Before you pack your bags and set sail for the Netherlands, you need to know a few key things to make your journey as seamless and rewarding as possible.
Work is a big part of our lives, but we also need to make our time outside work fun and fulfilling. That can be a little harder when you live and work abroad since you are out of your comfort zone without friends and places you’re used to.
However, with the right information and a little effort, you can make your free time in the Netherlands exciting and memorable. Here is what you need to know before relocating.
#1 General Facts About the Netherlands
The Netherlands, often called Holland, is an attractive and diverse country in Northwestern Europe. Known for its iconic windmills, tulip fields, and charming canals, the Netherlands offers foreign workers a unique blend of natural beauty, history, and modernity.
As you embark on your journey to explore this enchanting land, here’s a brief overview of its geography, major cities, and regions to help you get acquainted.
Geography and Regions
The Netherlands is characterised by its flat landscape, crisscrossed with an intricate network of rivers, canals, and polders (land reclaimed from the sea).
The country is divided into twelve provinces, each with its own distinct cultural and geographical characteristics. Here are a few notable regions:
- Randstad: It’s not a province geographically, but it is an urban region that includes major cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague, and Utrecht. It’s the economic and cultural heart of the country, known for its vibrant arts scene, international atmosphere, and diverse communities.
- North Holland and South Holland: These provinces make up the historical heart of the Netherlands and are home to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, respectively. North Holland is famous for its picturesque villages, tulip fields, and iconic windmills.
- Gelderland: Located in the east, this province is home to the stunning Hoge Veluwe National Park, which boasts lush forests, heathlands, and diverse wildlife.
- Zeeland: A province in the southwest known for its beautiful beaches, waterways, and charming villages. Zeeland is connected by a network of bridges and tunnels.
The Netherlands boasts a collection of vibrant cities, each with its own unique charm and character. Some major cities include:
- Amsterdam: The capital city is renowned for its picturesque canals, historic architecture, world-class museums, and vibrant nightlife.
- Rotterdam: Known for its modern skyline, Rotterdam is a hub of innovation, architecture, and cultural diversity.
- The Hague: The political capital of the Netherlands, the Hague is home to many international organisations, embassies, and the Dutch royal family. It’s known for its stately architecture and diplomatic significance.
- Utrecht: This city offers a mix of historical charm and youthful energy. It’s known for its picturesque canals, mediaeval city centre, and vibrant university culture.
Efficient Public Transportation
One of the Netherlands’ most commendable features is its highly efficient public transportation system. This system includes trains, trams, buses, and ferries that connect cities, towns, and regions seamlessly.
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) operates the train network, known for its punctuality and coverage. The extensive network allows you to easily explore the country, making day trips and weekend getaways a breeze.
On top of that, the Dutch are avid cyclists, and the country boasts an extensive network of well-maintained bike paths. Renting or buying a bike is a popular and eco-friendly way to explore cities and the countryside, immersing yourself in the local culture and enjoying the landscapes.
As you settle into your new life in the Netherlands, the efficient public transportation system will become your gateway to discovering this enchanting country’s diverse beauty and rich cultural tapestry.
#2 Activities To Do In the Netherlands
The Netherlands offers many exciting things to do to help you relax and explore Dutch culture. Let’s dive into some popular options:
The Netherlands is famous for its extensive network of well-maintained cycling paths. Grab a bike and pedal your way through colourful landscapes, charming villages, and bustling cities.
It’s a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local lifestyle and get some exercise at the same time.
You can rent bicycles easily, and many cities also have guided bike tours for tourists to help them discover hidden gems.
Most companies collaborating with Robin offer their employees bikes to commute to work (if the distance between the workplace and accommodation is less than 10 kilometres).
Cycling after work and exploring the area is a fantastic way to relax after work and enjoy your free time.
You can explore the charm of Dutch cities from a unique perspective by embarking on a scenic canal cruise.
Amsterdam, Utrecht, and many other cities are known for their intricate canal systems. Hop on a boat and let the guide show you historic buildings, bridges, and stunning waterfront views.
It’s a relaxing and informative way to see the city from a different perspective. Also, it’s inexpensive and can be a great activity on weekends or free days.
