing that holds many of us back when considering international train travel is the thought of sitting in a cramped compartment for hours on end.

So when European Sleeper offered us a chance to board in Amsterdam, sleep our way through the journey and wake up in Berlin, we jumped at the idea. 

What is the European Sleeper train?

European Sleeper is a night train service with the goal of connecting multiple cities throughout Europe. The concept is simple: launch train routes that will depart at night and roll into a stunning new city by morning.

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Founders Elmer van Buuren and Chris Engelsman want to revive the night train scene. Image: European Sleeper

On European Sleeper’s Good Night Trains, passengers can choose from a variety of sleeping arrangements and comfortably snooze their way through the journey. 

European Sleeper’s routes

And where will this journey take them? Today, European Sleeper offers the route we took: Brussels to Berlin. 

Passengers looking to take this route can choose to board at Brussels, Antwerp, Roosendaal, Rotterdam, Den Haag HS, Amsterdam Centraal, Amersfoort, Deventer or Bad Bentheim. 

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Fall asleep in Amsterdam, wake up in Berlin! Image: Freepik

Once everyone’s onboard, the train falls silent for the night, and passengers can sleep soundly until arrival in Berlin. 

European Sleeper doesn’t plan to stop at just Berlin, however. With each year in business, the company hopes to add an extra route to their services.

In fact, this year, European Sleeper added Dresden and Prague to its route — someone pinch us because we must be dreaming. 😍

Expectations versus reality

I’m not going to lie, when I heard we were being offered a night on the night train, I pictured a somewhat horizontal seat and a bad night’s sleep — but hey, it would be worth it, I’d wake up in a new city!

This was not the case at all with European Sleeper. 

Once the big day finally came and we boarded the train at Amsterdam Centraal, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only did I have a comfortable cabin and bed waiting for me, I had sheets, blankets, a pillow, water, and even a complimentary breakfast! 

@dutchreview Snoozing from Amsterdam to Berlin and back. 😴 #nighttrain #traintravel #interrailing #europeantravel #europeantravelguide #amsterdam #berlin #europeansleeper #europeansleepertrain #dutchreview #fyp ♬ Riptide – Vance Joy

The vibes were immediately cosy, I felt like Harry Potter on his way to Hogwarts (without the Death Eaters), and I had just one important thing to test. 

In a very childlike manner, I dibsed the top bunk in our cabin, climbed my way up, and immediately nestled in. Any weird bumps? Nope. Any weird smells? Nothing. Was I at an angle? Definitely not. Was I comfortable? Yes

And would I remain so? Inderdaad.  

Once I used the toilet facilities in the carriage, popped on my pyjamas, and stared romantically out the window for a moment, I drew the curtains, slid closed the cabin door, and hopped into my surprisingly cosy bed.

In fact, I can’t tell you too much more about my experience of a night on the Good Night Train — because I was fast asleep.

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We stayed in a couchette cabin — it was cosy and comfortable. Image: European Sleeper

The next thing I knew, a gentle announcement was telling me we would be arriving in Berlin in 20 minutes. The gentle rocking of the train had lulled me into a sleep that I hadn’t experienced since I was six years old after a day at the beach.

And can I just say, waking up in a sunny Berlin was just like waking up on Christmas Day. ☀️

What are the sleeping arrangements like on the Good Night Train?

This was the question that first sprung to mind when we were invited to embark on this journey. What exactly counts as a sleeper train? Would a conductor simply throw a pillow at our faces, and voila, we’re on a sleeper train? 

I can now safely say this was not the case. 

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You can also opt for a sleeper cabin. Image: European Sleeper

European Sleeper offers a number of different options. Travelling with the family? You can opt for a six-person couchette cabin, which functions as a classic train cabin but can also be transformed into six separate beds when the need to sleep hits. 

Are you travelling with a smaller crowd? Or alone? Then you can opt for a sleeper cabin. These can be booked as a single, double, or triple cabin. 

Tip: Are you a woman travelling alone? You can always opt for a women’s only cabin! 

Happy to just hitch a ride and look out at the night sky? You are also free to ride the night train the classic and affordable way — simply book a seat!

Ok, I’m in! How can I get tickets? 

Ready to try out European Sleeper’s services for yourself? We couldn’t recommend it more. 😍 Check out the website, choose your favourite travel options, and simply book tickets online.  

