When you moved to the Netherlands what is the one thing you wish somebody had told you about?

Dutch windmills

(It’s not all tulips, clogs and windmills.)

The idea for this post came from an expat group I’m in, so the question was originally: When you moved to Hilversum, what is the one thing you wish somebody had told you about?

But actually, many of the comments weren’t Hilversum based, they were just general tips for surviving in the Netherlands. So I thought I’d share them with you. Real tips from real expats living in this funny little country called Holland the Netherlands…

1. “Bring cold and flu meds and loads of strong pain killers just in case, because paracetamol just doesn’t cut it sometimes.”

2. “If there isn’t a queue don’t try forming one! Otherwise you’ll be waiting all day – follow the Dutch lead.”

3. “Watch out for mopeds & pindakaas is not peanut cheese but peanut butter!”

4. “The most important one – the online takeaway ordering service: Thuisbezorgd.nl!”

5. “I wish someone had told me (still would love to hear the logic behind it) how cars from the right automatically have right of way even when it makes absolutely no sense.”

6. “One thing I didn’t think about was the weather differences. I packed shorts and t-shirts, no real jackets. I wish I had brought warmer clothes for cooler temps.”

7. “That customer service is a rare find here!”

8. “That credit cards are rarely accepted as a form of payment. Or VISA debit.”

9. “Download a parking app for your phone – it makes life much easier!” (Try yellowbrick.nl or parkmobile.nl)

10. “It’s a ghost town on Sunday!!”

11. “There are many different rules for pets – in particular dogs. Dog tax. Rules for poop and leash etc. I only found all this out after someone said the dog tax inspector was knocking on doors.”

12. “Where is the nearest A&E? What’s the emergency number? (112) And the non-emergency number? (0800 8844).”

13. “Public transport apps / links to NS.nl and 9292.nl were a lifesaver.”

14. “The blue parking spaces at the supermarket, and where to buy the blue time thingy.” (Blue spaces are temporary parking spots and you need a parkeerschijf – a parking disk to indicate what time you arrived. Available from HEMA, Bruna and Halfords stores and at many petrol stations.)

15. “Dutch rudeness directness. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.”

Can you tell that the last one was me? 😉

When you moved to the Netherlands,  what is the one thing you wish somebody had told you about?

Hayley x


  1. What I wish someone told me about was honey licorice (honing drop). I always thought drop was only in salty or regular version… Hooked on honey drop!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No 5. “I wish someone had told me (still would love to hear the logic behind it) how cars from the right automatically have right of way even when it makes absolutely no sense.”

    It might not make sense to non Europeans, or even British, but it’s a rule everybody learns from young age onwards and is the rule in most European countries, at least on the continent, unless otherwise regulated bij ‘voorrangborden’ of ‘haaietanden’!

    To Dutchies it makes sense….;-)


  3. No 5. It ‘s not just cars but all traffic coming from the right, including bicycles! Be aware when as a car driver you have a collision with a bicycle, per definition you carry the blame. Even when it was not your fault.


  4. Most dutchies speak ‘foreign’ English, they know all of the words, but very few of them speak British, which includes the understatement. There is some understatement in the Dutch language, but that’s often missed in word for word translations. For example: that went rather well/ we won the Word cup. I’m afraid my wife can no longer attend/ my wife died last week. I’m afraid my golf handicap won’t improve/ i lost my right arm. Would you like a cup of tea? /The police are on their way,Mr burglar. Did you lose weight?/ I can see you had your hair done, but please don’t ask for my opinion


  5. I wish someone told me that the Dutch never ever take responsibility for doing anything wrong. It is always a cultural difference, or a language difference, or an opinion difference…but never just stupidity!


    1. 15 million people on a football pitch learned to be non-confrontational very early on. The trick is to give every variation, opinion, religion, ideology its own niche/ box. Each group has its own newspaper, tv magazine, school, football club, church,etc. New arrivals find themselves detached from all groups and are most likely to offend just about everyone. Dutch people are not tolerant, just non-confrontational at all cost. The most sophisticated, relentless, deeply engrained form of stupidity.


