13 Things I have learned in 2 years of living in the Netherlands

So, this is typical me… my 2 year anniversary of living in the Netherlands was two days ago.

My Mum used to tell me “you’d be late for your own funeral” and although it pains me to admit it, she’s right. (How is it that my Mother is ALWAYS right? So unfair!) Anyway, I digress.

2 years! Godver! How did that happen!?

I still feel like such a newbie: I still take 5 minutes to lock and unlock my bike, I still don’t eat hagelslag, I still have to double-check with myself which way to look when crossing a road (and then still check both ways anyway), I still mix up de and het words… and I still get flustered when people ‘surprise’ me by talking Dutch…

Just yesterday there was a knock on the door while I was working and I was expecting it to either be the Dutchie forgetting his keys or my ASOS delivery… but nope, it was my next door neighbour – who launched into a detailed account of our pipes and the inner workings of the plumbing on our road.



I admit, it took me a second – but I managed to flick the switch, gather myself and have a conversation with her about our pipes (don’t ask!) life in general and forthcoming holidays.

In Dutch.

After closing the door, I did the above face again… because y’know… I just fucking realised I’m (almost) bilingual. Shit sticks. Who’d have thought it??

Anyway, apart from being able to understand and speak one of the most difficult and grammatically annoying languages in the world (according to me) – I learned some other things too…

1) Dutch people speak very good English. BUT… that doesn’t mean they don’t want you to learn Dutch. 

I’ve said it before and I’m gonna keep banging on about it until it’s imprinted in your brain. Try to learn Dutch. Even if you suck – they’ll appreciate the effort.

2) They eat weird shit for breakfast (and lunch)

Breakfast: sprinkles which are clearly meant for ice cream – on bread, with butter and a glass of milk on the side. Lunch? Bread and cheese, with a glass of milk. You just gotta let it go. (Even though I clearly haven’t!!)

For dinner they eat pretty normally. If you can call a U-shaped smoked sausage and boiled, then mashed to a pulp veg “normal”.

3) The key to cycling confidently in the Netherlands? Fall off.

What is this mad English woman going on about now?? Nope, I haven’t hit my head – only my leg actually – but since I fell off my bike in Domburg a couple of weeks ago, I’ve felt really confident on a bike. Seriously. (How it happened: I was a drunken English fool, trying to knock the Dutchie off his bike. Note to self: you cannot knock a 6ft tall, 15 stone, Dutch cycling robot off his bike.)

But it’s really helped me because now I’m like – what’s the worse that can happen? A little graze on my knee and hand. DISCLAIMER: Don’t come crying to me if you actually hurt yourself or break your neck or something. And I don’t condone or encourage riding a bike when you’re drunk. Unless you’re highly skilled or Dutch 😉

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

4) Everyone in your home country will still ask you when you’re coming ‘home’ 

BUT I DON’T LIVE THERE ANYMORE!! Also, you will disappoint people. When you do go over to visit you’ll have loads of people to see. Too many people, too little time.

Some friends are going to be offended you don’t contact them/see them every single time you’re over. Some people will complain, even when you do see them – that it’s too short. Others will cancel or drop out at the last minute, which is kinda acceptable if you live 20 mins away but when you live 600 km away… Not so cool. The best remedy for moaners: just give them stroopwafels, that’ll shut them up.

5) King’s Day is the best party in the world

Fact. Dress in orange, drink your body weight in beer and join in with the gezelligheid! It doesn’t get much better than this!! (More on King’s Day.)

Amsterdam Canals

By Carmelrmd (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

6) Think King’s Day is weird? Other Dutch parties and celebrations take it to another level! 

Does this sound normal to you? Celebrating 12.5 years of marriage, eating aniseed balls on rusks when a baby is born and making a life-sized doll of your friend when they turn 50. Nope, me neither. (Read more on Strange Dutch Celebrations.)

Insider tip: avoid circle parties at all costs!

7) Deep fried snacks don’t count as calories

You just have to ride them off afterwards. The best Dutch snacks are bitterballen (duh) followed by kaasstengels (I’m a new convert) and vlammetjes (if you get the good ones – it’s a bit of a Russian Roulette). For more food-related goodness, I wrote a whole post about the 22 Dutch Foods you must try.

