Nice to know
For a small country, the Netherlands certainly packs a punch. Not only are they world famous for their ability to literally drain oceans, but the Dutchies have a rich and lively culture that differs between every little town. There are lots of surprising things about the Netherlands that you probably don’t know, go check them out!
The Dutchies are well known for being very direct and blunt. It will probably be a culture shock when you first come, even if you are aware of it beforehand! Don't be shocked if they seem very rude, they are just saying it as they see it, and they don't beat around the bush when it comes to getting to the point. An asset of this is that when you arrive, they will tend to ask lots of questions. Where are you from, what are you doing here, don't you miss your family? Are all usually first, so be prepared to be bombarded. Want to learn some Dutch expressions to shock the family? Sign up for Dutch lessons here!
There is a reason that Dutch cuisine isn't something you know - it's often touted by foreigners as being bland and boring. Traditional Dutch food consists of meals such as stamppot - mashed potatoes and vegetables stamped together with sausage or a piece of meat on the side. Other traditional foods though, such as their snacks, are deep-fried and delicious! Typical snacks include bitterballen and kroket, patat and frikandel. Try buying them from FEBO, which is basically a big vending machine where you get your snacks out of an outlet in the wall. Talk about being time efficient!
One thing that everyone knows about the Dutchies is that they are practically born on a bike. In Amsterdam, there are even more bikes than people! If there's one thing that will make you feel like a local when you're here, it's getting a bike. Rent a bike through our partner Swapfiets here!
Do you have a meeting or a date? Make sure that you’re on time. The Dutch are very punctual and are pretty much always on time. This is, next to directness, another reason the Dutch economy runs so well - everyone is always on time. And being on time means being at least five minutes early for your meeting. This applies to other areas of their lives too - it's traditionally Dutch to eat dinner at exactly 6 o'clock in the evening!
Everyone knows the Netherlands for their windmills and the ability of the Dutchies to build up a country on drained ocean beds. But why are there so many windmills? Historically, windmills were used to drain the water off the land and pump it back to the rivers beyond the barriers (dijken), so that the remaining land could be used for farming. These days, electric pumps do this job, so the windmills are mostly for historical significance. The windmills pay heritage to the old Dutch proverb “While God created the earth, the Dutch created the Netherlands”.
One of the things Dutch people love to do is complain about the weather. If you learn to do this, you’ll fit right in! But is the weather really that bad? The Netherlands has a moderate marine climate. This means that the sea influences the climate, which is not too cold in the winter, not too hot during the summer, and the air is always quite humid. The weather conditions can change at the drop of a hat; it is said that four seasons can be experienced in one day. That’s why it’s best to dress in layers, due to the unpredictability of the weather.
On the 27th of April, King’s Day (Koningsdag) is celebrated nation-wide. It’s the birthday of the King, so why not celebrate, right? On King’s Day the streets are filled with people dressed in orange, ready to party! Everywhere there are street parties, flea markets and the canals are full of boats with people celebrating and having a good time! The whole country lets loose and enjoys the day. It’s definitely an experience to have while you’re here. Why does everyone wear orange? As you might know, the Dutch National Colour is orange. What you might not know is that the Dutch royal family bears the name Huis van Oranje, this literally means house of orange, hence the national colour. Be prepared to paint your face orange, put on your most eccentric orange outfit and party all day long!
The 4th of May is not an official public holiday, but an important day for the Dutchies. National Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) is a national day of remembrance held to honour all of those who have died as victims during the Second World War.
The 5th of May is Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) which celebrates the liberation of the Netherlands from German occupation in the Second World War. This day is about celebrating freedom! Many festivals take place, and being a celebration of freedom, a lot of them are free!
This holiday is for the kids - celebrating the arrival of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) in the Netherlands. Parades take place, with wide eyed children watching as Saint Nicholas arrives on a boat with his helpers. These helpers are referred to as ‘Piet’, and help to hand out presents to the children. During the month of November, children leave a shoe near a chimney or door at night, hoping that Sinterklaas will fill it with spiced biscuits (pepernoten), sweets or large chocolate letters. Enjoy this Dutch tradition by buying yourself these treats (you’re still a kid at heart, right?) from a local store.
When it comes to school holidays, the Netherlands is split up into three sections:
- North (Noord)
- Middle (Midden)
- South (Zuid)
School holidays include:
- Summer holidays (zomervakantie)
- Spring break (voorjaarsvakantie, carnavalsvakantie or krokusvakantie)
- May break (meivakantie)
- Autumn break (herfstvakantie)
However, these holidays often vary for higher education - make sure you check with your educational institution to see when you have a break.