Lessons from the Netherlands

Random knowledge I’ve acquired thus far:
(Mind you this is subjective and opinion based)

Women in Holland are simply chic. They don’t wear much make up or extravagant clothing/accessories. They wear a lot of neutral colors and pull off the messy hair look well. Women in England on the other hand wear a lot of make up, dye their hair, wear a lot of gaudy accessories and clothing. I consider myself a mix of the two. I love the simplicity of the way women in the Netherlands dress but I do enjoy make up and accessories. Also, the only time you’ll ever see anyone in sweats in Holland is when they are running. I don’t have any personal Dutch friends so I don’t know if they lounge around the house in sweats as we do in the US but it’s possible they do. When I’m walking around town I notice that almost everyone is dressed fairly nicely. Even if it’s just a nice pair of jeans and a jacket- they look presentable. The same can’t be said for the US. I enjoy that about the Netherlands. I believe that the way a person presents themselves can tell you a lot about them. I was told that if you wore sweats to class at a Dutch University it would be pretty taboo. I’m sure the professors would be appalled to see the student body at Peace lol.


There is not as much variety in food in the Netherlands as there is in the US. In Holland they eat a lot of bread. And when I said a lot I mean A LOT. There are countless types of bread to choose from and they eat it with pretty much every meal. Speaking of bread- I went to a local Frisian bakery today and had suikerbrood (sugar bread; picture above). And let me tell you something- it is delicious. Another thing I’ve learned is that Dutch bakeries put raisins in most of their baked goods. I dislike raisins a lot so that is no good for me. They also put cucumbers on their salads and sandwiches. I have to specifically ask for “no komkommer.” Also, the Dutch eat a lot of pork. Much to the dismay of my Jewish friend Lexi. If you want turkey here- too bad. They don’t eat turkey and I have yet to see it in the supermarket. Pretty much every sandwich, soup or pasta dish has pork in it (mostly ham). While I was in England I heard someone joke that Holland has more pigs than people so maybe that explains this phenomena. So basically as far as I can tell the Dutch diet consists of a lot of bread (brown bread= wheat/whole grain), cheese (a lot of Gouda), milk, butter, and ham. Unlike the US they don’t use a lot of spices. I know that I personally love jalapeños, garlic, chili powder, parsley, cilantro, etc so I’ve missed flavorful food quite a bit. I know that there have to be Dutch people who enjoy spices but I’m speaking in generalizations. I find it interesting that there are different variations of things we have in the US throughout the world. For example, Lays potato chips have different flavors here than we do back home. There are paprika, cheese & onion, bolognese (a meat based sauce for pasta) flavored potato chips. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention they have ham flavored chips as well. Ranch dressing does not exist here. Neither does Alfredo sauce… much to my dismay.

The Netherlands is a lot like the US and is also a lot different all at the same time. For example, because of their social welfare system Holland has a lot less poverty than the US. There is not as big of a difference between the have and the have-not’s. I’ve also learned that Dutch people don’t desire to “stand out” or “be different” like American’s do. Which probably explains why I haven’t seen as many green haired, pierced up angsty teenagers. Come to think of it the only time I’ve seen anyone that remotely resembles that was Tuesday as I was walking to the University library. Clichély enough he was sitting on a playground listening to music ;). I honestly don’t know which culture I like better. I don’t enjoy drawing attention to myself or being “out there” so I do like the homogeneity but at the same time it doesn’t feel right. I’m used to seeing all SORTS of different people when I’m out. I think that’s part of the appeal of the American culture. You can be whoever you want to be and it’s okay.

The concept of “rude” is different here. The Dutch are very forward and blunt. American’s have this way of beating around the bush in order to not offend or hurt someones feelings that the Dutch do not honor. It is not their culture to do so. To them saying what needs to be said should not be offensive. I’m not the worlds best communicator so I tend to communicate in the American way. I am very perceptive to other peoples feelings and I hate to make someone upset. It seems as though what would offend or upset a Dutch person would be different than an American because of what they’re used to hearing from others. I do think that it is more efficient to tell people straight up rather than sugar coat it. I feel like a balance can definitely be found.

This country is a lot quieter than the US. At least, the three Dutch cities I’ve visited have been. I’m used to people laughing and talking loudly. Even being in a southern city where the pace of life is “quieter and slower” which in my opinion all of NC doesn’t quite fit that stereotype you can hear the cars, trucks, planes, people, dogs, etc. I never realized how noisey it was until I came here and it is relatively quiet all the time. The train is silent as a mouse, the streets especially during the day are quiet as well. Night time is a little different for obvious reasons. However, this country is not one big party as some Americans might like to think. Overall, the majority of the madness is created by foreigners.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more observations as time goes on. I do love Holland very much so and I’m glad that I chose this country over many of the others I was considering.


About Ivy

I'm Ivy. 23 years old, resident of the great state of North Carolina. Lover of music, tea, unicorns, traveling and daydreaming. I have one blog about my semester abroad in the Netherlands. The other is a compilation of things I've written.
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