Migrating to the Netherlands: 7 Things I’ve Learnt Since Living in the Netherlands
Migrating to the Netherlands
When I first published this post, it had been 2.5 years since arriving in the Netherlands. Not a lot to some people, but time has flown and I have learnt a lot about myself and life in this little country in this short period of time.
It’s hard to imagine that only a few short weeks before I moved, I knew nothing about it and I had never even visited. If you’re looking on migrating to the Netherlands, you’ll come to figure some of these out soon enough. 😉
Without further ado, here are 7 things I’ve learnt since living in the Netherlands. Note: yes, they’re pretty random.
1. The English Language Really Is Everywhere
The Netherlands has some of the best English language skills in the world (for a non-native country). The country is very English-friendly, with most places providing an English translation and most of the population at least being able to speak conversational English. Don’t be surprised to find your Dutch friend commenting on your grammar!
The great level of English makes migrating to the Netherlands much easier than first thought.
TV programmes and films aren’t dubbed, so you can go to the cinema and actually watch a film in English (and read the Dutch subtitles). British channels such as the BBC and also a few American channels are common with Dutch TV packages. You may even come across some food labels and adverts written in English.
2. Cycling Is the Best Form of Transport
I’ve never been a good cyclist. It took me a LONG time to learn how to ride a bike and I was close to never knowing how to do it when I almost gave up for good as a child. I learnt how to ride a bike when I was 10 and I only very rarely went cycling throughout my life.
Once the bike in the garage rusts or gets pinched, you just don’t do it again. That was actually one of the best things about going to a Center Parcs in the UK – everyone would rekindle their love of cycling with flat, easy and safe paths. The whole of the Netherlands is like that.
One of the first things I did was buy myself a bike – a basic black granny bike (omafiets). I love how the handles are curved and extend towards you so you are forced to sit upright, then you can have a basket on the front to put your groceries in. I actually wrapped mine in plastic flowers ( tacky and cringy I know, but I love it).
Getting used to braking by cycling backwards took a while, but once I’d mastered that my partner and I cycled everywhere and even cycled from one end of the country to the other in only a few short days.
Migrating to the Netherlands? Don’t forget to purchase a bike!
3. It Pays to Be Straight Talking (Most of the Time)
Put it this way, confidence is not my forte. The British culture is also very much if you haven’t got something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. In the Netherlands, it pays to be honest. And honest is what they are.
This is excellent for the most part – you won’t let your friend buy that hideous dress, you deserve a pay rise and so you must declare it, the service in that restaurant was absolutely terrible and you will say so. However, sometimes it can be a bit uncalled for and hurtful.
You’ll have to learn this quickly when migrating to the Netherlands.
I’ve definitely grown a thicker skin since living here and I try not to take too much offence to (sometimes offensive) criticism. Most of the time the criticism has been warranted and sometimes you just don’t want people meddling in your own business. HOWEVER, I’ve definitely been more straight-talking and do speak up when I don’t like something now. In my case, that’s definitely been a positive change.
4. Dutch People Value Friendship
This is not to say that other countries don’t value friendship, but it’s definitely different from what I’m used to. The best friend or close friend title it not thrown around at all points and to everyone. If they like you, they’ll let you know. If they don’t, they’ll make that clear too.
A lot of internationals complain that it’s hard to make friends or enter friendship groups in the Netherlands. This is true my experience too – you can see each other every day, but to be their real friend is a whole new other challenge.
However, when you do break through that exterior, you’ll know about it. I’ve honestly met some of the most kind-hearted people ever and I truly do believe we would be friends for a very long time. They’ll make it very clear if they want you in your life and they won’t stop making the effort.
5. Life Doesn’t Just Revolve Around Working
The Brits are workaholics – most of us are expected to work full-time, most of us are stressed about it and most of us complain that we don’t have enough free time.
However, the weirder things about it are if you say you work part-time, you are met with Why? Why aren’t you working every day? Whenever I say I only work 3-4 days a week at home, people always ask me why. Why not? If I can afford to live my life and only work 3 or 4 days, then why should I work longer than necessary?
This is how the Dutch see it too, with many more people working part-time out of choice than what I’m used to seeing. Better wages make this completely possible. Leisure time is as important as work time and if you can have the correct balance of both, then that’s how it should be.
Admittedly, people are working longer now, but it’s still better than what I’m used to. Working from home is also really common (something which I also do a couple of times a week).
Migrating to the Netherlands? The working culture may be different!
6. Decriminalising Cannabis Doesn’t Necessarily Encourage People to Smoke It
Okay, so I knew this anyway from studying drug law at university. However, living in the Netherlands has solidified evidence for me. Dutch people don’t smoke weed as much as you’d think considering it is decriminalised – in fact, Brits smoke more weed than the Dutch and it’s not even decriminalised.
In the UK cannabis use is completely illegal (however, it’s ever so slowly being released for medicinal use). However, we consume quite a lot in the UK. Why? People think it’s cool, it’s bending the rules, it’s risky. Weed in the Netherlands gets old quickly, you can do it, so where’s the fun?
Also because I live here, literally the first question I ever get asked is ‘do you smoke lots of weed now then?’ It is cool to just be able to pop down to the shop and buy some weed after a stressful day, but when it’s available so freely and easily, it’s actually rarely a passing thought. When friends are over it’s fun to do (without feeling like you’re going to be stopped by police at any moment) and it’s a social and fun activity, but in general people that live here don’t smoke it much (however, there are exceptions to the rule of course).
…This subheading does not apply to tourists in Amsterdam however.
7. Dutch Music Is Catchy
Loooool, this is the part when people stop reading and shake their heads at me in shame. I love Dutch music. Rap, pop, EDM, Gabber, I’m game for it all now. There’s something weirdly rhythmical about Dutch music – it’s incredibly catchy. When you start learning what the lyrics actually mean though, you start to have other thoughts.
In general, it’s dancy and fun. Before migrating to the Netherlands, I’d of course never heard any Dutch music (apart from EDM).
I was into dance music long before I moved to the Netherlands, but I love how mainstream it is here. If you attend a dance festival, there literally a mix of every single age groups. I’ve actually been to a few where I was probably one of the youngest there (and I’m 24). People just don’t care, age quite literally is just a number. Just rock up and enjoy yourself, no one is going to say a thing.
What have you learnt since moving to the Netherlands? Are you thinking of migrating to the Netherlands? Drop it in the comments and hit subscribe at the top of the page for more!