I love living in the Netherlands but despite having many similarities to life in the UK there are certain things that I still needed to get used to.
I decided to put pen to paper and make a list of some of the things that I have now gotten used to (or am still trying to). This list is not meant as a negative but rather my observations – in fact, I find a lot of the points a definite plus.
15 Things You Need To Get Used To Living In The Netherlands
1. Directness & sharing of opinions
For me, this really took some getting used to.
Lots of people have an opinion and they are hell-bent on sharing it with you – whether you like it or not! I think the British people (not everyone – I mean in general) are a little more reserved and use a little more tact.
You really have to take some comments on the chin otherwise you could end up permanently offended. On the flip side, it’s also a good thing that you don’t have to second guess what people really think or mean.
Everybody is highly organised here and they need to consult their agendas 3 months in advance to get together for a coffee (well maybe a little exaggerated – but it definitely has to be booked in!). I do miss a little spontaneity!
There are so many birthday parties, sports, activities, and organised events that you are never short of something fun to do. Whilst it is fab that there is always so much going on here, I personally can get a bit overwhelmed at times and find myself just wanting to stay in with a good old double dose of Netflix.
3. The birthday celebrations and the dreaded ‘kring’ (circle)
Birthdays are big here! Not just for the kids but for the adults too and are celebrated to the max. Pretty much everyone has a bit of a birthday bash where friends are invited around for coffee, cake, and/or a borrel (an alcoholic drink).
Birthday parties here very often have a formal format here. When you walk into a party it is generally expected that you kiss/shake hands and congratulate not only the ‘Jarige’ (the person whose birthday it is) but also everyone else in the room.
Very often at parties, the chairs are placed around the edge of the room and everyone sits pretty much in a circle.
In the beginning, I found this very difficult as not only would I have to awkwardly walk around the ‘kring’ to kiss and congratulate everyone on the birthday of the ‘jarige’ but I would also have to sit still in the same spot for hours not understanding a word of the banter that was being thrown back and forth around the ‘kring’.
I think I will never fully get used to this. I must say I do miss our old parties that we had in England where everyone would mill about mingling with each other and more often than not end up congregating in the kitchen.
4. Volunteering for everything!
This is definitely a good thing, the amount of people who volunteer here is great. People volunteer for everything from sports groups, to special events, to parents doing lots of activities at school (including cleaning the classrooms and checking for head lice!).
5. Swimming diplomas
This is really a biggy here. Does your child have their diploma yet?
This is the talk of the playground. With the amount of water here it is essential that your child gets their swimming diploma(s) sooner rather than later. The courses here are very good and extremely extensive you can choose to do one or all three courses (A, B & C Diplomas).
My sister-in-law who lives in France actually sent both her kids during the summer holidays to get their diplomas here in the Netherlands in preference to following a course where they live.
The cost of these courses can be a bitter pill to swallow. In addition to this I was absolutely gob-smacked at the razzmatazz that went with the big event – ‘afzwemmen’ (swimming off / diploma day).
Everyone is invited to come and see the kids ‘swim off’, parents, grandparents, aunties & uncles, etc in addition to the kids receiving their diplomas everyone shakes their hands to congratulate them and showers them with gifts and cards.
As you probably already know biking is very ‘big’ here. I find this great. The infrastructure and possibility to cycle everywhere rather than taking the bus or car is fabulous!
Although me being me and having very little experience on a bike, this was initially not an easy thing to get used to. Being rather nervous and wobbly you could easily liken me to ‘Mrs. Bean on a Bike’.
7. Sunday Closing (in the backwaters)
This is actually a good thing but you just need to get used to it. Having come from the UK where you can now actually shop 24/7 if the need should arise, I had to get a little more organised and make sure I had everything I needed as there was no popping out to the shops for it.
8. The great outdoors!
The Dutch people really know how to enjoy ‘Het Buiten Leven’ (the outdoor life). People spend considerably more time outdoors doing sports, biking, walking in the forests, sitting on terraces, camping, barbecuing, swimming in natural lakes, skating on natural ice etc etc etc……
They do this really well and everything comes very naturally to most people – I love this way of life for the kids!
Even a lot of the pensioners remain very active here with various sports and activities such as – biking, walking, running etc
9. The overwhelming desire to over-spice everything!
Whilst there are many really delicious foods here, which I embrace whole-heartedly, I do have trouble with the over-seasoned meat and their need to make everything taste of cinnamon and nutmeg – don’t get me wrong I really love cinnamon (I will share my favourite cinnamon rolls recipe with you soon) but there is only so much a girl can take!
10. The healthcare system
This I am still getting used to even after 4 years here. Everything is done through your health insurance (which is not cheap!) I’m never sure who to go to for what and have the feeling that I am constantly turned away by the doctor with the advice of ‘Even Wachten’ (just wait and see), when my other half goes however he comes back laden down with pills, potions and referrals. I am definitely doing something wrong – possibly being too British!
11. The freedom that the children enjoy here
I love the relaxed feel here that allows children to be children in an environment that feels pretty safe. But….. and that is a big but, sometimes I do have trouble letting go to the same extent as other mothers here. A few weeks ago my daughter was not happy with my decision and angrily shouted at me – “sometimes I wish you weren’t English – you are too strict! I knew that was bound to come sooner or later but what can I say, I can’t help it!
12. Giving way to traffic coming from the right.
I know that cars have to stop when there are ‘teeth’ painted on the junction but it is not always clear when this rule applies.
13. Weighing your own fruit and veg in the supermarkets
This took me a while to remember. How often have I gone to the checkout only to realise that I yet again had forgotten to weigh and get a sticker for the produce?
14. Taking your empty plastic bottles and glass beer bottles back to the supermarket
You pay a deposit on certain bottles here which you receive back upon returning the bottles to the supermarket. There is an automated system where you load your empties into a hole in the wall and receive a coupon in return.
Once you have returned your bottles you also have to remember to actually redeem the coupon at the checkout.
15. Hagelslag On Bread (100’s & 1000’s or sprinkles – normally reserved for ice cream or cupcakes)
My kids love this but I just can’t get used to the idea of giving your children pure sugar sandwiches. There are many different flavours and sorts in the supermarkets; chocolate, fruit, white, pink, blue, with Christmas tree shapes … you can even get it with little yellow minions.
My kids love this but I just can’t get used to the idea of giving your children pure sugar sandwiches.
There are many different flavours and sorts in the supermarkets; chocolate, fruit, white, pink, blue, with Christmas tree shapes … you can even get it with little yellow minions.
I could go on and on with this list but I am going to stop here to give everyone else a chance.
Do you have any experience of life here in the Nederlands or would like to know the further ins and outs of the points written above please share – I’d love to hear from you!
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