Things I wish I'd known sooner about the Netherlands

15 January 2014, by
(3)

Living in the Netherlands for any significant period gives you a real taste of the culture of the country. I spent two years in the Netherlands before moving back to Scotland and it was an experience that was both enjoyable and enriching.

Being an expat in the Netherlands is something I’d recommend to anybody, although there are some things I would have dedicated more time to sooner if I had my time again.

Below are some things you should keep in mind if you’re planning on living in the Netherlands as an expat. If you make the most out of these you can be sure you will enjoy a full and rich experience in your new home country.

Learn Dutch

Learning the language will improve your experience more than any other skill. Yes, you will find many Dutch people speak excellent English, but to immerse yourself in the culture, being able to use their language too is a boon.

I took language courses here and really enjoyed the whole experience. It enriched my enjoyment of the Netherlands, as I was able to get stuck in with an intensive course to get me started, but then follow up with weekly lessons to keep on top of what I had learnt.

As well as developing a skill I could use throughout my time in the Netherlands, I made some great friends with whom I’m still in regular contact.

Experience Dutch food 


You’re missing out if you don’t at least sample some examples of Dutch cuisine. It’s very easy to stick to "safe" food like pizza and burgers, but try some classic Dutch food whilst you can. It took cooking them myself for me to realise the potential of the cuisine.

I bought a Dutch cookbook and gave traditional dishes a go. Soon I was enjoying erwtensoep (pea soup), poffertjes (puff pancakes) and andijviestamppot (potato mash with endive lettuce). I’d definitely advise you avoid the dubbelzoute drop (double salted liquorice) though!

If you’re too busy to shop for food, then consider ordering groceries online through Albert online or even order hot food direct to your door with Thuisbezorgd.

Socialise

To make the most out of your Dutch expat experience you need to get to know people. It’s hard to make friends in many countries: just like Brits, the Dutch keep themselves to themselves.

One great way of getting to know people, though, is by joining a sports club or getting involved with volunteer work (see below). I also recommend getting in touch with expat social clubs that organise events too.

Volunteering in the Netherlands

As well as the chance to meet new people, volunteer work can make your experience in the Netherlands especially memorable.

things about netherlands
Photo by Flickr user 6x9=42

You can make a real difference to a local community, experience things you’ve never done before and it’s not always necessary that you speak Dutch to get involved.

I suggest you visit Den Haag Cares where you’ll find hourly and daily voluntary jobs advertised for a range of different organisations.

Travel around

The first thing you should do when you arrive in the Netherlands is buy a bike and the necessary locks to keep it safe. Without the right security you could be as unlucky as me - I had three bikes stolen in just two years.

The Netherlands has great public transport connections, like much of Europe, and you can benefit from great prices by investing in a rail discount card via NS.

With just 40 euros a month (for example) you can travel on all trains completely free during the weekends and with a 40 per cent discount during daluren (off peak) hours, which in the Netherlands are between 9am and 4pm, and 6.30pm and 6am, Mondays to Fridays.

Lastly


The Netherlands is a fantastic place to be an expat. I enjoyed my time there thoroughly and if I were to do it again, I’d ensure I ticked off all the boxes on this list as soon as possible to get the most from my experience.
 

Chris Kirk is a software developer who lived in the Netherlands for two years. He studied Dutch with TaalNetwerk, who offer courses in more than 10 languages in The Hague! For more information, please comment below or visit their website.
 

Taalnetwerk
 

Stay Informed
Latest Dutch News
New Articles on IamExpat
Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Related Links
Comments arranged by date (Total 3 comments)  
ninmurai
January 19 2014, 01:13PM

How about some more specific information? Such as:
- Dutch retailers apparently don't like credit cards
- You can avoid BPM (car registration tax) if you hold an EU registered car in your name for at least 6 months and have lived outside NL for 12 months
- If you have an EU (category A, B or E) driving licence issued before 19th January 2013 you should renew it before you arrive so it's valid in NL for another 10 years. Saves you having to exchange it in NL.

Agnesqiu
January 20 2014, 09:55AM

NS 40 per cent card gets weekend free? That is not true!
It's only discount for all hours during weekends.

IamExpat_Team
January 21 2014, 07:54AM

Hi Agnesqiu,

Thank you for your comment! Please note that the article refers to the discount card that allows you to travel on the weekend for free. For more information you may visit http://www.ns.nl/reizigers/producten/abonnementen/weekend-vrij.html

Kind regards,
The IamExpat Team

 
×
About the Author
Chris Kirk

Chris Kirk lived in the Netherlands for two years and studied Dutch with TaalNetwerk.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse IamExpat.nl you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Click here to learn more