Being from California and having lived in the Netherlands for the past few years, I can give you my advice, unique perspective, and insights on what it’s like to live here. I know firsthand how hard it is to find out this information when the internet is your only resource. If you haven’t been to the Netherlands before and considering emigrating, starting a new life, or going for a potential job -I’ve got you covered.
It’s cloudy with lots of rain
The weather in the Netherlands has been one of the hardest adjustments since I come from such a warm climate. It rains here often and many days are grey so that can affect your mood. Winters are claimed to be mild, but, when it’s cold and dark I still end up cooped up in the house.
However, summers are lovely and I appreciate them more than when I was in California. Picnics by the canal, drinks on the terrace, and endless days at the beach And the pro is that you can experience all four seasons, What has helped me is embracing the weather here. But if you’re from a state like Oregon, with a similar climate to the Netherlands, then the weather won’t be an issue.
Eating out is not too common
The Dutch eat most of their meals at home. They prefer an assortment of fresh foods and produce. They also go to the store more (Albert Heijn) frequently since they are available everywhere. Dining out is for special occasions and celebrations like birthdays. The price is more expensive than what you get back in the states.
The biking culture is cool but take some time to learn about it first…
Cycling in the Netherlands is a way of life and the typical mode of transport that the Dutch get around in. Everyone does it – the young, old, even small children can cycle without parental supervision. That’s because we have excellent bikinginfrastructure that is specially built for cyclists in mind.
You will need a bicycle if you move here – it’s the most efficient way to get around. My suggestion is to learn the biking signals, traffic signs, and rules of the road before getting on the bike. Cyclists have the right of way but biking is different from any other place in the world. There are pedestrians, cars, scooters, cyclists, motorbikes and let’s not forget the cobblestones and narrow alleyways. It took me nearly two years before I got comfortable biking on the road.
The infamous Dutch directness is real
The Dutch are known for being direct. It can take some time to get used to but the benefit is that you know where you stand with someone. There’s no beating around the bush because they are straightforward and say what’s on their mind. I personally find this very helpful in my relationships, friendships, and work environments.
Foreigners considering moving to the Netherlands always ask are Dutch people friendly? I think this perception comes from the idea that they are direct. However, I also think that this has to do more with the Dutch language’s lack of pleasantries. If you directly translate something in Dutch to English it may come off rude.
Nature lovers will miss the wilderness
As you know, the Netherlands is a flat country mainly below sea level. While it does have diverse landscapes, this doesn’t compare to the nature we have in the US. There are no lush forests, snow-capped, mountains, canyons, and steep trails to go hiking. You can visit neighboring countries like Germany but it just doesn’t compare.
Bring your seasonings in bulk
Speaking of food, while I do personally enjoy Dutch cuisine, it’s not the most flavorful (as many expats I’ve met like to call it). Dutch cuisine is practical and straight to the point. It was meant to keep farmers’ hunger at bay while working long hours on the farm.
What that would like is bread for breakfast, a hot, heavy meal for lunch and something cold for dinner. Lunch is be the main affair and when most calories are needed to do heavy work. Nowadays, or if you aren’t a farmer, the Dutch diet still consists of bread (lots of it) or yogurt for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and meat, potatoes, and veggies for dinner.
Learning the language can transform your experience
You can live in the Netherlands without learning Dutch because most people speak English. In fact, the Dutch are the best non-native English speakers. However, knowing the language can provide a more fulfilling experience. Knowing even the most basic of Dutch can help put tremendously. Being able to read directions, chat with locals or even order a drink feels so freeing!
The stairs feel like booby traps
I think this is worth mentioning just because Dutch stairs are steep and narrow. The older the building with little to no repairs- you can imagine what one is in for. If you fall down once you get suspicious of the rest. So since this wasn’t visible to the eye, I slipped down five steps…
It can get lonely at times
I’m not going to sugarcoat. Life in the Netherlands can be tough at times. The first few months after I moved back here when the pandemic started and was on the search for work when the job market basically tanked. Being isolated at home, unable to socialize, and not being able to find work was really difficult (as it was for so many others).
Then you have the language barrier which creates the challenge of making connections. The Dutch take more time to warm up and solidify friendships and relationships. Of course, that’s not to be said for everyone, but when a Dutchie considers you a friend, it’s likely you’re one for life.
Is it expensive to live in the Netherlands?
This is highly dependent on where you are located but generally speaking it’s affordable. Although we pay a lot of taxes here, you get a nice chunk in return. For example, you get really nice roads, childcare, healthcare, social security (if you’re out of a job you get support from the state). Compared to the US, which is very expensive you get more bang for your buck. However, I wouldn’t say that life in the Netherlands is cheap.
It’s imperative to be normal…
Or as the Dutch would say, doe normaal which translates to “be normal”. The Dutch are sober and pragmatic people and these character traits are deeply rooted in the Dutch identity. If someone tells you doe normal they mean that the behavior you are exhibiting is ‘strange’ or unusual. It goes outside the box of social guidelines and conformity. A good example would be being in the store with friends and suddenly belting out a song. The phrase doe normal goes much deeper, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.
It’s nearing the fourth year of my arrival here in the Netherlands and never in a million years would I envision calling this county home. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived somewhere aside from Paris, London, and my hometown Los Angeles. If I’d have to sum it up, I would say that I do enjoy life in the Netherlands. If you have questions about life in the Netherlands please drop them in the comments below.