Posted on: February 7, 2021 Posted by: Soreh Milchtein Comments: 21
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Let me tell you, making friends in the Netherlands is hard work. Believe it or not, it’s like a chore. I have never in my life ever had to work so hard to make friends. To make matters worse, we are in a freaking pandemic. I feel for you people. I moved here before the pandemic, but the struggles never stop. Met a Dutch person, had a good conversation, and thought you’d be friends? Wrong! You’ll be lucky if you ever hear from them again. The truth is, every country has its own way of socializing, and the Netherlands is not the easiest place to make friends.

Making friends isn’t only hard because you have to find people to make friends with, but it’s also hard because of the process. It’s like dating. Meet someone, have a drink, and call it a night. If it went well, you might talk again. If not, you gotta find a new person to do that with. Not once, not twice, but likely many more times. It’s tough people. I went through it, so I get you. 

Dutch people are very nice. They are kind and generous people. They are just not that open to making new friends. I kinda get why Dutch people don’t let new people in. It takes too much energy. I used to be so excited when someone new messaged me asking to meet up. Now that I have good friends, I actually think about it. Is it worth it to invest my energy in figuring out if the person is going to get along with me and fit into my life? I’m going to share how I made friends here, and hopefully, that’ll help any of you who are struggling with the same thing.

Reach Out and Take Initiative 

I know this isn’t easy, but reach out to people. Who? Well, everyone and anyone in all those expat Facebook and Whatsapp groups you’re a part of. I’m sure there are plenty of people struggling to make friends. Are you not comfortable enough to message individuals? Post a post telling everyone a little about yourself and that you’d like to meet like-minded individuals. Before all the strict rules, I hosted a dinner at my home and actually made friends with some of the people. Read about it here.

Respond and Participate

If someone messages you or posts in the group about meeting up or something, join! I always just said, oh, I’m not in the mood. Or, it’s too far. Or, I’ll meet so many people I probably won’t like. Is it really worth it? Yes, it is dude. It’s so worth it. Who knows, maybe you’ll finally make a good friend. You’ll never know.

Meetup & Airbnb Experiences

I regret that I didn’t do this, so that’s why I’m so adamant that you do. There is an app called Meetup. The app is for like-minded people that join events together. You can pick your interests and join different events/outings in your area. The same with Airbnb experiences. Obviously now isn’t the best time for this, but it hopefully will be soon. There are plenty of zoom events going on. Just go on Airbnb or Meetup to see what virtual events/classes you can join.

Talk to People Around You

Talk to anyone and everyone you encounter. Talk to your barista, your dry cleaner, your grocery store cashier, your bank teller, your friend’s friends that you meet, your train conductor, and so on. It might take you talking to 50 people to make 1 friend, but that’s 1 more friend that you didn’t have before. 

Get a Hobby and Join a Group

Not during the pandemic, join a group like running or playing chess, if that’s your thing. If you have a hobby, then that is the easiest way to make friends because you can just join a group. This advice comes from a Dutch person himself, my boyfriend.

Socialize at Work or School

Don’t be afraid to ask your classmates or colleagues to hangout to cook dinner together, watch a movie, take a bike ride or whatever. You might get a bunch of people that say no, but someone will probably say yes.

I know it’s hard to make friends here. It took me ages to do so. But I finally did. I could have made friends much sooner if I actually put some effort into it. I thought that I’d make friends so easily as I did in the USA. But it doesn’t work like that here. You’re not going to make friends if you don’t put yourself out there. It’s hard to hear, but it’s the truth. And yes, it’s annoying to meet like 50 people to make 1 good friend, but it’s worth it. Your life is here now, and you deserve to be happy. Most people are happy when they have friends. 

Be sure to follow me on my Instagram and my Facebook where I post all about Dutch living and more.


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21 People reacted on this

  1. Just my 2c here, but I’ve often found it’s more an ‘expat’ issue than a cultural one, in terms of making friends with the locals. There’s often an assumption that as an expat, you’ll leave the Netherlands after 2-3 years. That means that ‘investing’ time in a friendship is ‘wasted’, since you’ll leave anyway. Having worked across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, I’ve seen this time and time again, so I wouldn’t want to call this a uniquely Dutch issue. I suspect that fluent Dutch would greatly assist with integration, and help to counter expat bias – not that I can personally string more than five words together!

