Moving to the Netherlands over half a year ago I had certain expectations and images in my head. Most of them proved to be quite accurate: flat land, streets flooded with bikes and coffee shops selling legal weed….There were, however some things that took me absolutely by surprise. Though many of them might be due to specificity of living in a small town and being surrounded mostly by international students, I decided to share my perspective of “the Dutch life”:
1. The weather
When arrived in Enschede at the end of January it was surprisingly hot, nice wether…. for a week. After that it was a real rollecoaster. Sun, rain, snow, hail, heat. You could leave the house without a jacket because it was warm and sunny and get completely soaked (and injured by hail) and freeze to death on your way back just to find the sun go out as soon as you reach your front door…
2. The love of coffee
How glad was I to find out that the Dutch are the biggest coffee-drinkers in Europe? Their “koffie” might not be phenomenal (at least according to Italians), but I liked it- black, large, quite strong. What I enjoyed the most is the fact that they make a habit of taking coffee breaks. During morning lectures professors would always just announce: “coffee” and everybody just walks out to get their daily doze of caffeine. It sounds unimpressive, but you can rally notice how peculiar they are with taking time to enjoy this warm drink each day!
3. It’s totally fine to have a beer at 12p.m (even on the campus)
It is acceptable drink a beer or wine basically at any time of the day. I would see couples sitting in caffees before 12 p.m during weekdays enjoying a small beer. What is even more surprising, it is ok to have a beer with lunch at campus and then go to classes. I even once saw two professors having a glass of wine at 10 a.m before the classes start – as long as you’re not drunk, it’s fine. Something that would never work in Poland.
4. Bike culture
I expected streets to be flooded with bikes, but I didn’t expect this. Every street has a bike lane, and on more busy streets there can even be two. On the crossings, apart from lights for cars there is a separate light allowing all bikes to cross while cars and pedestrians wait patiently. There is even separate lane on the roundabout for the bikes to ride safety. And the amount of cyclists is so huge that there can even be bike-jams during the rush hour… such a funny view. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention- humongous, multistory bike-parks. Good luck finding where you’ve parked your bike!
5. Real Dutch don’t really smoke weed
Yes, it’s the Netherlands, yes you can buy weed legally basically everywhere… but the Dutch don’t. During my half a year in Enschede whenever I asked a Dutch person if they smoked they always answered that they have tried it once or twice, but it is mostly foreigners who do it. In fact, during my purely informative trip to a local coffee shop I have seen that it really is the case – lots of internationals, basically no locals.
6. Pub quizes
Wherever you go, there is a bar organizing a pub quiz. And they a difficult as hell making you feel dumb. We used to go to this one place each Monday where there where serous teams playing. One of them even kept all the statistics and annoté book with all the questions and answers… but we had fun circulating around last place anyways!
7. The trick to overly expensive train tickets
Trains are bloody expensive – a one-way trip from Enschede to Amsterdam would cost over 20€. When I first saw this I was ready to say goodbye to travelling around the country during weekends…. however, I’ve learned the best trick ever! There is something called a group ticket for groups of 4-10 people, where you don’t have to physically travel together just have a common starting point and destination. When you travel alone – there is tone of facebook groups where people gather to get the cheapest group tickets – 7€ (two-ways, if it is used the same day). Pretty cool, huh?
8. Pianos at train stations
Another train-related random fact. Such a simple, yet sophisticated idea. Every single train station has a piano that people actually use. When you’re in a hustle of traveling, it is always so refreshing to hear a classical melody in the background, that makes you wanna stop for a second and just appreciate the moment 🙂
9. Crappy food
I was convinced that the Dutch would eat very healthy, balanced diet. I couldn’t be more wrong! Yes, the supermarkets were filled with a wide rench of bio/organic products, but even more popular were ready-to eat fast dishes. All the fish and meat already pre-prepared, easier to find pancake mixture then the actual flour… and they eat sandwiches on a crappy, soft, low-quality bread all the fucking time! And toasties. How on earth do they still all look so fit?
(my slightly healthier alternative to popular sandwiches)
10. Extremely fit people
And here is the trick: most Dutch people look really fit. Even older people have decent bodies and are in good shape. I “blame” the bikes. A sight of a 60-year-old pedaling happily away to and from a local market is completely normal. And what is more, the gym was also always filled with older people, age of your grandparents. There were even special fitness classes for seniors – such a nice idea 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this little run-down of random, surprising facts about the Netherlands. Some of those I love, some hate – but they are what made my image of this beautiful, friendly country.
Stay tuned for more posts!