If you love the outdoors, the Netherlands won’t disappoint. During your free time, you can head to the Hoge Veluwe National Park, where you can cycle through lush forests and spot wildlife. Or, visit the Keukenhof Gardens in spring to witness the breathtaking display of colourful tulips.
And don’t forget the beaches! The Dutch coastline offers opportunities for relaxation, beach sports, and even kitesurfing.
Another great outdoor activity you can find in any city in the Netherlands is a free walking tour. Even though the tour guide is free, Dutch people have a strong tipping culture, and you should leave around €10 to your tour guides, or extra if it were a truly fantastic tour. Paid tours usually don’t require a tip, but people often leave tips when they really have exceptional service.
Dutch food is an amazing way to get familiar with the culture and fulfil your free time. In the Netherlands, it is an absolute must to try traditional treats like stroopwafels (syrup waffles), bitterballen (fried meatballs), and haring (raw herring fish).
During the weekends, you can explore local markets and sample cheese, bread, and other delightful goodies. You could even sign up for a cooking class to learn how to make Dutch dishes yourself!
Chocolate Chips For Breakfast
Picture this: a slice of perfectly toasted white bread, a delicate spread of butter, and a generous shower of chocolate sprinkles.
Yes, you read that correctly – sprinkles, the same kind you might find adorning a scoop of ice cream or a steaming hot waffle.
It’s often said that you haven’t truly experienced the essence of the Netherlands until you’ve savoured a hagelslag, the delightful name for this local delicacy.
Restaurants and Bars
After a fulfilling day at work, the Netherlands offers various bars and restaurants to unwind. Whether you’re craving a taste of traditional Dutch cuisine or seeking international flavours, you’re in for a treat.
You can explore the charming brown cafes scattered across Amsterdam’s cobblestone streets and enjoy traditional meals.
Or, for a more cosmopolitan vibe, Rotterdam’s trendy waterfront bars offer stunning views to accompany your drinks.
And if you’re looking to mingle with locals and fellow expats, Utrecht’s lively terraces and cosy bistros provide the perfect setting.
#3 Dutch Drug Policy
The Netherlands has gained notoriety for its unique approach to drug policy, which includes decriminalising and regulating the sale of certain substances, most notably cannabis. This approach has led to a distinctive drug culture in the country.
Before travelling or relocating to the Netherlands, you should be aware of this culture and its legal framework.
One of the most iconic aspects of Dutch drug culture is the presence of “coffee shops,” where small quantities of cannabis can be legally purchased and consumed on-site.
While these establishments offer a relaxed atmosphere for those who choose to partake, it’s essential to remember that the sale and use of cannabis are still illegal under Dutch law.
Authorities tolerate this contradiction in the interest of public health and harm reduction, but it’s important for foreign visitors and residents to respect these nuances and adhere to the rules.
On top of that, Dutch people tend to have a pragmatic and open-minded approach to drug use. They are generally well-informed about the potential risks and benefits of various substances and prefer a harm-reduction approach to a punitive one.
While cannabis is widely accepted and used, other drugs are still illegal and carry significant legal penalties.
To ensure a productive conversation with a Dutch local, it’s better to refrain from making jokes about smoking weed.
Opinions among Dutch citizens regarding the nation’s current drug policy vary widely. Some express dissatisfaction with the existing approach, while others are concerned about the perception of a liberally-minded Netherlands.
Of course, there are those who simply do not partake in drug use.
It’s important to note that if you initiate a conversation about legal highs or drug-related topics, you may quickly be labelled as a “tourist,” and the discussion may not be well-received.
Instead, it’s often a better idea to shift the conversation to other subjects, such as complimenting their cycling infrastructure or vibrant home decorations, which is more likely to lead to positive interaction and potentially start a new friendship.
#4 Rainy Weather
You’ve probably heard that people call England “the home of rain.” That is a common misconception among those who have never been to the Netherlands.
Up to 300 cloudy days per year and frequent changes in weather patterns are characteristics of the Netherlands.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself caught in impromptu rain showers. Interestingly, the Dutch aren’t particularly fond of umbrellas; instead, they shield themselves from inclement weather with the practicality of raincoats.
After all, cycling with an umbrella can be quite unwieldy!
