Posted on: September 6, 2020 Posted by: Soreh Milchtein Comments: 47
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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.

Dinan, France

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. 

Enjoying the sunset from my backyard.

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. 

Fresh strawberries straight from the farm.

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. 

Cooking with what I have instead of ordering food.

10. Efficiency

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.

Follow my adventures and say hello to me on my Instagram.

What do you think about the quality of life in the USA compared to where you live?

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47 People reacted on this

  1. Are you sure you went to Schipol airport ? Because no you can not keep your shoes on or any bottle of water and yes the queues are long for passports and security.

    1. It also depends which airline you fly with! This isn’t the case from the budget airline terminal as they use older machines!!

        1. Loved your story. I’m Dutchborn and have lived in Australia for 63 years. Life here is much the sense as in Nederland. Here we have 4 weeks holidays per year, free medical services, hospitals, education and no one worries which school or university you went to. The poor are provided for and we’r have adequate pensions and superannuation in place for retirement.

    2. Maybe the problem is just in the international terminal for connecting flights. We have experienced terrible queues of hundreds of people in a scrum.

    3. Sounds like you are well suited for the Netherlands. Clearly you struggle in countries that foster competition. Sounds like you need a government to look out for you. You will be missed

      1. I have traveled as a youngster with the bike in Holland and later on by car and much later with my family and I can only say the best about my experiences in Holland !

  2. I can’t wait to come and visit you in the Netherlands!
    I also think some of the most talented artists come from the Netherlands.
    You can buy some of the very best quality paint and art supplies there.
    Two of my favorite artists are from there.


    1. Jan, as an American who moved here 28 years ago, I feel the need to comment.

      I just look at numbers, not political ideologies.

      Longevity, infant mortality, obesity, general happiness, is better in socialized democracies.

      The socialism right wingers talk about is not the socialized democracy that exists in Europe.

      Socialism has never succeeded while socialized democracy has never failed.

      The following is what I write when trying to educate conservatives on ‘socialism’ …

      If you own a home in the US you pay property tax to your local government.  That money goes towards your local police department, your local fire department, your local library, your local parks and recreation.  You may never need nor use those services but you chip in just the same.

      We all chip in for the betterment of our society.

      When our country was first founded, there were privatized fire departments.  Your house or business would display the plaque of the fire department to which you subscribed. 

      I’m from Philadelphia and you can still see plaques on some older buildings even today.

      We grew up as a society and socialized the fire department.

  3. A good read, a few issues though for my comparison of having lived in Europe ( various countries) for most of my life.

    1. Universal Healthcare generally means that it comes out of your taxes. So why should one have to pay ONTOP of that for insurance, which in my opinion is already hugely overpriced. I have found that healthcare in NL is not as good as people make it out to be. The only good thing I have experienced was my C-section and then the Kraamzorg. Apart from that I have had to fight tooth and nail to even be seen with my leg issue ( which they now admit should have been looked at sooner), surgery is needed, when? They aren’t sure…great. Looking into going private in Ireland instead ( yes I pay healthinsurance there too, for eventualities like this).

    2. Vacation Days – Not sure about more than 20, I know the norm is 26. But you don’t get any other bank holiday weekends? Which really sucks for the Dutch, as even if a national holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, they won’t give their workers the Monday, such as a long-weekend.

    3. Unlimited sick days, now that is AMAZING! There they have done it far better than anywhere else 🙂

    4. Working part-time is not good in the long term for pension pots. Mainly women are forced to work part-time when they have children. As society still expects them to look after the kids. Fighting tooth and nail on this at the moment.

    The other points all have their merits and to a point I agree with you. In general most European countries have similar mentalities.

    Keep up the posts!

    1. While it seems to be more expensive, medical expenditure per capita in the The Netherlands is about half that of the US…. and -everyone- is covered, unlike the US.

