General Observations about the Dutch

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Since I’ve been living in the Netherlands for almost 3 months now (it goes by so fast!), I thought a post about the Netherlands is in order. When I moved to Germany, I already knew tons of stereotypes and cultural facts about the country so their “foreignness” was quite easy to understand. Although I’ve been to the Netherlands (well Amsterdam) a few times before, the Dutch largely still remains somewhat of a mystery since they’re not exactly widely talked about by non-Dutch people.

And while I still haven’t fully uncovered the mystery of their ways, there are some observations I’ve made during my time here!

1. Everyone is tall and skinny

This is definitely true where I live (in the Utrecht/Amsterdam area) although having gone to the south of the Netherlands, people don’t seem as tall or skinny as their northern counterparts. It’s not uncommon finding girls who are 6′ tall, although being 5’5, surprisingly I don’t feel that short. There’s actually quite a few Dutch girls my height, but anything shorter is definitely a rarity.

When it comes to being skinny, I find it really impressive how fit people here stay, even well into old age. I read somewhere that obesity rates are increasing everywhere in the EU except for the Netherlands and it really shows. Especially coming from Bavaria where everyone seems to sport a beer belly, it’s definitely a change being here!

Interestingly, Dutch people also really love fried foods like fries (which is served in heaping piles!) and kroket (a long deep fried doughy thing filled with different kinds of meat) which you can get at any of the fast food “vending machines” scattered around a city. How do they stay skinny eating all of that still remains a mystery but judging by what my colleagues eat for lunch, the Dutch seem to prefer salads and other very light meals! Also they bike A LOT.

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2. Everyone is bike obsessed

This is so true as cyclists fill the city. Dutch people probably master the art of riding a bike at a very young age so that when they’re older they can master talents like biking through a thunderstorm, reading while biking, eating while biking and more. Some people even bike more than an hour (one way) to get to work every morning!

However, one thing that’s annoying about this is when bikes fill pedestrian streets as well. Cyclists here always think they ave the right of way and will bike through even the tiniest street crowded with people!

Anyone who has been to Amsterdam also knows that when crossing the street from the central station to the city centre, there is a 50% chance of death.

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3. Everyone is super healthy

I always felt like Germans have a “faux” healthy lifestyle going on. They’re obsessed with bio foods and yet practically everyone in Bavaria smokes a pack a day. The stereotype is that Germans love to hike but judging by the fact that Germans have become the second fattest country in Europe, they are either eating way too much or not doing enough intensive cardio exercises.

In the Netherlands, I feel like everyone are sport fanatics (and that’s not just because I’m working at Nike!). First there’s the intensive biking everyone does (and that includes seniors too!), and then there’s all the other sports they love like skating, skiing, running etc. Also why are people always eating salads here?!

I’m also happy to report that I rarely see smokers here. The other day I saw a person walking and smoking and I thought it was the weirdest, most out of place thing! (TIP: If you hate smokers like me, definitely AVOID Austria. Smoking isn’t banned in cafes or bars so everywhere you go people will be waving their cigarettes in your face).

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4. Everyone has good fashion in a slightly hipster way

Again, this is very much in the Amsterdam/Utrecht area since elsewhere else I’ve been in the country, the fashion hasn’t been very impressive. While I admire French and Italian fashion, I feel like my personal style fits in really well in the Netherlands. Girls here love their leather jackets, skinny black jeans, chelsea boots, neutral colour palettes etc like I do! They kind of have a “Scandinavian cool” look without being as grungey and edgy and I love it!

One annoying thing though is that I feel like fashion-wise, I fit in too well here. Sometimes it can feel strange to see people all around you wearing similar outfits to you in the city. Also everyone always mistakes me for a local and speaks to me in Dutch.

Coming from fashion-backwards Germany where skinny jeans still isn’t a thing, it’s definitely a welcomed change!

5. Non-Dutch People always assume all of the Netherlands is Amsterdam

This one isn’t specific to Dutch people, but ever since I’ve moved to the Netherlands ALL of my friends always ask me how’s Amsterdam even though I’ve mentioned that I’m living in Utrecht. Then again Utrecht is only about 25 mins by train from Amsterdam so it could practically be a suburb of Amsterdam (don’t tell anyone from Utrecht I said that). I’m not bothered but it just find it amusing…I wonder how the Dutch feel about this?

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6. People from Northern Netherlands are very “different.”

I find this so funny because ALL Dutch people make this exact same statement. It’s like they’re all some mystical creature up there. I’m still not exactly sure why they’re so “different” but I need to go up there and see for myself!

And that’s it for now! (although I’m sure there’ll be a part two or even three at some point in the future).

Have you guys lived in the Netherlands? What observations have you made about the Dutch?

