Are you an international who is eager to go through some of the most relatable pet peeves for a foreigner in the Netherlands? Or are you Dutch, interested to dive into the insights of the whole international experience? Then keep on reading!
1. “Dutch only”
One of the very first and main perks each international encounters while on the hunt for accommodation is the lovely, cute, and shiny sentence “Dutch only”. As understanding as it is that some people just prefer keeping only one culture under their roof, it often makes internationals wonder “Why Dutch only?” It is sad really because internationals offer new traditions, delicious and weird dishes and a different attitude towards life. Above all, we also have two eyes, a nose, and a mouth; the same as the Dutch, so surely it can't be that scary to include us in your student housing? In fact, perhaps it is beneficial.
Correct me if I am wrong!
2. Tiny steep staircases
Once you have finally managed to find a decent place to stay and you think the struggle is finally over, well, guess again! One of the most typical Dutch things you have to get used to are the tiny steep staircases. When you first look at them from below they almost look like Mount Everest itself - impossible to climb without holding onto something and when looked at from above– holy moly! They do be looking like some kind of a torture device.
Good luck with trying to get your new furniture up there!
3. The HARD jokes
Everyone is aware of the Dutch bluntness, which is not necessarily a bad thing, quite the opposite! Having a Dutch to tell you right in the eyes that they just don’t like you or that you have something between your teeth, can spare you a lot and is not unexpected to hear. However, experiencing the HARD jokes from first person is a whole different level. The most hurtful part of the whole picture is that you know there is some truth in that blunt joke a Dutchie just directed at you. The only thing you, as an international, could do to help yourself, is to at least try not to take it personally. It’s easier and way more fun that way!
4. The love-hate relationship with your bike
Bikes and the Netherlands go just as well together as fries with ketchup (fries with mayo if you’re Dutch), and that is general knowledge. As an international in the Netherlands at least once in your life, you’ll get through the following stages – at first you love your bike, after a while you really really REALLY hate, then it gets stolen, and you miss it like crazy. It is what it is, right? But speaking of bikes, dear internationals, can we talk about how easy it is to get run over by a bike because of how Dutch people ride at such high speed? Like, come on, I have to be more careful when crossing the biking area than when crossing the street!
5. The awkwardness of being the only international nearby
Have you ever experienced being the only international within your study group, team, squad, gang? If so, then you will know exactly what I mean by “the awkwardness” when you realize your mates are talking in English just because of you or even worse when you realize, they are not bothering to talk in English just because you are the only international. Moreover, the awkwardness when after a 10-minute conversation in a completely unknown language for you one kind soul decides to summarize it quickly to you in English while everyone else is observing your reactions. Ahh! Do you recognize yourself in that? Whether you are Dutch, Spanish, Estonian, Bulgarian, or any other culture – I’m pretty sure we can all relate to that.
6. “What do you like most about the Netherlands?”
That one question that could make an international eye roll internally. It is for sure the favorite question for most of the Dutchies to ask, but what would the answer be to that question. It’s not that simple to come up with one due to the fact that all the things we love about the Netherlands could not fit in a five seconds’ reply. Moreover, when you know that the question is asked with the simple intention of awkward silence killer – it just makes it even harder to explain.
7. “Sorry, I don’t speak Dutch!”
That one sentence that every international has to repeat at least 3 times a day! I have no idea if it is just me but sometimes I would stay there and listen to the person in front of me talking in Dutch without having the will to even tell them “Sorry, I don’t speak Dutch!” just because I feel so embarrassed after repeating it all day long. This makes me wonder what I’ve been waiting for all this time and not starting Dutch lessons right away. We cannot move to a foreign country and simply expect that natives would read “an international” on our foreheads every time they wish to say something to us!
Not many of the restaurants and cafés offer an English version of their menus and that is totally understandable as we are in the Netherlands. However, when your order is a wild guess just because you’re too lazy to use Google Translate, that can lead to some very unpleasant and ridiculous situations when the waiter brings you something completely different from what you thought you ordered.
At least this boosts our motivation to learn Dutch, am I right, dear internationals?
9. The Weather
As much as I hate the widely spread stereotype that the Dutch weather alters every 5 minutes, I would be lying if I deny it. It’s a cliché but it’s true. This, however, is not even where it starts to become annoying. It is in fact that internationals have to take a lot of time getting used to handling the wind and rain in the Dutch Way.
“What is the Dutch way?” you will ask. Well, you just pretend it’s not there. If it rains, don't worry about a hood, just cycle right through it and ignore it completely. And let me tell you, that’s what everyone should be doing.
10. Reading a book
Last but not least, not having the Dutch language mastered probably costs at least one international their favorite hobby right now. Visiting the library or a bookstore usually goes with such a great feeling of calmness and inner satisfaction of the opportunity to acquire a new book. However, when we try to look at the bigger picture - not having the chance to read most of them can be perceived as a challenge, as an additional motivation to finally start working on the Dutch.
These were the main things that would make an international wish they were a native Dutch for a while. At the end of the day, however, what’s bad is not even that bad and the stairs, the menus, or whatever it is, could never be enough to lessen the love we bear for the extraordinary, beautiful Netherlands!