5 of My Unpopular Opinions About the Netherlands

5 of My Unpopular Opinions About the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a wonderful place to live. There are beautiful fields everywhere. Sheep are used to mown most parks and fields instead of lawnmowers. There are cute old windmills everywhere. People cycle to work, school, shopping, and more instead of driving. The country is known for its amazing cheese and beautiful tulips. The work-life balance is unbeatable in comparison to other countries. I really love living here. Even though I love living here, I still don’t agree with all the popular opinions about the Netherlands. There will always be things we love and things we dislike about living somewhere. For me, the good things heavily outweigh the bad things. Here are some things I disagree with. 

1. Double Salted Licorice

Yes, can you believe it, people here actually eat double-salted licorice instead of the sweet ones. They also eat the sweet ones, and those I love. But salted candy, I don’t get it. I guess it’s for people who prefer salty things like potato chips instead of sweets like jelly beans. I personally find salted licorice gross.

2. The Quality of Healthcare

Most people believe that healthcare in the Netherlands is amazing. That is true if you’re healthy or if you have something easy to diagnose and treat. Once something isn’t straightforward, it takes forever to diagnose and to actually get treated. In my opinion, healthcare isn’t that great here. And this is based on my personal first-hand experience and speaking with other foreigners.

3. Dutch People

Dutch people are super nice when you need assistance with something like getting a visa or with directions. However, once it comes to making friends or getting some customer service in a shop, you’ll be baffled at the reality. Making Dutch friends and getting some help in a shop is next to impossible. Also, Dutch people are known to be very direct, but when you answer directly as well, they can’t take it. What is that about?

4. Biking in the Rain

The majority of people here use their bike as their main mode of transportation, rain or shine. They will even bike if it’s pouring rain. I love biking. But I refuse to bike when it’s rainy. Even with the rain outfit people wear, you’ll still get wet. I don’t want to come home shivering cold to prove that biking in the rain is ok. I’d rather take public transport or walk with an umbrella. My boyfriend always tells me that I won’t melt, but even he will rarely agree to bike in the rain. And he’s Dutch.

5. Heating Your Home

This is something I found really insane. I work for a real estate company in NYC. By law, we must heat the apartments we own to 68f (20c) in the winter. Dutch people will usually heat their homes to 66,2f (19c) or a bit, but not much higher when it’s cold. I keep my home heated to 70,7f (21.5c) or even higher. How is 66,2f (19c) considered warm? That is insane. When Dutch people see what I heat my home to, they think I’m weird. But guess what, I’m actually still cold even with the temperature being so high. 

Despite all of the things I mentioned above, I still love living here. There’s nothing like waking up, going outside, and smelling nature in the air. I love that the country is so flat making it ideal for biking. The weather is temperate, so most of the time, biking is pretty easy and feels good. Most people value time with family over money and keep their homes in really great condition. Everything about life here just feels healthier.

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What is your unpopular opinion about where you live?

33 thoughts on “5 of My Unpopular Opinions About the Netherlands

  1. For once, I fully agree with you on everything.
    As we say at home, it is not direct, it is rude!!!
    And yeah, they can’t take foreigners behaving the same way. Great article!

    1. When still living at home, the Netherlands, if we were a bit chilly, we were told to put more clothes on or do something. Or, if we could not find anything to do, something would be found for us to do.
      I would say that diplomacy is not our strong point.
      My English family would heartily agree with that.

  2. I came to live in the Netherlands in ’66 and I ended up living here for good. I was cold the first several yrs. It took some time to get used to the damp rainy climate. The climate has however changed a lot. It doesn’t rain nearly as much as it did even 10 yrs ago. There is actually a lot more sun and even tho there are all kinds of canals and rivers, it became too dry. There have also been some very hot weather in the summers, something that just didn’t happen either but has with the climate change. I have also adjusted to having my house not too hot.
    The health care is very good here compared to America where if you are in the wrong income bracket or the wrong color, you are out of luck. It is getting more and more complicated here however and health care seems to be the nu 1 item to make cuts.
    The dutch are indeed very direct. I have learned to be more assertive and I feel OK about it but it took me awhile to get used to it.
    It takes time to make friends but that is just how it is when you end up in a different culture. Just keep working at it and you will all of a sudden realize that you do have some good friends. You have to learn how the Dutch do it and what they consider friendship. You are now a foreigner and it is up to you to fit in.
    I enjoy reading about your experiences.