Look at you go, you sustainable, worldly being. Fijne reis! 👋

Have you travelled on a night train before? Tell us about your experience below!

7 places named by the Dutch (that you might not know about)

Long before they were all tulips, windmills, bikes, and happy children, the Dutch were seafarers, explorers and conquerors. So, naturally, they named a lot of places along the way. 

The Dutch sailing expeditions led to many results, some of which were horrific, but also successful for finding new trade routes or discovering new lands. And, of course, being the first Europeans to set foot somewhere, the Dutch gave it a name.

READ MORE | How the fate of 17 Dutch sailors changed history

So, here are seven well-known places in the world whose names are actually Dutch, and their stories.

1. Tasmania and New Zealand: Searching for gold

Abel Tasman was a Dutch explorer and merchant who worked for the VOC in the 17th century. His voyages took him to places much warmer than those of Barentsz and eventually led him to “discover” four of the lands we today know as Tasmania, New Zealand, Tonga, and Fiji.

In August of 1642, the Council of the Indies sent Abel Tasman and Franchoijs Visscher to explore the area known as Beach a toponym appearing on maps as the northernmost part of Australia.

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Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand. 😍 Image: Depositphotos

Beach, which in fact is a mistranslation of Locach, was mentioned on many maps and by many travellers prior to Tasman, but what’s more it was a land described by Marco Polo as one plentiful with gold.

READ MORE | New Zealand’s namesake: how the Dutch named NZ

At the end of November 1642, after a stop at Mauritius Island and a storm, which directed the ship to the northeast, Tasman saw the coast of a new piece of land.

In the good old tradition of the time, he named it after his sponsor Van Diemen’s Land, after Antony van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. On January 1, 1856, the land was renamed Tasmania in honour of the first European who set foot there.

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Van Diemen’s Land! Or is it Tasmania? Image: Pixabay

Just 13 days after “finding” Tasmania, Abel Tasman also saw the shores of New Zealand. Unfortunately, he was not aware of that he thought this was a land connected to Isla de los Estados in Argentina, hence he charted it as Staten Landt (both names given in honour of the States-General).

A few years later, in 1645, Dutch cartographers corrected Tasman’s mistake and named the land Nova Zeelandia, after the Dutch province of Zeeland.

Upon his return voyage, Tasman and his ships passed through the Tongan archipelago, spotting the Fiji islands, which the explorer named Prince William’s Islands.


2. Easter Islands: A troubled journey

In August of 1721, the Dutch West India Company decided to commission a search for the mythical Terra Australis, also hoping to open a western trade route to the Spice Islands (The Maluku).

Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen was sent to complete the task. He sailed to the South Atlantic Ocean, entered the Pacific Ocean, and continued further south.

Much like many before him, Roggeveen looked for one thing to find another. He, however, skipped the largely observed tradition of naming newly found lands after royalties or sponsors of the trip and decided to honour the day he spotted the land Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722.

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A great deal of controversy lies in Easter Island’s past with the Dutch. Image: Horacio_Fernandez/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Perhaps, he followed the example of British captain William Mynors, who saw an island in the Indian Ocean on Christmas Day of 1643 and named it… Christmas Island.

Jacob Roggeveen explored 12 islands, but his trip was far from trouble-free. He lost his flagship and had a violent, deathly encounter with the inhabitants of some of the islands.

READ MORE | Islands of the Netherlands: a guide to the Wadden Islands

Upon returning to the Netherlands, the Dutch East-India Company VOC had him arrested for violating their monopoly and confiscated the remaining two ships. Only after a long lawsuit, Jacob Roggeveen was acquitted and compensated for his losses.


3. Robben Island: The political prison

Most people know about the Dutch colonial ties to South Africa, including Cape Town, which was founded by the Dutch in 1652 as a trading post for the VOC.

READ MORE | The Dutch and South Africa: more than just Apartheid and Boers

But less than seven kilometres west of Cape Town, the Dutch also found a small island and gave it a name that might not immediately strike you as Dutch. Robben Island was not named after a person or a bird, but after the many seals that the Dutch saw there, robben being Dutch for seals.

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Spot Cape Town in the background. Image: South African Tourism/Wikimedia Commons/CC2.0

Robben Island is perhaps most famous for the political prisoners that were detained there during the nation’s era of Apartheid.