  4. 2 comments. The tax on a new auto is 49% minus €1560 if it is a car run on petrol; for a diesel car you add € 550..
    Income taxes is Holland. There are 2 tariffs. You deduct many costs of living from your gross income, such as the interest on your mortgage and premium and extra charges for health care (under circumstances), costs of education such as tuition fees, materials (books etc) and extra costs if you have a family member who is institutionalized etc.
    Over the amount remaing you pay 37,1% up to €68.500 and 49,5% over the remaining amount. It usually bolus down to some 40-45% on average.

  5. Unlimited sick days only apply if you have a permanent contract with a company. If you are a ZZP’er, and you don’t carry the expensive self-employed insurance, you are not going to receibe help from the govt.

  6. Nice post! I totally agree. The US will always be home to me, but I think the quality of life is much better in the Netherlands.

  7. Soreh,
    Thank you for the info. I lived there 6 months a few years ago for work and have been back Every summer for 3 weeks. This year got crushed by Covid. My wife and I are retiring in a few years and want to live there at least 6 months a year. (Live in NC) We are not rich, but just love the life style and many things you can do over in the EU. Its a dream, hopefully we can make come true. Love biking and we are in Our mid 50’s. These articles and comments really help. We love the Dutch people and have many friends now in the south, Maastricht. Any other resources or info is always welcome. Dank je and Doie!

  8. Loved your story. I’m Dutchborn and have lived in Australia for 63 years. Life here is much the same as in Nederland. Here we have 4 weeks holidays per year, free medical services, hospitals, education and no one worries which school or university you went to. The poor are provided for and we’r have adequate pensions and superannuation in place for retirement.

  9. I need to do some research as my grandpa came to the United States from Holland in the 1800s for a better life. I know several Dutch people did likewise. We’re things so horrible back then in Holland? Last year my husband, my sister, my niece and I visited the Netherlands for the first time to visit my grandpa’s birthplace and some of our cousins. We absolutely loved it there and would have loved to return for a visit this year but COVID ruined that😢. The people we came in contact with were all super friendly and we could not have been more impressed with everyone we came in contact with!

  10. How funny . I have been here in Australia 63 years as well. We arrived on the Waterman I’m 1957.
    Did you arrive on that ship too?

