Five things the Netherlands does best
The Netherlands is a small yet varied country. There’s so much going on, all the time - some of it good, some of it less so. It’s easy to compare the Netherlands to other countries around the world - especially as expats! - but there are some things that the Dutch have just managed to hone down to an art.
To shed some positive light on some of the elements of this wonderful country, let’s take a look at five things that the Netherlands undeniably does best.
1. Bike parking
It’s difficult to compile a list of the assets of the Netherlands and not mention bikes or cycling, but something that isn’t talked about enough are the extraordinary bicycle parking systems that can be found up and down the country. Large buildings with floor-upon-floor of bike racks are not a rare sight here, and the sheer amount of space made available just for parking bikes is very, very impressive.
Did you know that, in 2019, a new extension to the Stationsplein bicycle parking in Utrecht made the facility the largest bike parking in the whole world? The three-storey facility has double-deck bike racks, an OV-chipkaart check-in payment system, and a digital set-up to help cyclists find an available space. Plus, it can fit a whopping 12.656 bikes. Incredible!
Image: CU2030 via Gemeente Utrecht.
2. Work-life balance
It’s no secret that a lot of people working in the Netherlands work part-time. Many parents will work four-day weeks, taking different days off to save on childcare and spend more time with their kids. But even those without children make the most of this part-time culture and enjoy a better work-life balance. Many will make calculations to figure out how having jobs and working full-time would increase their salary and perhaps shift them into a different tax bracket, ultimately costing them more money. Also, unlike in many other countries, regularly working overtime is not so common in the Netherlands.
And even better, studies have shown that working part-time doesn’t hinder productivity! A 2019 study by consultancy firm KPMG ranked the Netherlands as second highest in the world for productivity potential for the fourth year in a row. So, in the Netherlands, you can take that extra time to see friends, spend time with family, or make the most of any good weather.
3. Broodjes (AKA sandwiches)
The Dutch eat a lot of bread (an average of six slices a day, apparently), and when you move here you may have to adjust to breakfasts and lunches that consist of bread, bread and more bread. But! This does have its perks because the Netherlands has truly perfected the art of the sandwich, or the broodje.
People in the Netherlands like to eat good bread, and supermarkets are stocked with a variety of different types, fit for every need and every sandwich. If you’re headed out to a cafe for lunch and order a sandwich, you’re normally presented with a choice of bread options, and can pretty much be guaranteed that your order will be nice and big, very filling, and very satisfying.
No plain slices of white bread to be found - those just make a sandwich. Instead, after living here for a while, you'll get very used to the good bread and hearty broodjes on offer.
4. Openness and honesty
The honesty of the Dutch can often come across as quite rude and brutal, especially if you’re not used to it. But generally, people in the Netherlands believe in honesty at all costs, even if that’s pointing out that you’ve put on a little weight when you’ve just gotten back from a holiday. This brutal honesty can be difficult to adjust to, but it isn’t meant badly. Iinstead, it's merely presumed to be a statement of fact or an observation.
This honesty stretches further though, and the Dutch can also be very open about what’s going on in their lives, sharing personal details or stories that you may not expect. A conversation with your boss over your lunch break about how his relationship with his wife has changed since the birth of their first child is not necessarily unusual, although it might feel a little uncomfortable while you’re in it.
The Dutch also pride themselves on openness in schools, specifically when it comes to sexual health and education. They say the quality and honesty of this education is why the Netherlands continues to have such a low teen pregnancy rate.
5. Symphonic metal
And last but not least, did you know the Netherlands has some of the best symphonic metal bands in the world? Some of the biggest bands in this sub-genre of metal are from the Netherlands, including Within Temptation, Epica, and Delain.
The singer Floor Jansen, who comes from a small town near Tilburg, started out in the Dutch band After Forever, before establishing her own band Revamp, and finally moving on to become the lead vocalist in the Finnish band Nightwish in 2016. She also took part in the Dutch TV programme Beste Zangers in 2019, where she really showcased her skills and highlighted the huge role symphonic metal plays in the Dutch music scene.
Interested to find out more about symphonic metal in the Netherlands? You can read all about it here.
The best of the Netherlands
This is only a small handful of some of the things the Netherlands has to offer, and some of the aspects of Dutch life that you can enjoy living here. What are some other things you love about the Netherlands? Are there any key things missing from this list? Let us know in the comments!