Nelson Mandela, among others, was imprisoned on the island for 18 years before helping dissolve the Apartheid state and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

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The entrance to the Robben Island prison. Image: Depositphotos

But Robben Island has been holding political prisoners for much longer than most people realise. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the VOC used the island to incarcerate political leaders from other Dutch colonies.


4. Bluefields, Nicaragua: The Dutch pirate

Bluefields is a municipality in the Central American nation of Nicaragua and was named after the notorious Dutch pirate, Abraham Blauvelt. The area is located at the mouth of the Escondido River, and it was here that Blauvelt hid during the 17th century.

But this thieving seaman began not as a pirate, but as a very respectable employee of the Dutch East India Company.

He was the first European to explore what are now Honduras and Nicaragua, and even travelled to England trying to gain support to establish a colony here. When these efforts failed, Blauvelt became a privateer and started raiding Spanish ships off the coast of Jamaica.

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A modern-day look into the quaint town of Bluefields. Image: Danbob wind/Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

Blauvelt would then trade his spoils with the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (now New York), but when the colony feared tainting their reputation by trading with pirates, they banished him from the area. Thus, Blauvelt fled to what is now Bluefields, and the rest is history.


5. Barents Sea: The unbearable cold

The sea located on the northern coasts of Norway and Russia, used to be called Murmanskoye morye (Murman Sea) and appeared on maps for the first time in the 16th and 17th centuries under this name. In the 19th century, it renamed after the Dutch navigator, cartographer, and explorer, Willem Barentsz, in honour of his heroic expeditions in the far North.

READ MORE | Australia and the Netherlands: adventures at sea and shared history

Barentsz took three expeditions in search of a Northeast Passage which, he believed, opened north of Siberia in June every year because of the sun melting the ice and snow. The passage would also mean a new trade route to the Indies.

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Image: NormanEinstein/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

During the voyages, Barentsz and his crew members were often victims of the local fauna (attacked by polar bears) and the extreme weather conditions the first two expeditions ended due to large icebergs and frozen waters. Because of this failure, the States-General refused to subsidize any further trips of this sort.

Instead, they offered a generous reward to anyone who could successfully navigate the route to its end. The Town Council of Amsterdam provided two ships, captained by Jan Rijp and Jacob van Heemskerk, under the command of Barentsz.

READ MORE | Best beaches in the Netherlands: the ultimate guide to Dutch beaches

The third expedition started rather well. Barentsz and company discovered Bear Island, Spitsbergen and named a few fjords. Unfortunately, a disagreement led them to part Heemskerk with Barentsz continued northeast, and Rijp headed north.

In July, Barentsz reached the icy Novaya Zemlya archipelago, but because of the many icebergs around, he and his crew remained trapped there for a whole year fighting the extreme cold.

In June of the following year, those still alive decided to sail away. Barentsz died at sea only seven days after their journey back home began. After seven more weeks, the boats were finally rescued by a Russian ship.

In 2011, the Dutch director Reinout Oerlemans released “Nova Zembla”, a historical drama, based on the incredible story of Barentsz and his crew trapped on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago.


6. Mauritius: The abandoned prince

Today’s independent state of Mauritius has a very long colonial history with the Dutch, the French, and the British. There is strong evidence that the island was known already to Arab sailors even before the European expeditions.

In the 14th century, Portuguese sailors visited the then uninhabited land, and their cartographers gave it a name — Mascarenes — but took no interest in it.

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White beaches and sun? Yes, please. Image: Depositphotos

At the end of the 16th century (1598), bad weather whilst passing the Cape of Good Hope changed the route of five Dutch ships which wound up sailing to the shores of Mauritius.

Under the command of Wybrand van Warwijck, they anchored and named the island Prins Maurits van Nassaueiland, after Prince Maurits of the House of Nassau.

The Dutch made a settlement on Mauritius for their ships passing through this sea route and had it for 20 years. Eventually, they abandoned it.

The island was taken over by the French, who changed its name to Isle de France and used it, among other things, to raid British commercial ships. That lasted up until 1810, when the British took control over the island and returned its Dutch name.


7. In and around New York

A fair amount of today’s American toponyms came from the Dutch language on the account of the first settlers there. The Dutch heritage is particularly visible in and around New York (previously known as New Amsterdam).

READ MORE | Did the Dutch really buy New York for 24 dollars? 

