Top 5 Things You Should Know About Dutch Culture When Coming From Abroad

Moving to a new country can be an exciting adventure, and for expats considering making the Netherlands their new home, Dutch culture offers a unique blend of history, traditions, and modernity. From picturesque windmills and tulip fields to vibrant cities and a strong cycling culture, the Netherlands has a lot to offer. To help you settle in the Netherlands we have prepared the top 5 things you should know about Dutch culture when coming from abroad.

#1 "Afspraak is Afspraak" - Commitment to Promises:

When dealing with the Dutch, you'll quickly learn the significance of the phrase "Afspraak is afspraak," which translates to "an agreement is an agreement." A commitment to keeping promises and honouring agreements is very important to Dutch people. Whether it's a business arrangement, social engagement, or a simple arrangement with friends, the Dutch hold themselves accountable for fulfilling their commitments. This cultural value stems from the Dutch belief in trust and reliability, forming the basis for their strong work ethic and business practices. As an expat in the Netherlands, adopting this principle of integrity and commitment will undoubtedly earn you respect and help you build strong and trustworthy relationships among the Dutch.

#2 Direct Communication:

Dutch people are known for their straightforward and direct communication style. This might come as a cultural shock for some expats coming from countries where communication tends to be more indirect. Don't be surprised if your Dutch colleagues or friends offer honest feedback or ask personal questions; it's a reflection of their transparent and egalitarian culture. Accepting this open communication style will help you build genuine relationships and understand the Dutch perspective on various issues.

#3 Punctuality Matters:

In the Netherlands, punctuality is a virtue and a cultural norm. Whether it's for work, social events, or appointments, arriving on time is highly appreciated. Being punctual shows respect for others' time and is considered a sign of reliability. Dutch society functions like a well-oiled clock, and being on time is a reflection of that precision. So, make sure to set your clocks accordingly, whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or meeting with friends!

#4 Cycling is a Way of Life:

In the Netherlands, cycling is more than just a means of transport; it's a way of life. Dutch cities are incredibly bike-friendly, with well-maintained cycling lanes, dedicated traffic signals, and ample bicycle parking facilities. Expats will quickly notice that bicycles are used for commuting, grocery shopping, and leisure activities. Cycling not only contributes to a healthier lifestyle but also helps reduce the country's carbon footprint. So, hop on a bike, enjoy the scenic routes, and embrace the Dutch cycling culture!

#5 Dutch Language: Gateway to Integration:

The Dutch language is crucial for successful integration into Dutch society. While many Dutch people speak English fluently, especially in big cities, learning Dutch can significantly enhance your experience and connections within the community. Language skills enable better communication, access to local events, and understanding of Dutch customs and traditions. Enrolling in Dutch language courses at a Dutch language school is a practical step towards smoother integration, and it opens the door to making lifelong friendships with both locals and fellow expats.

Practical Issues for Expats:

Besides the cultural insights, there are some practical aspects that expats should be aware of when moving to the Netherlands:

Healthcare: The Dutch healthcare system is of high quality but may differ from what you are used to. Make sure to register with a general practitioner (huisarts) and obtain an obligatory health insurance to access medical care.

Housing: Finding suitable accommodation can be challenging in major cities, so start your search early. Consider living in surrounding towns or suburbs if the city centre seems too crowded.

Banking: Opening a Dutch bank account will facilitate day-to-day transactions and ease bill payments. Be sure to research various banks' offerings and compare fees before making a decision.

Work-Life Balance: The Dutch prioritise work-life balance, and many businesses offer flexible working hours. Embrace the Dutch way of balancing work with leisure, which can lead to increased productivity and overall happiness.

In conclusion, moving to the Netherlands as an expat offers a gateway to an enriching cultural experience and a high quality of life. Accepting and adapting some typically Dutch features such as directness, openness and punctuality will definitely help you get accustomed to life in the Netherlands. Immerse yourself in the cycling culture, learn at least the basics of the Dutch language and don't forget to consider the practical aspects of healthcare, housing and banking. By doing so, you'll find yourself seamlessly integrating into Dutch society. Welkom in Nederland!

About the Author:

Zuzanna Walter-Puylaert is the owner of Level Up Academy, a language school offering online Dutch classes via Zoom with experienced Dutch teachers. At Level Up Academy you can learn the Dutch language in the most interactive and engaging way possible, no matter where you are.

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