Fortunately, the city’s well-engineered drainage systems ensure that even the most torrential downpours won’t create puddles or flooding, providing a silver lining to the occasionally capricious Dutch weather.
#5 Local Festivals And Events
The Netherlands comes alive with a vibrant tapestry of festivals and events that showcase its unique culture, traditions, and zest for life.
Foreign workers have the incredible opportunity to participate in these celebrations, gaining a firsthand glimpse into the heart of Dutch society and forging memorable connections with locals.
On April 27th, the entire country donned a sea of orange to celebrate King Willem-Alexander’s birthday. King’s Day is a lively and exuberant event that spills onto the streets, canals, and parks.
This is a great opportunity to join the festivities by wearing orange attire, participating in street markets, enjoying live music performances, and relishing traditional Dutch treats.
Amsterdam transforms into a party hub, with boat parades along the canals and an electric atmosphere that embodies the Dutch spirit of unity and celebration.
Carnival, often celebrated in February or March, is a time of exuberance and merrymaking, particularly in the southern regions of the Netherlands.
Cities like Maastricht and ‘s-Hertogenbosch come alive with colourful parades, vibrant costumes, and lively street parties. This festive season is a fantastic opportunity for foreign workers to engage with the local community, dance to traditional music, and embrace the carefree spirit that defines carnival celebrations.
Sinterklaas, celebrated on December 5th, is a cherished Dutch holiday that involves the arrival of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and his helper Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) to distribute gifts and sweets to children.
The festivities start with a grand arrival procession in many towns and cities, often involving a white-bearded Sinterklaas arriving by boat. Engage with the local customs by indulging in traditional treats like speculaas cookies and attending Sinterklaas-related events that glimpse Dutch folklore and holiday spirit.
#6 Weekend Getaways and Travel
Living in the Netherlands allows foreign workers to explore nearby European destinations during their free time.
The country’s location and efficient transportation network enable you to go on exciting weekend getaways and immerse yourself in neighbouring countries’ diverse cultures, histories, and landscapes.
Nearby European Destinations
The Netherlands’ central position in Europe means that you can make the most of your weekends by indulging in spontaneous trips.
High-speed trains, buses, and budget airlines offer affordable and convenient options for travel. Whether you’re looking to explore historic cities, tranquil countryside, or vibrant urban centres, you’ll find a wealth of destinations easily accessible from your Dutch home base.
Exploring nearby countries allows you to understand European cultures better while making the most of your time in the Netherlands. Consider these options for weekend getaways:
- Belgium: A stone’s throw away from the Netherlands, Belgium offers a perfect weekend getaway for foreign workers. Explore Brussels’ blend of history and modernity, immerse yourself in Antwerp’s artistic vibes, or get lost in the mediaeval charm of Bruges. From delectable chocolates to stunning architecture, Belgium packs a rich experience into a short escape, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a quick and enchanting break from work.
- Germany: Immerse yourself in Germany’s rich history by visiting cities like Cologne, with its stunning cathedral, or the vibrant and artsy scene of Berlin. Explore the scenic landscapes of the Rhine Valley or the enchanting Black Forest.
- France: From the romantic allure of Paris to the charming villages of Alsace, France offers a diverse range of experiences. Savour the world-renowned cuisine, explore iconic landmarks, or relax along the Mediterranean coast.
As a foreign worker in the Netherlands, your location presents an excellent opportunity to explore the treasures of nearby European countries during your leisure time. Taking advantage of the efficient transportation options and embracing the rich cultural diversity just a short journey away can make your stay in the Netherlands even more enriching and memorable.
Weekend getaways offer a chance to broaden your horizons, connect with different cultures, and create lasting memories that enhance your overall experience.
With these essential insights, you are ready to embark on an extraordinary and life-changing adventure in Dutch culture. Your experience in the Netherlands will be unforgettable, from enjoying delicious Dutch cuisine to creating long-lasting connections with locals and fellow expats. This chapter of your life is sure to be cherished forever.
Remember, while this guide covers the essentials, your journey will undoubtedly be filled with personal discoveries and moments of growth.
Register on our website today and open the door to a world of possibilities in the Netherlands. Our dedicated team is here to help you get a job and move to the Netherlands!