Here are just a tiny fraction of examples:

Rhode Island

One of the theories says that it was named by the Dutch trader Adriaen Block, who, when passing by it, described it as een rodlich Eylande (a reddish Island), perhaps due to red clay.

Staten Island

Named after the States-General, Staaten Eylandt, from Staten-Generaal.

Harlem

Named after the Dutch city, Haarlem.

Wall Street

Located in what was then known as Nieuw Amsterdam, a 17th-century Dutch settlement on the tip of Manhattan, the street was then known as de Waalstraat, on the account of a wooden palisade, that was protecting the settlement from the natives and the British.

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Harlem River and the Bronx. Image: Depositphotos

Did you know any of these places were named by the Dutch? If so, tell us which in the comments below! 

I lived in a former Dutch prison: here’s what it was like

One innovative response to the housing crisis hitting students in Amsterdam was to convert a former prison into student living quarters.

Yes, you read that right. I was an inmate of the Bijlmerbajes as a first-year university student — and no, I did not commit a crime.

Unless you can count being a homeless international student in the Netherlands as a violation of Dutch law (some people seem to think it is).

Here’s my first-hand experience of living in a former Dutch prison. 

What are the Bijlmerbajes?

Built in 1978, Bijlmerbajes was a six-tower, 14-story prison complex that loomed high in east Amsterdam, close to the Amsterdam Amstel railway station.

In its heyday, Bijlmerbajes housed around 700 prisoners, including many psychiatric patients. 

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Bijlmerbajes from the train station. Image: Eriksw/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

The prison started out with a reputation of being a “humane” prison system with no bars on the windows or barbed wire on the fences — where the goal was rehabilitation rather than detention.

Except, the Bijlmerbajes had to scrap their plans of being a “humane” prison and ended up placing bars and barbed wires around the facility after prisoners kept trying to escape.

READ MORE | Dutch prisoners hold key to their own cell

Around the year 2016, the Dutch government began shutting down prisons due to the lack of prisoners in the country. In turn, the Bijmerbajes shut its doors to prisoners for the last time.

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The view from our cells wasn’t half-bad. Image: Supplied/zlmn

When one door shuts, another opens. After the inmates were removed, asylum seekers and international students took their place to aid them in adjusting to the Dutch way of life.

(What a funny way to do so, but I suppose beggars can’t be choosers.)

How did I, an innocent international student, end up living in a former Dutch prison? 

The summer of 2017 rolled around and, alongside thousands of eager students who moved to Amsterdam ready to experience the “best days of their lives,” I began my search for a roof over my head. 

Like many international students, countless doors were shut firmly in my face. I always seemed to be about number 100 in the queue for rooms, and on top of that, I also didn’t fit the categorisation of “Dutch speaking only”.

When I was starting to lose all hope, feeling defeated and lost, out of the blue, an email popped up in my inbox.

I clicked it in desperation, crossing my fingers that I hadn’t left it too late, hoping that there was still a spot for me to fill. 

READ MORE | Why is there a housing shortage in the Netherlands? The Dutch housing crisis explained

“Now that sounds interesting,” I thought to myself. A hall of residence type accommodation, lots of students piled on top of each other, no privacy, but lots of fun. 

Little did we know just what was in store for us.

Sentenced to five months in prison

Upon signing my lease, I discovered I would be confined to a 10m2 cell with a doorless ensuite toilet and windows with bars on them. Yes, bars. 

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What we were confronted with when we entered our cells. Image: Eva Lakeman/DutchReview

For just €550 per month, including gas, water, and electricity, I would also share two showers and a kitchen with eight other innocent inmates — a bargain for Amsterdam prices.

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The tunnel we walked through to get to each of our prison cells. Image: Rijksvastgoedbedrijf/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

What is it like living in a former prison? 

Upon arrival, I was confronted by the 14-storey taunting towers above me, a nervous wreck after moving 10,000 kilometres from my childhood bedroom.

Like inmates, the check-in staff had us line up to be given our keys and instructions for our stay. Thankfully, we could skip the strip search. 😉

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The prison blocks tower above. Image: Supplied/zlmn

But nothing was going to put me off. I was determined living in prison would be an experience like no other I would have in my life, and I felt adrenalised by the prospect that I would be living like a con.

When I look back on the time I served within the walls of Bijlmerbajes, I have many memories that won’t leave me — even if I wanted them to. To name a few…

🚨 Daily fire alarms

Almost every other night, the fire alarms would begin to shriek at 2 AM. The smoke from someone’s joint or someone’s burnt leftovers (the former probably influencing the latter) would set them off.