  11. I think you should have a very clear statement at the top of this post that says ‘some information within this post is inaccurate or may be misleading’, as this is truly the case. Your post matches the classic saying, ‘just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it true’. I’m really sorry that you’ve chosen not to fact check the 10 reasons you’ve provided. This post is frustratingly inaccurate and provides false information to people, who may read it as accurate. I think it’s unfortunate (and inappropriate) that you come across as passive aggressive to commenters who point the inaccuracies of this post.
    Whilst the Netherlands is a nice country to live in, it’s not quite the utopia that you’ve written it to be.
    1. Universal Healthcare does NOT exist in the Netherlands. It is considered an accessible healthcare system, however, there is little to no preventative care and should you require anything stronger than paracetamol, you will literally have to fight for months for it. Antibiotics are rarely issued, even when you need them, it’s just ‘not the Dutch way’. Additionally it is not free or covered as part of your taxes, you must pay for your private health insurance (required by law) and then a annual deductible on top of that. Compared to other EU countries, it is considered expensive.
    3. Unlimited Sick Days – this is inaccurate. Whilst the the labour laws are considered to be excellent in the NLs and it quite difficult to fire someone, it’s not impossible. Companies need to be accommodating to their employees and their their needs. If you are off long term sick, it will likely be at a reduced wage (not full pay) and have a maximum limit of 2 years of ‘unlimited time off.
    4. Working Part-Time Is a Norm – this is not true. Whilst a work life balance is encouraged, this does not mean that everyone works part time as a norm or only 40 hours a week, many dutch works wish this statement were true. Many people work over 40-60 hours a week and this is the norm across many industries. However, if they have a quiet day, do they leave early, sure.
    5. High Taxes – income tax is substantially higher in the NLs than in the US. ‘… very long maternity and paternity leave’ this is inaccurate, maternity leave is 16 weeks in the Netherlands which is substantially lower than many of its European neighbours and up until last year fathers were only given a week off paid. Please do not believe that high taxes covers maternity leave, as its the business that costs this cost, not the government.
    6. Politics and Elections – Politics and political views are frequently discussed in the Netherlands, not to the extremes that Americans take it to but to say that no one cares is ignorant. The Dutch are very political and have tons to say on politics and will happily share their views/opinions and whats going well or not so well in politics.
    7. Biking and Health in General – In 2019, approx. 203 cyclists were killed in traffic in the Netherlands. Whilst the Dutch have a better cycling system than the US, it doesnt mean accidents dont happen or that you wont be hit by a car. FEBO is a very popular ‘restaurant’ and everyones favourite borrel treat is bitterballen, so whilst the Dutch may be less obese than Americans, it doesn’t make them healthier. According to WHO in 2008 52.5% of the adult population (> 20 years old) in the Netherlands were
    overweight and 18.8% were obese.
    8. The Value and Cost of Education – Whilst university is cheaper than the US (which can also be said for the majority of EU countries, not just the NLs), the cost of high school (VMBO, HAVO, VWO) is not free and parents are asked to contribute to this annually and to pay for books. Additionally community college prices are somewhat on par with University prices and you can get a BA.
    9. Living Within Your Means – Credit cards work very differently here. They are a limited credit of essentially 30 days. You are expected to pay off your credit card debt in full every month in the Netherlands. However, that doesnt mean that there arent loan sharks and companies you can approach for loans. Not everyone lives within their means within the NLs or saves money monthly. Some people do live hand to mouth here, there are even tv shows about it. Just because you dont see, doesnt mean it doesnt exist in the NLs.
    10. Efficiency – Whilst the Dutch are efficient in some things, they are most certainly not in others. Many stores do not offer online shopping (some have been forced to with Corona), the trains are great until they are delayed or cancelled and you’re stood on a platform for hours waiting to get home in the wet. PostNL is not reliable or fast, in fact the are more likely known for their horrific service than their quick and efficient service. There is also next to no customer service in the NLs. You’ve clearly been exceptionally lucky when flying from the Netherlands compared to the rest of the population. You can take a maximum of 1 litre of liquids in your hand luggage in containers of 100ml each, as long as your bottle of water is less than 100ml, you’re good to go.

    1. 100% accurate. Original post from the author is quite misleading. Some additions-
      1) One has to pay Eur385 before they one is able to use insurance amount. This is to discourage people from visiting clinics/hospitals. Doctors are under tremendous pressure not to prescribe anything but paracetamol. Note- there are many many medicines, even if prescribed, are not covered by the insurance company.
      2) Yes one can have long term sick leave but this is misused by people resulting in higher tax burden on others. It is interesting to note that this country has one of the highest burn out cases.
      3) Unless you are Dutch, you have 0% chances to reach to the top management level forget about reaching to the level of CEO/CFO of a non-Dutch company. And if you are lucky to get a job, dont be surprised if your immediate supervisor is less qualified/experienced than you are !!. Single reasons for MNC’s to setup base in NL is tax. Locally there are no production, manufacturing or trading sites.
      4) Reason for part time work is because most of the people dont make enough to have a decent standard of life. Its an indirect way to push everyone to work. Due to high taxes, socialist system, low salaries (compare salaries on numbeo), both partners have to earn to have a comfortable life.
      5) As everywhere else there is plenty of politics in offices. No matter who wins in elections, its been coalition government from the last so many years. So you can vote for anyone but everyone wins. !
      6) Here government is famous to issue regulations retroactively. Yes. Until 2018, expats used to get some tax rebates for 8 years. In 2019 government passed the law to reduce this from 8 to 5 years retroactively putting negative financial impact on thousand of expat families
      7) Dutch food is one of the unhealthy cuisine in the world- full of cheese and processed food. This country has one of the highest cancer patients in the EU. Biking- bikers dont pay attention to pedestrians or drivers and this results in many accidents.
      8) In the case of petty crimes- theft, fights, robberies, police do not get involved. You are on your own. They dont even write reports to cover the incident
      9) Quality of education- kids are over burdened by 4 languages and less attention is paid to STEM subjects. Even if your child gets education in the country, chances are they wont get equal job and/or growth opportunities due to their cultural/ethnic background.
      10) Dutch are certainly not efficient in many aspects of work. They like to drag and delay things until it becomes an emergency. One needs to take approval from pion to the chairman. There is tons of bureaucracy in work and daily life. You get tons and tons of post in Dutch and you end up spending good time on translating these documents
      11) Besides 50% income tax, they have 21% VAT and tons of other taxes- road, sewerage, vehicle, parking, water…..taxes that eats up 60-65% of your income.
      12) Above only covers material or financial aspect of life here. In terms of culture- Dutch are very rude. They have renamed/categorized this trait as “straight-forwardness” but if a non-Dutch talks straight (black & white) to them, they feel offended and god forbids if you do this to your Dutch colleague, be ready to get a hard hit in one way or other