BallenBar, Foodhallen, Amsterdam

8) You have to learn to accept Dutch Directness

Or you’ll end up crying / being angry all the time. (I’m still working on this one.)

Just remember, it’s their culture and it’s not Dutch to mince your words. They’ll tell you how it is, whether you like it or not… so the only thing you can control is how you react to it.

(Hint: try not to cry.)

9) Customer service is pretty crap here

And yet Dutch people don’t tip that much. Certainly not as much as the English do – and definitely not as much as Americans!


10) Doe normaal is probably the most annoying thing you’ll hear (closely followed by tsjonge, jonge, jonge!)

Telling someone to “Doe normaal” (“just be normal”) is like telling someone to calm down.


(By the way, if you’re not following the Fat Jewish, why not? He makes me laugh, every single freakin’ day!)

11) Technically, it’s the Netherlands

And if you live here, you know this because you’ve been told approximately 326 times.

But if you’re anything like me (and Invading Holland) then you just carry on saying Holland anyway because you’re basically a brat. (Calling myself a brat, not you, Stuart 😉 )

12) You can make a Dutch person extremely happy with the words: Lekker terrasje?

Or lekker biertje, or lekker anything really! The Dutch love many things… but the sun, terraces and booze feature at the top of the list. (Throw in some borrelhapjes and gezelligheid and basically life cannot get any better…)

Bitterballen Loosdrecht Trivio twitter

13) You can’t do it on your own

I left the soppiest til last…

Yes, you probably have your partner and your partner’s family and friends to help you settle in… but you also need to find YOUR people. The first few months can be like the scariest roller coaster you’ve ever been on. Some days you’ll be isolated and lonely and could happily say “Fuck this shit! I’m going home”. Other days you’ll feel on top of the world and moving to Holland (or wherever you are) was the best decision you ever made. It helps to have people who are on the same roller coaster as you.

To meet people, I joined a blogger group where I met the wonderful Sophie of Feast with Sophie, Senja of Little House in Utrecht and Alison of A Flamingo in Utrecht (if you haven’t read these blogs yet, please do check them out! They’re awesome!) I’m also a member of two Hilversum groups via Meetup.com as well as having met a few friends at Dutch classes. It really helps to have people who are going through all the same craziness as you.

What have you learned from living in the Netherlands?

Hayley x


  1. Hi Hayley.

    It’s “only” been two years?? That means I must have been following your blog nearly from the start. I moved to the UK 19 months ago, being a Dutchie. I’ve been reading your blog to learn about the differences in culture and it has been really insightful!

    Especially this love for the sun is something I expected we (Brits and Dutchies) would have in common. Turns out people find it crazy when I take out a chair, put it in front of my house and sit on it to enjoy every bit of sun (which has been surprisingly much in the London area)!

    By the way. About the “technically, it’s the Netherlands” thing. I would say the average Dutchman makes an even worse mistake by referring to all of the UK by saying England.
    This even happens on the national news.


    PS. I think it’s only a matter of time before the Netherlands adopts English as an official language.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The last one’s definitely the best! Everyone needs friends, and preferably ones in the same position. A good old moan with people who know what you’re talking about definitely puts everything back into perspective. I’d love to join a blogging group. How did you find them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. very true. I’d actually say it takes up to a year to get the feeling you’re settling in properly. (I now live in Oz on the Sunshine Coast, but come from Holland and I’ve also lived in four different suburbs in Sydney (1000 small villages), in Newcastle (NSW), Labrador (QLD), in Nairobi and in Copenhagen. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t fit in ANYWHERE! But I’m alright with that…)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha, great blog and very true! This coming from a Dutchie living in the US. I have shared it on my wall. My fellow Dutchie FB friends will love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hayley, this is a hoot!!! Even though I left the Netherlands in 1989 after spending 12 years there, many of the things you describe here still hold true. I LOVE the part about the sprinkles and the circle parties – OMG, so true and so hard to adjust to in the beginning. The directness was there 40 years ago and I see from your post it has not changed either!!! But in the end I left many wonderful Dutch friends behind and we still keep in touch. They visit me and I visit them. I will always love Holland despite the cultural differences. En wat de taal betreft – altijd beter om de Nederlanders te verassen met het feit dat wij engels sprekenden het wel kunnen leren! Cheers,

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think she means one of those awful sit-down birthday parties. You come in, the whole family is already there, sitting on chairs in a circle. You greet them all individually, congratulating each of them on the happy occasion of the mutual friend, sit down and get stuck talking to 86-year old aunt so-and-so all evening…..