  3. I agree on all but #1) just because I would say all ‘topically Dutch’ food tastes like salted licorice))) but no accounting for taste really.
    Healthcare is actually not good at all((( Temperature in the office before corona was +17C and Plant Manager was playing jokes of me – saying you are Russian, you shouldn’t get cold, which I find rude as well….

  4. Hmmm not sure I would agree with all 5 of your statements, for one the Dutch are friendly and very helpful. And it’s easy to make friends if you have the right attitude and/or something in common to share, much like making friends anywhere else. The health system isn’t like the US where they give you 100 tests just for a sore throat but if you are genuinely ill and have a life threatening situation you will be taken care are of. I have 1st hand experience of a medical emergency and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the excellent care I received I will give you licorice and cycling in the rain though 😉

      1. ‘we all have different views and that’s okay’
        I really never understood that discussion avoiding thing. Is it American? Is it not okay to discuss things on which you disagree?

        1. Whoaw you really hit the nail on the head with everything, can’t agree with you more. And as a person of colour there are some other peculiarities I can add to this list 😉

      2. All your observations are very personal. Not ever Dutch person likes liquorice or cycles in the rain or heats their flat at a certain temperature. And you can have a bad health system experience in any country. Directness takes some getting used to but it is understood by most people in Holland as far as making friends is concerned it might take a while but at least you will have made a genuine friend for life.

  5. I am originally from the U.K. and moved here one year ago. The temperature in my apartment is set to 23 degrees! The guy who lives upstairs and sold us this apartment, came in when we first arrived and turned our temperature thermostat down and said we have the apartment far too hot!! We found it really strange, we own the apartment and pay the heating bills!! So far though, I have been happy with Dutch medical care. I was referred straight away to a very good specialist at the hospital and I have received great care. After moving here from Switzerland were the medical care is the best in the world, I was a little worried but I have been pleasantly surprised- so far!!!

  6. I’m not Dutch and I have to say I disagree with comment #5. Everyone does as they please of course but for the sake of our planet and wallet, we all should view lowering our house thermostat temperature as a good thing! It’s not ‘insane’… Just like not being afraid to wear an extra pair of socks or add another layer of cloth if you feel cold. Personally I find it just as insane as you claim in your article, that people would heat up their home at 23°C to get to wear a spring outfit indoors in the middle of winter. It’s just not the time for it and you’re spending energy on a futile thing for your own relative comfort. I read somewhere that depending on your house isolation, every degree you lower (within reasons of course, no one says to live at 12°C) is 1 to 3% energy saved on your bill. Doesn’t maybe amount to much per person, but for an entire country it’s enormous. I like the Dutch no-nonsense attitude towards that (and biking in the rain) that you just need to wear the appropriate clothes and toughen up because you’re not an indoor poodle made of sugar. In general it leads to a much more sustainable way of thinking!

    1. Thanks Caroline for putting that out. We can’t pretend we ignore the environmental crisis, and energy has an enormous role to play. Wear a sweater, thick socks and toughen up..

      Soreh, thanks for putting together this article, however I’m disappointed to always encounter the same cliches on expat blogs over and over again, and never seem to go to deep into the historical, political or sociological aspects of cultural differences… how about talking about the netherlands’ take on healthcare privatization?

