Starting a new life in the Netherlands

The most important thing is to keep an open mind and a warm heart and you’ll fall in love with this splendid little land in no time.
Posted by Udipta Boro
From India
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Have you just moved to the Netherlands or are you very soon moving to this tiny land of tall people? Like many others, you may also, then, be wondering "How do I adapt to the Dutch way of life? How can I start going Dutch?" You, my friend, are not alone.

Moving to a new country can, indeed, be scary and intimidating. And I had these exact same questions in mind before moving to the Netherlands. I had never been outside my country before. The very thought of leaving home and coming here to study alone was enough to shake my brave ‘Gryffindor’ heart.

But that wasn’t the time to crawl under my blanket and hide from my fear. So, I crossed the ocean and landed on this petite mesmerising country in August 2019. Well, life did not magically lay a bed of roses for me right away. I made my way through a lot of fun and exciting (sometimes also dark and gloomy, like literally) roads to adapting myself in this new country.

I am not 100% there yet but I am at least in a position to give you some useful pieces of advice for your journey towards adaptation. Just bear with me. Below, I will share 4 things you should keep in mind while coming to the Netherlands.

The Dutch people

The Dutch society is very open-minded. Despite being infamous for their 'Dutch directness', the Dutchies can be very friendly and accepting of internationals. There could be even more treats for you if you are living in a smaller Dutch city. Don't get surprised if a total stranger on the street greets you with a Hoi or a Goedenavond. It may seem crazy at first especially if, like me, you are also from a country where people don't do that.

But as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Believe me, once you start doing this, it will be really fun and satisfying. So, just wear a big smile and greet your way out on the beautiful Dutch streets. 

The Dutch weather

Spoiler alert…unlike the people, the weather here may not be as friendly to you. Have you heard Dean Martin's Let It Snow? The song goes like "Oh, the weather outside is frightful; but the fire is so delightful…". Memorise these lines for they are going to be your personal anthem for as long as you stay in the Netherlands.

Just because you are an innocent international trying hard to adapt to this country's life, the weather is not going to be easy on you. From strong wind to crazy rain, some sunshine to bone crushing cold – you may experience all of them on a single day! But the Dutchies don't care and within a couple of weeks of your arrival, neither will you. Like Phoebe from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, the weather here will show you all the colors of emotion. Just be her Mike and you’ll learn how to handle her colors.

The Dutch language

Nederlands or the Dutch language is the third most widely spoken Germanic language after English and German. Even though the Dutch are the best non-native English speakers in the world, and you can live a pretty comfortable life in this country without speaking Dutch, I would still advise you to learn the language.

This would show that you are genuinely trying to be part of the society and that you respect and love their culture. In my experience, the Dutchies get very happy when you try speaking Dutch, even if you make tons of mistakes. Learning the language is also going to be a fun ride.

Pronouncing the G or writing those words with a lot of vowels in them will surely give you immense joy. So, get that book and learn Nederlands. You can also view this page to get some info about learning Dutch. 

The Dutch food

Although the Dutchies have achieved great feats in many fields, cuisine isn’t one of them (I know, right!!!). I do have a few Dutch dishes that I like, like oliebollen, kroketjes or kibbelingen. But the rest are just very plain for my taste.

But the good news is you will find plenty of restaurants serving a range of lekkere dishes. There will be food from every continent! I have one more thing to say to you regarding food, though. As a typical international student, you won't have a lot of money. So, cook your own meal very often rather than eating out. You can visit supermarkets like Lidl, Aldi, Ada, Toko, Peter Hu to buy cheaper groceries.    

There are of course so many other things to talk about the Netherlands. But we will discuss those later. The most important thing for now is to keep an open mind and a warm heart and you’ll fall in love with this splendid little land in no time. So, what are you waiting for? Sail your boat towards starting a new life in the Netherlands. I will meet you on the other side of the river.

Tot ziens!

Udipta Boro
University of Twente, Enschede

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