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice blog! I might show it to my Aussie partner, he’ll like it :). As a Dutchie living in Australia, parts of it are very recognisable. Actually, I wrote a blog about this myself a while ago (the three year anniversary of moving to Aus), buuuuut it’s in Dutch (if you want to read it you can practice? You can find it on
    http://sharonkessels.waarbenjij.nu/)… I also talk about how here we don’t eat a cheese sandwich every day and how I still love chocolate sprinkles on toast :P.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hayley! that was soooo funny! thanks for making my day! I’m a Dutchie in Oz and everything you find hard to get used to, I found hard to have to drop! (yes, ESPECIALLY the directness! Damn that Anglo-Saxon mask of politesse!) I’ll be following your every step now…. Again: thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hilarisch. funny thing is. .. born and raised in the Netherlands I still don’t understand half of the things we do. seeing as I come from mixed cultures even for me some habits are strange. And trust me even a Dutchie like me from a small town feels like a tourist in the bigger cities 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Absolutely love this post! Makes me miss my homecountry quite a bit, but I’ll be leaving England for a week in May to visit my parents again 😉 Time for hagelslag, bitterballen, terrasjes en fietsen!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I CAN’T with the doe normaal! What even IS normaal? I’ll show you normaal if you don’t pipe down, sir/madam… 😛
    Love the last one – thanks for the shout out ❤ 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Hayley, I Love this! So easy to relate to and I’ve been here for 25(?!?) years now after moving here when I was 19 (!) to marry my Dutch Guy. Still love the cycling and knowing no danger on the bike after a couple of glasses of wine 😂. Am now divorced so not sure whether to try another Dutchie or go for an English guy.. Hmmm 😜 Keep up the blogging!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have 178 nationalities in Holland, so take you’re pic :-p (After 25 years in holland, you can see the double meaning in that… That was not intentionally. But funny though hahahaha)


  11. Great entry! Agree with a lot of things here! I have lived here for 8 months and have also come across many differences! Haha I don’t think I will ever understand their need to, as you say, ‘eat weird shit for breakfast/lunch’ . What happened to old fashioned soups and sandwiches?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m allergic to cow’s milk. Can tolerate a bit as cheese, which is fermented, but if I had to drink a glass of cow juice, it would not be pretty…


  12. Truly funny this one! Every point is correct. Sorry for making it hard on you these past two years though! But we all sure hope you’re staying for much longer! Who knows…. you might even start to love those sprinkles in the morning …. (I don’t so don’t feel pushed)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Hayley,

    Somehow i can relate to all the things that you wrote, only been slightly a bit more than a year for me now, and still struggle to find my place here in the netherlands. The hardest part for me is the language, english is my 2nd language (i think i’m quite ok at it) and learning dutch has made my english worse and yet still sucks in dutch at the same time, it can be frustrating yet funny sometimes. Reading this makes me feel that i’m not alone! Thx hayley u make my day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ohhhh I love this I just moved here in February for my Dutchman and I have experienced it all! This is definitely been the hardest 4 months of my life haha. I need to try the Meetup.com because I am having such a hard time meeting people. I tried Internations and it’s just a bunch of dudes trying to hit on me 😖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cassandra, yes definitely try Meetup.com. There are even “ladies only” groups if you want to avoid that kind of thing! Oh and I promise it WILL get better. The first months are always the hardest.


  15. Pingback: Gezellig Nederland
  16. Hi Hayley,

    I really love your blog and especially this post and the one about our weird celebrations. I think it’s hilarious to read about our weird habits and what you’ve learnt about us. To be honest.. I recognize myself in a lot of things. Especially the part about the fact that Dutchies are straight forward! Guilty as charged! If u ever need help with anything or want some straight forward (:P) advice feel free to contact my!


    Liked by 1 person

  17. Enjoyed reading your blog. I am from the Netherlands, but moved to the UK. Always wanted to know how people felt about Dutch traditions.


  18. I would like to know in general, what do you usually eat for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner. Is lunch the heaviest meal of the day, or dinner. What kind of snacks do you eat between meals? thanks.


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