Living in the Netherlands - Facts and Fiction

Expats often question what living in the Netherlands will be like, and how they will adjust to living here. There is a lot of information out there both on the internet and what you might have heard from others. But what is truly a fact and what is simply fiction? Are Dutchies really that direct and social? Do they actually ride their bikes everywhere? In this article we take a deep dive into all the things you can expect from living in the Netherlands.

The Dutch are super social

Fact! Extroverts who are thinking about living in the Netherlands are surely thinking about moving to the right country. From time spent in cafe's and going for lunch, to the many festivals and events, there is always something going on here. Your social calendar will fill up fast with expats and local friends alike. On the other hand this does mean you have to think ahead if you want to meet up with your friends. Calendars fill up quickly and before you know it you’ll get a reply stating that they can see you in three weeks on a Tuesday evening for 4 hours max.

The Dutch are also very accepting of foreigners, especially in the big cities. So you will have no problems meeting new people and mingling in the Dutch society. Do prepare yourself for the Dutch directness. The Dutch don’t hesitate to state their opinion on something. And even in the workplace, feedback can be shockingly honest. Just keep in mind that most of the time, their directness is coming from a good place and that they mean no harm with it.

To Dutch or not to Dutch

That also brings us to our question on this list that is both fact and fiction. Should you learn Dutch in order to start living in the Netherlands? The short answer is no. Expats can easily get by without speaking Dutch as 93% of Dutch citizens speak English as a second language. However, as with any culture, you’ll get a lot further with making friends if you do learn a bit of the Dutch language.

Learning the local language can be tough. Not only because of the complicated grammar rules, like remembering if a word needs “de” or “het” in front of it. But also because the pronunciation can be very though on a none-native speaker’s tongue and throat. Especially the harsh ‘g’ and ‘ch’ sounds can be difficult to get right when you’ve just started out learning Dutch.

If there’s one concept you need to understand before you start living in the Netherlands, we would say it’s the concept of ‘gezelligheid’. It’s a word that cannot be translated. However, if we had to try we would say it translates to fun, coziness and the warm feeling of feeling connected. Everything can be ‘gezellig’. From an evening at home with friends to the Christmas decorations lighting up the streets at night. You will be hearing the word a lot.

Rush hour traffic

Commuters in the Netherlands should be aware. Though this country might be small, it’s densely populated. Making rush hour a real problem. If you are planning on going to work by car, keep in mind that it could easily take you a few hours to get to work depending on where you are. Luckily public transportation is a very reliable way of getting around. Buses and trains leave multiple times per hour during the morning and evening rush. Some of the bigger stations even have OV (openbaar vervoer) bicycles ready for you to use.

Whether you have thought about living in the Netherlands or are simply visiting the country, you probably have heard about the Dutchies and their bicycles. And we can tell you that the rumours are true. Most Dutch people own a bike and use it for anything and everything! Especially those living in big cities choose a bicycle as their main mode of transportation. So you shouldn’t be surprised if you see a mother passing by balancing two children, her work bag and the groceries for the rest of the week on her bike. If you want to skip commute and cycle around like a real Dutchie, you need to make sure you keep your bike locked up safely and pack of waterproof jacket in case it rains.

Rain, rain and more rain

Did you know that the Dutch love to complain about the weather? It is either too hot, too cold, too windy or it rains too much. The latter is especially a trending topic in Dutch conversations. And that’s because it rains a lot. The weather is unpredictable and as the Netherlands is quite flat, the lack of mountains means there is nothing to block any incoming depressions from the sea. So if you are thinking about living in the Netherlands you should prepare yourself for a lot of rain.

Some of our tips for surviving the Dutch rain:

  • Always carry an umbrella with you - preferably one small enough to fit in a bag but strong enough to not turn inside out as soon as it’s windy.
  • If you’re getting into the Dutch habit of biking everywhere, make sure you cover your bike seat with a plastic bag so you don’t soak your pants when you sit down.
  • If it’s really pouring and you have nowhere to be, take advantage of some of the country’s great indoor attractions such as museums, art galleries, breweries or just pop into a small cafe and enjoy the ambiance.

Luckily there is also a lot of sunshine to enjoy when living in the Netherlands. And when it’s sunny out, no one enjoys it as much as the Dutch. Our terrace culture is huge. As soon as the sun peeks out from behind the clouds you should start making your way to your favorite terrace, order a beer and turn your face up towards the sun. We promise you, all the rainy days will be worth it.

Would you like some more information about living in the Netherlands?

Here are 5 cities you must visit while living in the Netherlands. As well as 10 things you need to know before you move. We have also gathered some more information on the logistics of moving here once you’ve made up your mind. And last but not least! If you’re an expat looking to start living in the Netherlands, here are some networks that might be of use to you.

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