Bizarre Things About the Dutch That Foreigners Can’t Wrap Their Heads Around

Bizarre Things About the Dutch That Foreigners Can’t Wrap Their Heads Around

No matter how long you’ve lived in the Netherlands, if you’re a foreigner, you’ll understand this. There are some things about the Dutch that will never make sense to us. This feeling doesn’t change ever, not even when you get a Dutch passport. A lot of these things are strange but also interesting. It’s a way of life that a lot of us aren’t used to and may grow to like or never accept. This doesn’t mean at all that we don’t love living here or don’t like Dutch people. We just find some things odd or even unnatural. 

The Healthcare Here Needs Revamping

I have plenty to say about healthcare here, as do a lot of people that I’ve spoken to. From receptionists not believing the doctor said something to you to the incredibly long waiting times to see a specialist, Dutch healthcare is a hashtag fail. As an American, I’ll be the first to say that I thought socialized healthcare was the thing America needed to implement years ago. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with that anymore. 

In the Netherlands, if you want to see a specialist, it takes ages. This also applies to just getting a call from a specialist. Doctors don’t practice collaborative medicine and they have these horrible egos. Even the nurses and secretaries won’t believe a word you say unless it comes directly from the doctor. Dutch people seem to be so okay with the healthcare here. I’ve had so many Dutch people tell me how amazing healthcare is. This is far from the truth to a lot of foreigners, including me.

They Are Giants

How did Dutch people get to be so tall? Personally, I think Dutch men being tall is wonderful. I am 170 cm (5 ft 7 in). In America, for a woman, that is quite tall. The average man in the USA isn’t much taller. So it was so hard to find tall guys to date. In the Netherlands, that is no problem because I am considered short. My partner Kevin always says that I’m tiny. As someone who isn’t that skinny, I take that as a compliment.

Sometimes when I see Dutch women and men in stores and stuff, I just stare because they are so freaking tall. I can never find pants that aren’t too long on me. Regular dresses often are too long for me. The good thing about shopping in the Netherlands is, I’m a size smaller than in the USA. I also never have a problem shopping because the Dutch sizing and clothing on hand are accurate to their population. This isn’t the case in the USA.

Appointments For Everything

This appointment thing isn’t the worst thing but sometimes it’s ridiculous. You need an appointment for everything, and usually, there’s quite a while before you can get that appointment. I understand that the Dutch are trying to be efficient, but sometimes I just have a simple question that will take a few minutes to answer. I don’t need a whole appointment for that. Or if you need several tests at the hospital, you usually have to make separate appointments for each of them. Just why. This makes anything you want to do, from report your license stolen and get a new one to get an x-ray and ultrasound, take ages. I don’t see that as being efficient.

Office Closed Means Office Closed

Personally, I find this good and strange at the same time. Kevin and I have been together for 4 years. During those 4 years, he’s had 2 jobs. At both jobs, the office would close from before Christmas to after New Years. In the summer, it’s almost impossible to get in touch with anyone because most people take anywhere from 3 weeks to 7 weeks off. That’s great and all but if I need something, I just have to wait? This is quite common all over the Netherlands. A lot of companies are impossible to reach during the summer and winter holidays.

Eating Sandwiches Twice a Day

If I were a scientist, I would hypothesize that Dutch people don’t get enough nutrients every day. If a person eats sandwiches with cheese or meat twice a day and only 1 proper meal a day, wouldn’t that person be missing a lot of key vitamins and minerals? Obviously, I am not a doctor or scientist, but this is just strange to me. However, a lot of Dutch people eat whole grain or whole wheat bread all week instead of white bread, so maybe that’s enough fibers and stuff? Either way, this obsession with sandwiches is strange to foreigners.

Calling a Dutch Person and Getting This Greeting

If you’ve ever called a Dutch person, they most likely answered the phone with “met, their name.” Why do they do this? I called you Johan; I called your cell phone. Why would you greet me over the phone with “met Johan?” Of course, I know you’re Johan. I think this might come from the time when everyone only had a home phone. So you never knew who would answer the phone. But in the age of cell phones, most people have their own personal cell, so this isn’t necessary. I find this so hilarious when I call Kevin, and he answers with “met Kevin.” Yes, my love, I know it’s you, that’s why I’m calling your cell phone.

