Living In The Netherlands

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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

Giant Dutch Clogs

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.

2. Agendas

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.

6. Biking

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’.

Image showing how popular biking is in the netherlands

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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7 thoughts on “Living In The Netherlands

  • at

    Hi Sam,

    My husband is Dutch and I’m Canadian and we buy the sprinkles here in Canada but it also took me awhile to understand butter and sprinkles on bread for breakfast but now I’m good. Yum! Someday we want to bring our kids to Holland where there dad was born. Great to meet you!

    • at

      Hi Bonnie,

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by!

      Yes the ‘hagelslag’ (sprinkles) took some getting use to lol. But really I love living here and the good far out weighs the bad, it’s a great place to bring up your children. I’m sure you and your family will have a blast if you ever come to visit 🙂

  • at

    I have so enjoyed reading this entire section tonight,you really made my night, and I thank you! I have always had a fascination with the dutch and Holland since I was a young girl, now 45. When I read about you on Kenarry, then came to your blog tonight I was looking for Dutch recipes , then I noticed the section here to read..very grateful. I to am “new”, very to speak….launching my own blog very soon and hope to link up with you in the future..I wish you the best in blogging and your life there! Keep these posts going..they are great to read and was bummed when it stopped. I wanted to read so much more!

    • at

      Hi Mary, thanks for taking the time to pop over to the blog. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading some of my posts, I have heaps more posts with a dutch flavour planned over the coming months (also on Kenarry – so be sure to visit on Thursday as I think you will like it 🙂 ). Good luck with your new blog, I love finding new blogs to read so please let me know when it is live so I can drop by. Also if you need any help with anything just give me a shout!

  • at

    Hi Sam,
    I am Dutch and my husband is English and we live in the Peak District. I moved to the UK in 1997 after I qualified as a RN. I went for one year, but stayed a bit longer ?

    Anyway I loved reading what you have observed about the Dutch, my husband and I would thoroughly agree with your observations. I did miss one thing though, queuing, but perhaps you do not use public transport and have not noticed this peculiar habit, which is especially troublesome when it is busy and you’re taking the train, people can barely get off the train as waiting passengers already start to board. At the bus stop it is every man for himself, no orderly queue!

    Do your children like dropjes? Mine don’t like them at all. We do love Dutch ‘fritesaus’ with our fish and chips and every visitor from the Netherlands has to bring at least one bottle.

    I think you can safely tell your daughter that Dutch mummies can also be strict, I am the same when we come over, and my friends children are alowed to do things that mine aren’t. Also because mine cannot swim well enough.

    • at

      Hi Suzanne, so glad you liked my little list 🙂

      How funny that you live in the peak district, we used to live in Derbyshire too, in Swadlincote.

      Do you mean that it is a free for all here in the Netherlands? Or the other way around? If you mean a free for all here I would definitely agree, I also notice in the car too that nobody gives way, the omas are ferocious! – lol

      My kids do like drop, in the beginning not so much but they are learning to embrace all things Dutch.

      I remember when we used to live in England my other half would always have a shopping list as long as his arm about stuff his family would have to bring for him: Fritsaus, kerrisaus, drop, cheese, frikkandel etc

      With the strictness, I am learning to loosen the grip a little but only with the things that I feel comfortable with. I am also learning to stand my ground a bit and not be influenced by the strong opinions of others which helps a lot.

      We have been here 7 years now and I still believe it was the right decision for us as a family. And despite the things I miss or struggle with, I must say that the good far outweighs the bad and my girls have a lovely happy life here.

  • at

    Nice this story, i am 100 % Dutch but cinnamon and seasoning, it is really new for my, I only use cinnamon in French toast. And i love drop, we live in Dubai and drop you can buy here. And swimming is important because there is a lot off water ., if you see how much people drowning here, i am happy that my boys have A,B,C diploma


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