    1. I haven’t traveled the world around and may compare just my experience of being expat in France (I don’t speak French neither) and in NL. All in all I spent just 1,5 in France and by current moment 1,5 in the Netherlands. Up to that point: in France- I ve managed to meet and make friends with bunch of ppl, some if them only francophones and we even still keep in touch, so that some friends from France have visited me here in Holland before pandemic restrictions ! And here – in Arnhem – I ve tried the same – Internations, parents community from International school Arnhem, my Dutch colleagues from office))) I would say still the best friend here in Holland is google) lol Yes, I have couple of friends here as well, expats of course, and one very nice colleague from the office who is Dutch but somehow very helpful and not responding – just google it all the time)))) In my case, I think culture here is different. And I do not see the point – if ppl are here for 2-3 years – the time invested in making friends is wasted. Definitely not for those who are struggling to find some friends – so probably locals believe that making friends for couple of years is time wasted fir them) sure, it is, if your best friend is google) lol

    2. I agree Alice. Well said. Expat life comes with a specific lifestyle that is not suitable for everyone! Making friends in the Netherlands is as easy or as hard as anywhere else, it depends entirely on youself!

    1. Nope, it’s not your autism.
      I lived here my entire life. I studied and grew up in Amsterdam and after finishing Uni I went to Maastricht. Making friends in the Netherlands is hard by itself (studies have shown that Amsterdam even runs the risk of not being able to attract enough ex-pats due to social exclusion). Add to it that being in Maastricht doesn’t make things easier. If you’re’ an exchange student you at least can hang with your classmates who are in the same situation as you are. But as a work professional things just get that much harder.
      Hope you make lots of friends! It sucks to not have any.
      Cheers.

  2. It’s funny because I spent 8 years living in the US and we found it hard to make GOOD friends, not just acquaintances. It’s easy to make lots of acquaintances there because people can be very friendly on first meeting. We felt that in the US to become more than acquaintance was hard as Americans can be very family insular. I don’t think it’s like that in big cities so much. I lived in a military town and stopped putting any effort into making friends with anyone in the military knowing they would be leaving in 2-3 years. We left with a couple of really good friends but it did take several years.

    Now I am here in the Netherlands with my family, it will be interesting to see how we make new friends. I think a hobby and club is the easiest way which is going to be hard in the near term for us to do.

  3. So true !
    I’ve lived in 7 countries (sometimes for one year, sometimes for much more…), not always speaking the local language. I am now living in the NL for 5 years and I never found a country where meeting people and even more getting friends was so hard ! Not a question of being an expat, I am not an expat here and I have been in other countries. But people are not as spontaneous as in my other countries, so you need to plan a simple drink days in advance, and people not officially invited cannot join… so it is hard to meet new people !
    And you almost never invite people for a diner or a lunch (there is no lunch 🙂 ) as I did I any other part of the world, unless you are very close friends. So this is harder to get to know really the people, when you are standing in a noisy bar you cannot really discover someone…
    And once you met a new person you find nice, most of the time they will not call you back, you need to call them back again and again and plan long in advance…
    i am relieved somehow to see that I am not the only one struggling – I was extremely surprised and disappointed not to be able to socialize faster and deeper in years, first time ever in my life…

  4. It’s very hard. I even learned the language, but I still found it quite difficult to make friends. I also lived in South Africa, England and Guatemala and it’s has been very different. I’m not an ex-pat. I live here for 5 years and I do speak Dutch.

  5. Curious how we did write about the same topic (my post got published on Saturday) with such different point of views! I have never lived in the States, thus I can’t really relate to that, but my experience with making friends in the Netherlands has not been so bad. Actually, I must say I am quite lucky to count some very good friends. It did take time and effort, but for me that’s what real friendship is, in any country! 🙂

  6. Nice article! I agree that it can be a challenge to make proper friends here. I’ve lived in the UK, France and Spain and I found it easier to make friends in all of those countries, even though I’ve now lived in the Netherlands for 6 years and speak the language.
    Perhaps limited Dutch spontaneity plays a part, but in my personal situation, I think it hasn’t been completely down to the Netherlands as a country: in all of the other places I personally lived, I was at school/university/Erasmus programmes, which made it really easy to meet people in a similar situation and invest the time and beers that it can take to become real friends. Now, approaching 30 with a job and responsibilities, it’s not as easy. Perhaps just as importantly though, most of the people of a similar age already have their own established group of friends and don’t really have the same need to make new friends that we do, which adds to the challenge! It’s not all doom and gloom though, it’s all about perseverance, using your partner’s social circle, finding a hobby, investing in colleagues and taking a chance!

  7. I live in NL already 10 years and I can say that indeed is difficult to find dutch friends. I had some in the process or thought, but at the end they just disappear. I tried at the beginning but in some point I give up and went to expats or foreigners living here. I find dutch really nice people, have and had good colleagues, but friends that is different story. And I always say and really think that here is easier to get a dutch boyfriend that a friend, but that is not the idea …

  8. Good hints!!
    It was difficult the first time for me as well, but i am so looking forward to making friends with local before, I’ve searched from site to site no chance! Until i signed up for volunteering and just like that i have now a local friend with same interests, we don’t miss a week to chat and see each other.

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