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What do you find strange about the Dutch way of life, even after living here for some time?


37 thoughts on “Bizarre Things About the Dutch That Foreigners Can’t Wrap Their Heads Around

  1. Could you change the title of this article to ‘Bizarre things about the Dutch that Americans can’t wrap their heads around.’
    You might have had a problem with the Dutch health service but in my experience (as a foreigner) it has been nothing but good.

    1. I’m American living in NL and don’t find any of these things bizarre, so I don’t feel like that title would work either. These are really just things the author finds bizarre, and seems much more based on her personal opinions and her specific experiences (much of which unfortunately seems to be negative). I think it’s fine to voice your personal opinions and experience, but I don’t think it’s right to overgeneralize and act like you are speaking on behalf of all “foreigners” living in the NL. Just my two cents.

    2. I get your point on Dutch healthcare but its not all “socialized”. My parents were privately insured their entire lives. Both passed away after illnesses that would have bankrupted them in the US.

  2. So there are only complaints? Srsly ? Health system is good… if you need urgent visit you will get it right away… if don’t you will have an appointment

    If you wanna use something now, you can pai and go to private sector….as you would pay in US.

    Appointment? What’s bad about it ? At least you sure you don’t need to wait

    Greetings by name ? What’s wrong with that ? You in US always as “how are you?” Although it is also stupid and asking me how I am although I don’t know you is also pointless especially you don’t wanna know how I am 😂

  3. I find this a negative, ignorant piece. You don’t share cultural differences, it’s just a rant against the Dutch.

      1. I enjoyed reading your article, your observations are spot-on. It is interesting to get an outsider’s view at how things are in The Netherlands.

        Some people read it as you being negative, but I don’t see that. Hope you’re having a good time in NL. Keep on posting.

    1. On the contrary my friend, I think Soreh wrote a very good piece. Did you read the title? She is not sharing cultural quirks, she is pointing them out. We all have them regardless where we are from. Try to see the funny side and embrace your differences!
      By the way, here’s another quirk: Dutch people don’t like it when you point out things to them. I’m generalising it , I know, I apologise.
      And what happened to the rest of that house? A quarter of it is missing 😆

  4. You forgot congratulating others when it’s someone’s birthday. I’ve been living here 20 years and still shake my head when I get messages for my husband’s, child’s birthday.

      1. Yeah. I am from a country culturally rather close to the Netherlands, some of the things mentioned above we do too in Switzerland. But this birthday thing is really funny. I feel so awkward when I get congratulations on my bf’s birthday. Have not figured out how to react in style on that.

  5. Unfortunately I can’t say anything good about dutch health system and it’s not only one bad experience. It costs money and frustration. But side of this life in nl is good 😊

  6. Another spoiled American complaing about things done differently than her precious America. I was like this too when I moved here 22 years ago. Just calm down and you will get used to how things work here and how much better life is. I will never go back.

    Everyone at a birthday party is congratulated because they, the circle of friends, have helped the birthday person get through another year. A lovely positive tradition.

    I think a foreigner’s experience here depends on where they live. I am in Friesland where there are less people and things are laid back. My hospital experiences both personal and family have been very positive. When I went to work everyone was very friendly and helpful. Yes there were a couple of people who didn’t like me because I am a woman/a foreigner (and American, even worse haha/both but I didn’t let them discourage me.

    One advantage I have? I am 6ft tall!!

    Your observations are pretty common. Sometime look for articles and videos about what people think about Americans.

    I hope that getting out of the bubble of American life has opened your mind to the rest of the world. Mine were and I am glad for it.

    1. Wow, you articulated exactly what I was thinking. Lol. I generally like these articles, but this article isn’t about what foreigners in general can’t weap their heads around, it’s what Soreh can’t wrap her head around…

      Regarding the health care: Dutch healthcare is indeed not perfect, but soooooooo much better than US care. Also, having read those articles too, I do believe this truly is a bit of a personal frustration…

    2. Being in the NL, I found it so funny that people are not shy about expressing their hatred towards Americans and bashing them as if Americans are not allowed to talk about their funny experience in the NL. Often it is a borderline “hate speech” towards Americans. By the way, I am not American and this is a subjective view about how people enjoy badmouthing an American’s simple comment on her Dutch experience. It is considered as ignorant rant? “Another spoiled American complaining”? This phrase does not really sound constructive and fair. Probably, it is true that she knows better because the life there is more convenient and the medical system is superior. So I don’t know what is so wrong about comparing that? Why do you need to take it so personally and bash one American person’s experience and comment in the NL?