  7. Hi, nice read. I’m Dutch, but have Indo origin, meaning I have a mix of Asian and various European roots Portuguese, French, Swiss, German). I’m one of those to keep my house heated at min 21 C degrees lol, hates biking in the rain, snow, and wind, likes to make friends with anyone who is nice, and love to use my language skills. And although I’m not a fan of rudeness (you don’t want to know how often I’m thing “what the …!” 😕), I will probably have my share of being direct, without realising. Oh yeah, health care system… The way I look at it, all care and education have been going downhill, ever since politics seem to be in hands of ego-tripping, money-seeking, status and power-greedy individuals. A bit the way of the world… Pleased to meet you! 😉

  8. Well, as a fist generation American on my Dads side who has never been to The Netherlands, I love Dubbel Zout. I think the heat situation is a combination of heartiness and frugality. We keep our home 66F year round in Cental North Carolina so we save a lot in the winter and spend it on the summer.

  9. as a Dutchy myself, I can relate to most of what you share, especially that healthcare stuff, my experience is often, they first try this medication then that treatment and if that is not working, well then let’s dig deeper and try to find out the cause of it. While I think then, lets first figure what the problem is and then search for the right treatment for it. In the end, it is cheaper. What I have discovered over the years (of course depending on what the issue is), do your own research. I am currently doing a trauma therapy. After years of therapy (on and off, not really helping) by coincidence (the story is a bit more complicated), I realized “wait a minute, it’s complex trauma what my issue is”. Next step read more about complex trauma, next step explore therapy options for trauma finding what felt matching to me, next step exploring centres offering the therapy I want in my neighbourhood, next step call the different centres, explain my situation and explore if they can offer what I am looking for, then if something feels a match, check with health insurance “is this covered”, and then go to my GP to get the referral and set it all in motion. And then it works. Similar experiences I had with hospitals, in two situations I was not content with the treatment and I want back GP and asked for a second opinion at another hospital (also with doing some research first myself) and then again, it works. So it is not only foreigners dealing with this. I have more examples of this concerning myself (I may sound like someone with a lot of health issues, but it is not as bad as it sounds) but again it works when you do the figuring out yourself (again as much as possible of course) and figure what you want and what feels matching and then set something in motion. What also helps is finding a GP that is open to this kind of approach.

  10. I’m Dutch, moved to the States as a child (California). My parents always kept our house cool in the winter, especially the bedrooms. I hated it. After I got married, my husband and I kept our home warm in the winter, especially when we lived in Colorado. Now I live in VA. I keep my home at 70-72 during the day and 70 at night. I run the air conditioner in the summer and keep my house at 73. It’s no one’s business but mine. Until my husband passed away, he felt the same way. We worked hard for our money and code and choose to live the way we do. If that bothers you, that’s your problem, not mine. I like double zout licorice, love my Nederlands familie, have had good and bad experiences with “Dutch directness,” was treated well by a Dutch doctor for an emergency asthma attack and my cousin is a doctor, and every time I visit, I’ve had good weather.

    1. Hi Bea,
      home heating and cooling is responsible for roughly 441 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. So it looks like it’s EVERYONE’s business at this point.

  11. One thing i find very strange here though…is that people bike in the rain and you say its all about having the right clothes etc etc..
    As a norwegian my experience and view is 180 degrees different!!!
    All kids here stay inside when it rains and they dont have the right clothes to play in.
    My kids wear their gear from norway and i got my own rainproof raingear too and we go out and explore even when it pours down! No one is out, and if anyone runs with their umbrellas they always comment that we are crazy and that we will get sick being out.
    I find some people a bit rigid and uptight🤪

  12. I’m from South Africa and moved to the Netherlands last year. Because we only have about 2 months of cold amidst 10 months of warmth there, very few people have indoor heating where we come from. So in our short winters, our houses would get as low as 10°C inside and we would just wear warm clothes and put extra blankets on the bed, or sometimes roll out an oil heater for a short period just to take the chill off. So when we got here and set our indoor heating to 19°C, we were amazed by how comfortable we were indoors in the middle of winter (with socks and light long sleeves on, of course). Anything higher feels like it would be unnecessary and wasteful.

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