After living in the Netherlands for almost two years, I’ve realized that life is much better here than in the USA. Don’t get me wrong; I loved living in the US. It’s my place of birth, where I grew up, where most of my family and friends live. I still love many things about the states. I’ve just realized that living here in Europe or perhaps more developed countries are better for my mental health, physical health, and my quality of life. This is by no means to say that the Netherlands doesn’t have its own set of issues. Here are ten reasons why life is much better here than in America.
1. Universal Healthcare
Everyone in the Netherlands has healthcare, no matter if you’re rich or poor. If you have money, you pay an affordable monthly premium and deductible. If you don’t have money, the government will make sure you have healthcare no matter your income. In fact, you can get a fine if you’re not insured.
2. Vacation Days
In the US, the average person gets 1 to 2 weeks of vacation a year. That means that you’re working so much, you barely have any time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. In the Netherlands, the legal minimum vacation time for a person who is employed full time is 20 days (One month). Many people get much more than this. My boyfriend has two months a year paid off.
3. Unlimited Sick Days
If you become sick here, you get paid no matter how long you’re sick. That means if you get cancer or something like that, even if it takes two years to recover, you won’t get fired, and all the time you’re sick, you’ll get paid. In the states, most of the time, your sick days and vacation days are the same things. So you have to choose whether to take a vacation or recover from an illness. A serious illness doesn’t take two weeks to recover from, so then you can be fired. How insane is that?
4. Working Part-Time Is a Norm
When I was home in the US, I worked an insane number of hours. Some weeks I worked up to 60 hours a week, sometimes split between 2 jobs. It wasn’t because I had to; it was because of the pressure to work many hours. The more hours you work, the more valuable you are. I love that Dutch people accept working 25 hours a week. I mean, full time here is 38 hours a week, not 40 like in the states. No, people here don’t make more money, they just live within their means instead of trying to impress people they don’t even like.
5. High Taxes
I don’t like paying taxes, but who does? The taxes in the Netherlands are extreme compared to the taxes in the US. Are you buying a new car here? You’ll pay a 50% tax on top of the price of the vehicle. Are you buying a new shirt? Don’t forget that a 21% tax will be in the price. Income tax is also insane, spanning from 36% to 50% or more. Despite the high taxes, I don’t mind it that much. You know why? Because we get so much in return: good unemployment pay, affordable healthcare, safe roads, bike paths, a pension that you can actually live on, a very long maternity and paternity leave, and more. The government is protecting you from yourself. I think that is amazing!
6. Politics and Elections
I HATE how in the states, everyone needs to know what party you belong to, and your political views. And if you’re not from the same party, all of a sudden you can’t be friends. It’s no one’s business but your own. I have never been asked about my political views here. Dutch people don’t care about it. It’s private, and no one has the right to ask you about it. Also, the amount of money spent on political campaigns in the states is so wasteful. Politicians are always preaching about helping their people. Well, they can! Take all that money donated to your campaign and spend it on Americans (helping the poor, fixing the roads, healthcare, etc.) instead of on TV ads and such. Dutch politicians don’t even spend a quarter of what politicians spend on campaigning.
7. Biking and Health in General
Compared to people in the US, Dutch people are much much healthier. There is less obesity here, fewer chemicals and antibiotics in food, and people are more active. You can see the more active part by looking at the biking culture and infrastructure here. Rain or shine, most Dutch people cycle wherever they are going. There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands. Biking paths are everywhere, and the bike parking lots are amazing. Many times, cyclists have the right of way over cars. I’ve been yelled at by a driver in the states to get off the road, that I didn’t belong there. Many times in the states, drivers drove closer and closer to me to push me off the road. You’ll never see that here.
8. The Value and Cost of Education
The first few questions you get asked when meeting new people in the states are almost always: How old are you, what do you do for a living, and finally, where did you go to college? America puts so much focus on where people went to college instead of what they learned and what they know. Just because you went to a state school, it doesn’t mean you’re stupider than someone who went to Harvard. Have you seen the price of education in the US? Why in the world would you want to pay an excessive amount of money to go to a private or more renowned school? Learning shouldn’t be profit-based. More expensive doesn’t always mean better quality. In the Netherlands, the price of tuition is affordable, and everyone receives the same education no matter the college you went to, making sure that everyone has equal job opportunities.
9. Living Within Your Means
I feel this one is significant and personal to me. I see so many family members and friends struggling with their finances when they don’t need to. In the US, personal finance and budgeting is rarely a required class when it should be. Every person should learn about how to live within your means, save money even if it’s only $5 a month, not spend based on instant gratification, and not putting everything on your credit card. Sadly, we have been taught that credit cards a great tool to build credit and get points or cashback. People who make minimum wage should not be using credit cards except for in cases of real emergencies such as going to the hospital.
The “put everything on your credit card” lifestyle isn’t a thing here. Most people only spend what they have made, not what they think or want to make in the future. Many understand the concept of having an emergency fund, and they save for it. They also understand that sometimes you need to spend a little more for better quality spending less because you’ll have to replace that item in one or two years after it’s fallen apart. If you don’t have the money in your bank account after the cost of your necessary expenses and saving for emergencies, you shouldn’t be spending on whatever it is you want to buy. Simple as that.
The Dutch are extremely efficient people. They are the 2nd biggest exporter of food in the world despite having a tiny country. All government organizations do everything online. If you need to see anything about anything, you can find it online by logging into your online account. Taxes are done online directly via the government website unlike in the US where you have to use third parties or mail it in. Getting a new passport takes a week instead of a month. No one uses checks, they don’t exist. You’ll never have to wait more than 48 hours to receive a letter or a package. Next-day mail is the standard here.
Are you flying somewhere? Guess what? You get to keep everything in your bag, keep your shoes on, and even bringing large bottles of water, etc. through security is fine. There are no long waiting lines to get through security or passport control like in the US. You can almost always get through security and passport control in under 5 minutes. The airports run so efficiently. I still get impressed every time I fly.
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What do you think about the quality of life in the USA compared to where you live?