Wednesday, 8 October 2014

My expat journey: 10 things that suprirsed me about life in the Netherlands

In spite of the best of intentions, I seem to rarely mention my life here in the Netherlands. For this post, I'm doing something a little different and I'm going to finally share a little about the Netherlands and my experiences here! 

This post shares 10 aspects of life here that left me raising an eyebrow. I focus on 'life here' rather than generally shocking things like the fact that you can curse on the radio. Or more shockingly, that people sometimes say 'ja, hoor' (meaning yes), which is pronounced 'ya, whore'. That one certainly made me ask for a translation the first time I heard it said... by my mother in law. 

10 things about the Netherlands

10. Safety. It is so safe. My father in law left his car running all night once. Ya know what happened? The neighbours asked him what in the world he was doing all night. And the gas tank was empty. Aside from the obvious question of who does that?, I seriously don't know where else you could do that and nothing happens to the car! 

Granted the region where we are currently living is literally the safest in all of the Netherlands. 

9. The public transportation system is incredible! There are buses, trams, and those wonderful trains! The system works flawlessly! And it's relatively affordable, especially for students. 

Why do the Dutch constantly complain about it since it actually exists?! I took a train once in the US. It was three hours late getting to it's destination. The Dutch are spoiled!

Oh wait, now I see why local folks get annoyed with the train system: a bomb from World War II was just discovered and trains were obviously delayed. 

Isn't that crazy? They're still finding bombs, as in this week, it happened!

8. Bicycles had to make it on the list, right? These folks are born with some amazing cycling genes because I have seen so many three year olds just rocking their two wheelers! 

I even see women who look like they're in their third trimesters out on their bicycles. [so not for me]

BUT why do people not wear helmets?! 

7. I'm surrounded by giants. The Dutch are the tallest people in the world (so I've been told). However, Friesland (the region where I live) has the tallest people in the Netherlands. My husband is 6 feet 2 inches-ish tall and he's considered on the shorter side of things. What does that make me at 5 feet 1 inch? 

Oh yea, the size of a 12 year old child. Not cool.

6. Everyone speaks English. Oh and French, German, Dutch, a local language, and probably know Latin. Don't you?! Pshh, slacker. 

Seriously though, while everyone will not necessarily speak each of the above languages fluently, most people I have met ever in our region knows at least: Frisian (local language), Dutch, and English. And flawless English, not just a few words or sentences. As in better than I speak English. 

My husband says he's not good at languages because he only speaks 3 fluently. Whaaat?  

4. Amazing social security system. There is a really wonderful safety net here. Everyone and by everyone, I mean every single person living in the Netherlands, has health care. It is illegal not to. It's affordable. Health care is affordable. I'm still shocked by that. It's really affordable. 

Side note: I've heard complaints about the Dutch system. In spite of the complaints about it, I have only had very positive experiences. You do have to wait sometimes to see a specialist, but to be honest, my experiences working for a doctor in the US, were not any better even though the medical system in the US is significantly more privatised. 

The Dutch system is very, very slowly starting to become more privatized, which most people [in my social circle] are pretty unhappy about.

3. Holy taxes! Going back to the point above - in order to get those awesome things like unemployment, good pensions, public transportation, the government needs money and money it certainly gets! 

There is a progressive taxation system here. I'll give you guys some numbers (thanks wikipedia!): 

For any income that you earn that is above about 56,000 euro per year, you pay 52% of said income away in taxes. 

The first time I saw my husband's pay check, I'm pretty sure I cried. It's worth it, but still a shock to see. 

2. Unlike stereotypes, people here are not constantly high and smoking marijuana in 'coffee shops'. I don't know anyone who who smokes anything. 

1. It rains. Always. It rains vertically, it rains horizontally, it rains sideways. No matter how it rains, it rains. And those silly inventions called umbrellas do not stand a chance! The rain will win. 


And there you have it! Ten aspects of living in the Netherlands that surprised me!


  • Are there any surprising or fun things about your country/region that you'd like to share? 
  • Have you ever been to the Netherlands? What do you think? 

Thank you so much for stopping by!