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12 Comments

  1. Mike
    July 8, 2015 / 6:51 pm

    Hi Michelle! Yep, it’s really me. I’m still on my leave from blogging but I wanted to stop by and say hi 🙂 Very interesting perspective on the Dutch early on with your living experience there. I guess I’m actually a little sad about you moving from Germany. That says alot that they exercise so much considering what a long winter they can have. I did read about your horrific experience with the landlord in another post of yours. I’m sooooo sorry you went through that! I hope your summer is going terrific and that you are smiling and doing well. I’m proud of you always, my friend! Have a great day 🙂

    • Michelle
      Author
      July 10, 2015 / 7:41 am

      Hey Mike!!! So nice to hear from you! I check your blog every now and then and have been always sad that you haven’t had a new post in a long time! Was actually thinking of sending you an email to see how you’re doing! I’m so busy lately though I don’t even have time to update this blog as much as I’d like haha. Thanks!! Yes I’m happy to get out of that ordeal! My summer is going well! Working and don’t get much vacation but going to Paris in a couple weeks for a weekend trip! Hope you’re doing well too! 😀

  2. July 11, 2015 / 12:57 pm

    Such a good way to present your point of view about the Dutch, nevertheless i find your points quite close to reality. That’s why i love following your blog ever since i got here. 🙂

    • Michelle
      Author
      August 11, 2015 / 5:30 pm

      Awww thanks so much! 🙂

  3. July 12, 2015 / 8:35 am

    Hehehe – everything is tall and skinny! 🙂 So true. But living in Holland makes me such a small girl and it’s also easier to keep fit and stay healthy :).

    • Michelle
      Author
      August 11, 2015 / 5:31 pm

      Yes it’s true! So much easier to stay active when everyone around you is active 🙂

  4. July 14, 2015 / 3:05 am

    Haha I was a bit blown away by the Dutch fast food vending machines in Maastricht too!

    • Michelle
      Author
      August 11, 2015 / 5:34 pm

      yes they’re everywhere! they’re great after a night out in the city 😀

  5. Els
    August 10, 2015 / 11:07 pm

    By coincidence I stumbled upon your blog. I was initially looking for stereotypes on (North-)Americans and Europeans (different European countries), and after reading one of your articles I started reading more and more 🙂

    I had to laugh about your stereotypes, some were close to correct (for example about biking). I used to study in Maastricht a long time ago and in that time the city was still getting use to all those students 🙂 (University was <30 years old). Also during my studies and afterwards an increase in overweight and obese Dutch people was seen and more was expected.

    In Maastricht everybody from above Limburg is often called a "Hollander". I was one of these from up north. Some didn't even want to believe me when I said I wasn't from Holland 🙂 I am self about 5'11 (180 cm) and in the past I always felt tall when in Maastricht. I still don't know if the people in Maastricht were really shorter than the fellow Dutchmen up north, or that it was made up in my own mind.

    • Michelle
      Author
      August 11, 2015 / 5:39 pm

      Hey Els! Thanks for checking out my blog! Happy to hear that you like reading it 🙂

      That’s an interesting fact about being a “Hollander” 🙂 I always hear people using the Netherlands and Holland interchangeably but I remember reading that all Dutch people are from the Netherlands but only some are from Holland 😀 When I visited Maastricht, I did find that in general the people aren’t as tall as the ones more North but even in Utrecht, you find people of all heights so 5’11 would be pretty common as well 🙂

      • Els
        August 12, 2015 / 1:04 pm

        Indeed abroad, but also within Netherlands itself, Holland and Netherlands are used interchangeably.
        But officially only part of the Netherlands is Holland, namely the region covered by the provinces Zuid- en Noord-Holland (South and North Holland). In Dutch history important regions, and in current time still the most populous regions and were the main political and economical powers are (Among others capital Amsterdam and political center Den Haag (The Hague)).

        But the Netherlands consist of 12 provinces, of which the largest are non-Holland. For example Gelderland, Friesland and Limburg. Friesland also has a kind of special status. Frisian is the second language, beside Dutch, which is acknowledged as official language. Limburg which was, after the Belgian independence war, predominantly Belgian (with exception of among others Maastricht). Later on Limburg was divided in a Belgian and Dutch part. In my experience the people from Limburg, especially the south are very Belgian and German orientated.

  6. Els
    August 12, 2015 / 1:25 pm

    BTW some Belgians call all Dutch people Hollanders.
    I once phoned a fellow student from Belgium and her mother picked up the phone. When calling for her daughter I heard her say …’n Hollander voor je…. (…a Hollander for you…).

    There is a lot of student trafficking between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
    In the border regions, especially Limburg, Belgians studying in the Netherlands. Which is also the result of cooperation between Dutch and Belgian Universities and Educational institutes. And a lot of Dutch study in Belgium (especially medicine and veterinary medicine). Maastricht, and I have heard Nijmegen, also have a huge population German students.

    In my time, and I guess it still is, it wasn’t easy to enter medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine. They had (and still have) a numerus fixus. When you couldn’t get in in the Netherlands you could choose to go to Belgium. In most cases you had to pass a difficult and large exam before you were admitted. And you had to see if you could coop with the Belgian educational system, which differs from the Dutch one.

    From some German students I heard that the status of some particular Dutch studies were great, and had a good name in Germany. Also in Germany it is apparently hard to enter psychology. Therefore some choose to study psychology in the Netherlands.

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