      1. Did you just read the first sentence and nothing else?? I too was a spoiled American when I moved here and had many a complaint and shed many tears.

        After a few years here I began to see how wonderful life here is and the advantages we have. We have a beautiful house and live comfortably on my husband’s salary. No way could we do that in the US. We don’t worry about racking up Healthcare bills because we have affordable coverage. My husband gets three weeks of vacation and if he needs a day or two off there’s no problem. I dont see us having the same comfortable life in the US.

        Many Americans live in a bubble and are happy. I was one of those people. Moving to a new country opened my eyes to just how different life can be. And better if you look for it.

        Like I said, the complaints the OP have are nothing new. Check out a book called The UnDutchables written by Laurie and Colin Boucke, it’s a hilarious look on life in Holland.

  7. Girl, you are very brave! I do enjoy reading your comments, differences and “rants”.
    I find it sad that people take the time to “correct you” because I see you as someone making an effort to integrate. You are experiencing life and talking about it. It never stops to amaze us how different cultures are, how people behave etc. I get it. Looking forward to a good page on wacky Portuguese traditions when you have the chance. Cx

  8. As a Brit that has lived in America and the Netherlands this should definitely be headed things Americans can’t get their head around. Have you lived in any other foreign countries? There are many crazy things in the Netherlands but I can say as a Brit experiencing the USA the health care system was way more crazy, food and diet was again way more crazy, any one who stood in line for three hours at the American driving license office would beg to be able to make appointment – we would drive 45mins to the office that allowed you to join the que virtually, as for answering the phone with “met Kevin” pretty sure that’s a worldwide thing that the way of answering the phone has not changed as quickly as technology has.

  9. What an odd piece. How old is this writer? I am all for constructive critisizm and unusuall or truly bizarre facts, but this was none of the above.

    Not only is the writing style less than impressive as it sounds more like a very personal and biased rant to a friend as opposed to a general observation coming from foreigners in the form of an article, but of all the things to cover, this is what you come up with?

    Every culture has its differences and in preparation of writing about it, it would be equally important to do your due diligence. Find out why things are a certain way and if it is truly a way of the culture/nation, not merely a selective area.

    Writing about anyone’s culture is a very personal arena you are entering that comes from a long history, experiences and interpretations. A little more respect and less divisiveness would be much more useful and purposeful.

  10. With regards to your comments:

    The Healthcare Here Needs Revamping; your perspective is ironic considering the lack of access to healthcare in the States for a large segment of the population. Have you considered the difference in deductibles?
    I assume that you are comparing health systems in the Netherlands with those in the United States.
    Of course you could benefit from excellent healthcare any time of the day, and every day, in the US if, and only if, you have prime health insurance. It’s clearly not socialised in the Netherlands. It’s a fallacy since it is financed through tax proceeds, and whilst there are waiting lists these are for elective surgeries if you have health insurance you could jump the queue, like in most countries.

    Office Closed Means Office Closed; it’s question of scheduling and not having everything on instant demand. At the same time most people enjoy more vacation time than the lousy two weeks in the US.

    Calling a Dutch Person and Getting This Greeting; bizarrely most people in the US answer their phone with their name and what to think about answer phones. I agree with you that when you call someone you don’t necessarily would announce your name in the US which is quite different from the Netherlands.

    – Peter

  11. As a foreigner:

    I want to say, The healthcare system sucks.

    Minor correction, its not “socialized healthcare”, it’s actually private healthcare. So, The Netherlands is not a “example” of socialized healthcare, but of private healthcare in Europe.

