I love my country. The more I hear other people talking about The Netherlands the prouder I become to be Dutch myself.
A few years back I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why tourists would choose to visit Amsterdam. From all the possible destinations they could choose – Paris and London for instance. But the more I travel myself, and the more I visit Amsterdam – looking at the city through the eyes of a tourist – I get it.
The Netherlands is a beautiful country and I now definitely believe everyone should visit it.
It’s for sure an unique country as well. And just like any other destination she definitely has some guidelines for her visitors. Things you need to know about – or things that might be easy to know about before traveling to the country yourself.
So here you go: from the Dutch girl to the tourist: here are 8 things you need to know before traveling to The Netherlands.
The Netherlands is small – travel is easy
Because the Netherlands is such a small country you can easily travel around without too much effort. Within the course of three hours you can basically travel anywhere in the country with public transport or by car.
Everytime I drive my car in a different country I think ‘jesus the roads in The Netherlands are so good’. And they literally are. They’re very well maintained, a lot of highways to speed up your journey and almost no traffic jams outside of rush hours. It’s a perfect country to travel through by car.
Although if you want to travel by public transport only, you’d be good to go too. The Netherlands has a great train system around the country which makes it super easy to travel around. Basically every train leaves to anywhere every 30 minutes. So you never have to wait long before you can take off.
You probably knew this already: bikes rule the country. Because The Netherlands is so small most people bike everywhere they can.
It’s easier, it’s faster, it’s cheaper and it’s nice. Especially in cities. However, as a tourist, who isn’t familiair with seeing so many bikes it can quickly feel quite overwhelming or chaotic. While I wouldn’t necessary say so myself I would say this to tourists: be wary of cyclists. Bikes rule and they will not move out of the way for you, so to avoid a big crash – you should move out of the way for them.
Your safest option yet? Rent a bike yourself and explore the cities with the most local option you have: rollin’, rollin’, rollin’.
OMG We are so friendly
I always find it very uncomfortable to talk about how friendly we are. And even though it never occurred to me that Dutch people are that friendly, it is the number one piece of feedback I get from basically everyone I meet abroad. What can I say? People just find us very friendly.
Now, after hearing this for so many times I started to think about the reasons why. And here’s what I came up with
- The Netherlands is very LGBT friendly. As a very liberal and free of mind country you won’t often feel judged in the Netherlands. That is exactly why the LGBT community has found us quite fast. One of the best days to visit Amsterdam is during the Gay Pride Parade. A day when the canals and streets of Amsterdam are cheerfully colored, when music is playing and everyone is wearing their best outfit. All to celebrate LGBT!
- I love to see tourists in my own country. And whenever I meet you on the street I WILL ask you how you like the Netherlands and what you’ve done so far, I WILL write you a novel about everything you must do on your trip and I WILL ask you everything about your country, where you’re from and your culture. And I am not the only one.
- Overall Dutchies aren’t very shy. And that is why we won’t have any trouble joining you for a conversation – wherever you are!
Our English is better than our Dutch
Did you know that more people who are living in the Netherlands speak English than they speak Dutch. It’s what we’re known for too: speaking really good English. Even though I really dislike the Dutch-English accent and don’t want anyone to recognize me by it – we do know a few words of the language.
Overall I would say we are pretty good in languages I guess. A lot of people also speak German and French too! So don’t hesitate to ask us a question and don’t expect an answer like ‘I don’t understand you’.. because basically we all can understand you.
The weather is unpredictable
My driving instructor (who isn’t from the Netherlands) used to tell me how he found it so strange everyone was walking around holding an umbrella when it was 30 degrees outside. Later he learned that the weather is just really unpredictable. He always told me: one day of good weather is followed with three days of punishment. Welcome to the Netherlands.
I can’t disagree.
Sometimes it’s snowing in November already – while December might be 10-15 degrees. Sometimes it’s already quite warm in April but raining and freezing in May. Every once in a while a heat wave strucks (or what we call a heat wave), followed with weeks and weeks of pouring rain.
Having an umbrella in the Netherlands never is an overrated luxury. And you don’t have to act surprised that you need to search shelter for the rain after just having spent your entire afternoon outside.
Don’t let it spoil the fun though. You know what they say: after rain comes sunshine.
Feast on food
There are so many great restaurants to be found in the Netherlands. There are enough of both local as international cuisines where you can eat and feast on food.
The Netherlands also is one of the best countries in Europe for vegetarians, vegans and for gluten- and dairyfree meals. So don’t be shy to ask for these options at any of the restaurants where you take place!
Also: if you want to try some of the local dishes, watch out for these ones: Bitterballen (snack you can get with your fries or in a bar), Stroopwafels (wafels with sirup you can smell from a mile away), Stamppot (stew) and Poffertjes (small Dutch pancakes).
Amsterdam is a hipster paradise
Having restaurants that only serve meals with avocado.. it is no surprise that Amsterdam is known to be a great place for hipsters.
But the avocado restaurant, a restaurant that’s named after lettuce and the high number of smoothie bars and sky terraces aren’t the only reasons you should visit. Let your inner hipster come out in the numerous hotspots that seemed to be built according to the Great Book Of Hipster Guidelines. Dance on festivals that are all held on cool, urban locations. And explore the local street art, the historical art but also the modern art at the many museums, galleries and in the streets of Amsterdam!
Don’t be surprised by the strange things you see
The first time I visited Amsterdam I walked pass the sex museum. Wait what? Did I just actually see that?
Over the years and the more I visited Amsterdam the less surprised I am by the strange things I stumble upon in the city. But I can imagine that tourists are can freak out by these strange things, wondering where the hell they’ve ended up.
So don’t be surprised by the number of strange smelling coffee shops – yes indeed they aren’t coffee shops but weed stores (remember: if you are looking for a great place to drink coffee, don’t ask for a coffee shop but a café). Don’t be surprised when stumbling upon the Red Light District and don’t think you’ve walked into the wrong neighborhood when you find a bunch of condom stores. This just happens to be normal in the city.