Weird things about living in The Netherlands that shock me as an international student

Dreamy as it may seem as a destination for international students, the Dutch culture still shocks me with some of its (bizzare) facts. These below things may not be everywhere in this land of tulips but at least what I have experienced for the past years.

1.No hot water in the winter!

If you are like me and come from tropical kind of weather, you might also be taken aback by how people in The Netherlands bear with the cold water no matter what. This doesn’t mean hot water is not a thing here, it just surprises me to have to use cold water in public places. At least at my university, cold tap water is consumed regardless of how low the outside temperature can be. So instead of complaining, all I can do is live with cold water while shaking my body and having my teeth clashing against each other while washing my hands after using the toilet

2. Thinking about going to a coffee shop in Netherlands? Think twice!

Why? Because coffee shops in The Netherlands are not what you might think it is. In The Netherlands, coffee shops are where the sale of cannabis for personal consumption takes place. So don’t be surprised if your Dutch friends give you a weird look if you ask them out to a coffee shop. Instead, the word “cafe” is normally used when you mean a place where you can get your comfort cup of coffee. So, be careful when inviting or being invited to a coffee shop.

Bikes everywhere in The Netherlands, even during Covid time!

3. Shops closed at 6pm? Yes, it is true!

Since I come originally from Viet Nam where most of the entertainment activities occur in the evening, moving to Europe where most cafes and shops close at around 6pm-8pm hits me really hard. However, in The Netherlands, Thursday is also often known as “Shopping Day” when shops and stores opening time can be slightly extended till 8pm or 9pm. So bear this in mind if you want to plan something fun with your buddies.

4. Privacy is highly valued!

Unlike Viet Nam where people are more used to the “togetherness” way of living, the Dutchies tend to respect each other’s privacy. They do not like to be looked at in an over-friendly way or if you see their windows are closed with curtains, do not try to look inside even when you are just addicted to the cat lying lazily by the window. I did this once and the owners shut the curtain right in front of my eyes, which did scare me a bit. But yeah, be careful when you want to do something that might violate people’s privacy. However, do not hesitate t say “Hi/ Hoi” to a random person on the street who might also greet you back with a warm smile.

5. Separate lane for bikers

The Netherlands is globally renowned for having a massive number of bikes. It has even been said that there are more bikes than the total population in The Netherlands. Therefore, if you come to The Netherlands, you will see that infrastructure here has been made to accommodate this healthy habit of the citizens and tourists. Bikers can and are required to ride on the lanes that are outstandingly painted in red, which makes it safer and less competitive to other kinds of vehicles for bikers.

6. Want to meet up with your Dutch friends? Maybe next month (or even next year) :D

What also shocked me when I first relocated to The Netherlands from Viet Nam is that it is quite hard to set up a meeting since my Dutch friends is always functioning based on their (usually tight) agendas. When I was in Viet Nam, it is just fine to make an appointment with my friends days or even hours before the desired meeting time. However, in NL, you may need to wait until next week or even next month(s) to be able to have a slot in your Dutch friend’s busy schedule. Uncomfortable as it may be sometimes, this habit of stick-to-your-agenda of the Dutch shows that they are quite organized and disciplined, doesn’t it?

Is there anything about The Netherlands that you may want to share? Feel free to let me know!