  12. Maybe is just you that find things weird. As an Australian living in The Netherlands I have never found the health care at all bad. Get appointment quickly and never a problem. The app thing is something you get used to, but it’s understandable when you know that The Netherlands is a tiny country that is quite crowded where as in America, it is a huge country and easy to go to somewhere where you can just walk in and get what you want when you want it etc.
    So you have to be real, understand that The Netherlands is tiny compared to the USA and naturally things are and will be different, there will be appointments for most things , lines at most shops, etc. Its quite simple.

  13. What an odd piece and coming from someone who has her own service in copywriting, I am quite baffled by how you write this article. It sounds quite hateful and screams entitlement and ignorance. I am a foreigner and coming from a country that has a messed up system and bureaucracy, I feel glad the Netherlands is built on a strong system, though there is definitely room to grow to answer the global challenges.

    Perhaps instead of pointing at “foreigners” in the title, you can change it to “Bizarre Things About the Dutch That I Can’t Wrap My Head Around”? At least it shows that you know you feel this way and you’d like to rant, no need to put it to a general perspective and think that all foreigners feel this way.

  14. I think this was a pleasant read, and found the negative comments from others quite funny. I didn’t find your points unnecessarily rude. You’re entitled to detail your observations and thoughts, nothing wrong with that. As an expat also, I have had some of these thoughts.

  15. There is definetely two points that I recognize, health care definetely suck, looks like an Americanize style of healthcare almost (all about pay and insurences, for what I know, I’m Spanish 🙄)

    Two sandwiches! Wtf!!! It’s so funny, I thought exactly the same, why they are not all sick 🤣 for sandwiches are for two different situations, when I feel lazy or I’m in a rush.

    Anyway, I do not understand the big deal for some people in the comments, is not negative stuff about the Netherlands, is just things that she found weird, and some can agreed is some. That’s it! So much drama and offended, jeeeezzz!

    Keep writing and giving your opinion girl.

  16. There is definetely two points that I can recognize,
    – Health care definetely sucks! For me and all the
    Dutch people around me at least (including Healthcare professionals as myself) Looks like an Americanize style of Healthcare.. almost (all about paying and insurences, from what I know, I’m Spanish… 🙄)

    – Two sandwiches! WTF!! It’s so funny, I thought exactly the same, why they are not all sick? 🤣 At least for me, sandwiches are for two different situations, when I feel lazy or I’m in a rush, but I do not see it as a meal that I would like to have everyday, or even worse, twice a day.

    Anyway, I do not understand the big deal for some people in the comments, is not all negative stuff about the Netherlands, is just things that she found weird, and some of us can agreed is some or not. That’s it! So much drama and offended humans, jeeeezzz!

    Keep writing and giving your opinion girl

  17. Funny you got so many nasty bitter comments for a humorous piece.
    It’s all good.
    I would add a few items, they’re endless really:
    Tiny toilets for such giant people.
    Cold water only in the toilet sink.
    Grown men earring white bread and butter with hagelslag with a cup of milk for lunch. Often with a knife and fork!
    Single lane roads everywhere so you can t pass the 90 year Olds.
    Traffic lights just in front of the stopping line so you have to crane your neck.
    People blocking your way or seats on trains until you ask them to move.
    Saying hello and goodbye in lifts.
    The list is endless.

  18. I think you missed a lot of quirky fun things about the Dutch
    1) eating chocolate sprinkles on bread
    2) drinking sour milk
    3) the love of the colour orange – kings day
    4) Sinter Klaus day ( not to mention the shock when i first say his helpers)
    5) those amazing big chocolate letters
    6) coffee shops where you dont drink coffee

  19. First and foremost, I applaud and thank you for sharing your work. I’ve read a few of your pieces thus far, and whilst most of your articles are fun or just lighthearted critiques you might have I still see a lot of nasty comments being left behind.

    To address this article itself, I can totally agree with most points left here, especially regarding the healthcare system and the whole appointment thing.

    Health insurance (or any kind of insurance here) is quite expensive, which I can understand why, but when you go in for an appointment several times and you’re barely looked at and/or you’re told to just take paracetamol…it does frustrate me a bit not gonna lie.

    Also, the appointment thing was already really bad before, but I feel like now due to the pandemic and the whole social distancing, I feel like it’s become even worse.

    Hopefully with time these things get better.

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