      1. Oh that is just nonsense. A lot of Dutchies simply have a “leven en laten leven” (live and let live) attitude


  6. I wish that someone told me bakery’s are closed on Sundays. (I’m from Belgium).
    I wish someone told me the Dutch think Belgians are cute, and you cant do anything about it.
    And that the Dutch are very “hartelijk” but not always warm. At weddings there is an “oprotkoffie”, and the Dutch are busy with planning social gatherings in their “agenda”. Just Enjoy, drink, en forget about tomorrow. And forget about your “agenda” en “horloge”. :-))))))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish someone told me how disturbingly weird, rude, arrogant and not working on Sundays I was. I would have left for England years sooner !


  7. Jup! Know the feeling. Lived as a Belgian for three years in The Netherlands. “Say something”. “Oh that’s funny, how cute.” As someone from West-Flanders I had no idea what was cute about my non-Flemish accent. 😉


    1. I once arrived in Glasgow to see a customer, only to be greeted with: Aye, doo eye detect a wee accent dere? I was lost for words, all I said was good morning? Was that English, Dutch or oxfordian with a banburian twang?”Probably the echo in your office?”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Now this I appreciate. It’s quirky, very recognisable, and being a Dutchie living abroad myself I have often wondered how people live without parkeerschijven, all those handy apps, and without ghost town-free Sundays 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wish I’d know about pinderkass. The first time I found out about it was when I started eating it thinking it was some kind of BBQ sauce. That came as quite a shock. I can’t remember why the smell didn’t tip me off but it was at a party so that might explain something.


  10. I should probably start my own blog, it’s rude to blog on someone else’s blog, but then again I am true to my Dutch urge to volunteer my opinion and to be fair, Dutchies could probably do with an antidote for the sometimes unfair criticism by ex pats. Perhaps it would be a good idea to compile a list of things you found or experienced in Holland that you propose to be adopted by the rest of the world? Even I was drawn into a rather negative spiral of Dutch ridicule, it’s too easy to be a grumpy so and so.


  11. 7. “That customer service is a rare find here!”

    Try Twitter, some customer services (UWV, Belastingdienst, PostNL etc) are more helpful there and those employees usually have some more rights then the average 1st line phone-hell(p)desk

    It’s especially handy when expecting international shipments. PostNL’s phone helpdesk can’t do anything with foreign packet codes, however, the PostNL customer service on Twitter can use the foreign code to find a Dutch 3S* code at Customs, which you can then use to track the package within the Netherlands 🙂

    8. “That credit cards are rarely accepted as a form of payment. Or VISA debit.”

    Until recently, you couldn’t even buy a trainticket with a creditcard outside of Schiphol Airport. However, support for creditcards seems to be spreading across the trainticketmachines.

    10. “It’s a ghost town on Sunday!!”

    Not the 1st sunday of the month, then (most of) the stores are open over here. Although I do not know if every city does that.

    12. “Where is the nearest A&E?

    Hmm, never heard of an A&E, or it’s the lack of caffeine talking 😛


  12. maybe i’m such a grumpy Brit, but part of me was like ha no.7 – no problem, just take my order and leave me be. (waitressing myself at the moment, I feel I can say this. Although I do chat to customers when I get that vibe off them, smiling and being polite is enough as customers aren’t usually interested in knowing your name and have a heart to heart with a complete stranger).

    A disregard for queuing on the other hand… there I draw the line!


  13. 1. I do not understand this one as a) paracetamol is not against the cold or what you folks from the Northern Americas call “flu” (which is probably not really Influenza) and b) don’t you have an immune system?
    10. Mostly true in case of the more conservative regions. Especially larger towns have “koopzondag”, and the local Jumbo supermarket in my hood (South-Downtown in Tilburg) is open every sunday between 12:00 and 18:00.


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