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A comment left by a resident online. Image: Screenshot/Bilmerbaje’s Facebook group

Surely the smokers were able to open a window? Nope, those were all glued shut — they couldn’t be opened even an inch.

To begin with, for each alarm, we would all dutifully scramble around in the dark, bleary-eyed and head out of our cells to determine whether we should go downstairs in case of a fire.

READ MORE | 11 creative solutions to the Dutch student housing crisis that makes us say “Why didn’t we think of that?”

Eventually, we grew accustomed to the mind-numbing racket and dealt with it. It was an odd lullaby, but it was all part of living at the Bijlmerbajes.

🛠️ Broken lifts

At least three times a week, the lifts taking us to our cells would mysteriously and suddenly halt, leaving us to ascend 12 flights of stairs by foot. 

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A Facebook comment left by a resident assistant. Image: Screenshot/Bilmerbaje’s Facebook group

This was actually for the best; each elevator trip up and down consisted of a nerve-wracking series of curious and frightening creaks. 

READ MORE | 5 things you didn’t know about the Dutch student housing crisis  

The fear created in our souls by each of these trips was only compounded by the etchings on the elevator’s walls, scratched mirrors, and flickering light.

👮‍♀️ Prison warden 

Smoking inside the prison was technically banned. Instead, the smokers were supposed to make their way to the bottom floor, where there was a courtyard surrounded by high concrete walls.

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The courtyard was surrounded by high concrete walls. Image: Corne Bastiaansen/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

In the beginning, the smokers dutifully made their way downstairs. However, after a few months, laziness got the better of them, and they began smoking in the stairwell where the windows opened.

If the smokers were caught, the prison wardens, who called themselves resident assistants, would slap the smokers with a hefty €30 fine. 

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Bad inmates meant the rest of us lost courtyard privileges. Image: Screenshot/Bilmerbaje’s Facebook group

It became a kind of cat-and-mouse chase between the two. The smokers had their ears pricked just quick enough to race away from the wardens, who would slink up the stairs silently.

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No more courtyard for the smokers. Image: Eva Gabriella/DutchReview

🚿 Freezing showers

I know what you’re thinking: “I hope you didn’t drop the soap!”

 

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A comment left by the Resident Assistant on Bijlmerbaje’s Facebook Group. Image: Bilmerbaje’s Facebook group/Screenshot

Thankfully, the Bijlmerbajes showers were made into cubicles, so we weren’t welcomed by any sorry sights when we entered. 

On the other hand, the cubicle walls didn’t reach the floor — so you could tell which one of your fellow inmates was in there by the look of their feet.

And that didn’t stop some of them from striking up a conversation on the other side of the wall as you tried to bury your squeals caused by the freezing water gushing from the ceiling hole.

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Freezing water coming from a hole in the ceiling. Image: Eva Gabriella/DutchReview

Finally freed

By the end of the five months, I felt sad to leave. I had formed lasting friendships made stronger by such a bizarre experience.

Although many things could’ve been improved, like the hot showers, for example, we made the most of our sentences. 

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Doors to our cells were left open for our final exit. Image: Depositphotos

We all had to make the best out of a bad situation, and the fun we had together far outweighed having to walk up 12 flights of stairs daily. 

I’d probably do it once more — but that’d be it.

Like many, I definitely felt the wrath of the Dutch housing crisis in full force, but living in Bijlmerbajes was a humbling experience I hold dearly.

After all, who can say they spent time behind bars without having a criminal record to their name? 

The Bijlmerbajes today

In 2018, the Bijlmerbajes slid its gates shut for the final time before it was demolished completely.

After housing prisoners, asylum seekers, and international students, the former penitentiary is now being reborn into luscious, architecturally-designed gardens and condos.

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A little bit more luscious than when it was student accommodation. Image: Bajeskwartier

The rubble from its demolition is transforming into a green, sustainable neighbourhood with around 1,350 homes, a fresh market, a health centre, and many more facilities. 

By 2026, the Bajeskwartier is expected to be up and running at full steam. But don’t worry — we former Bijlmerbajes residents will hold our memories under lock and key.

Would you spend a night in an abandoned former prison? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: ErikSW/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0 (Modified) and Eva Gabriella

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