      In nutshell- they dont want you to have a good comfortable life. Even if you work hard, are better qualified, or experienced they will stop you to prosper somehow.

      Probably this is same in most of EU countries but this is certainly true for NL.

    2. hi sally ,i am soooooo glad that i came across you rebottle to soreh’s rant ,i too agree that a lot of things she writes are very inaccurate ,i came across one of her posts in a dutch website ,but they would NOT let me post a rebottle ,thats why i am glad i came across yours,i was born there ,moved away at 16 years old ,the way i remember holland is NOT the way it is right now ,i found that out the hard way during the last few weeks of my mothers life ,and how they have changed since i left,but the biggest beef i have is when dutchies go on holiday’s for a while to holland ,they just LOVE how they are treated and how “gezellig “it is there,and everybody is soooo nice ,well i have news for them ,just move back and see what happens ,it will be like a cold rainstorm literally again thank you

    1. The socialism right wingers talk about is not the socialized democracy that exists in Europe.

      Socialism has never succeeded while socialized democracy has never failed.

      The following is what I write when trying to educate conservatives on ‘socialism’ …

      If you own a home in the US you pay property tax to your local government.  That money goes towards your local police department, your local fire department, your local library, your local parks and recreation.  You may never need nor use those services but you chip in just the same.

      We all chip in for the betterment of our society.

      When our country was first founded, there were privatized fire departments.  Your house or business would display the plaque of the fire department to which you subscribed. 

      I’m from Philadelphia and you can still see plaques on some older buildings even today.

      We grew up as a society and socialized the fire department.

  12. I am a naturalized US citizen (British/German by birth) and I am not happy with the US healthcare system, but the one in Europe and other Western nations sucks, too. For instance, I had a severe skin allergy and the appointment I was given was 2 months out (in Germany). If you do not have private health care insurance, you are virtually screwed. This is also a reason that my wife and I are moving to Korea, as none of the English speaking countries have actual good medical care. Canada’s health care system in still living in the last century. Britain cannot support it’s own citizens due to lack of funding and staff. Australians need private healthcare on top of the social health care and still pay huge amounts out of their own pockets for treatment. Oh, and we flew out of Schiphol frequently (pre-COVID) and always had to get rid of any fluids over 100mg.

  13. I shared your link with a very conservative woman in the US who I’m trying to enlighten.

    I’ve lived here 28 years, your comments are accurate.

    Thank you.

  14. Hi,

    Great to see you’re enjoying the jump from America to Europe, specifically Netherlands. As an asian migrant I grew up there and I have often thought that living in the US would be so much greater. But now in my mid 40s I definitely think that living in a country like Netherlands (or some of the other Northern European countries) gives more people a better life experience, where in the US it’s for a lesser big group.

    I recently found this video that highlights other elements of the Dutch working culture that I think could add to your insights:

    Anyway, enjoy your time in Netherlands and hopefully Netherlands will come out stronger out of all the crises that are challenging the Dutch society!

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