Exploring the cultural shocks of the Netherlands: 10 notable differences for visitors
A comprehensive guide to understanding the unique Dutch way of life
Netherlands (or Holland) is a small country in Western Europe. The country is small in area but big in history and culture. It’s important to remember that the Dutch culture is distinct from your own if you’re a tourist or a newcomer. Here are ten major jolts to Dutch culture that tourists may encounter:
- Bicycles: The Dutch have a well-deserved reputation for being avid cyclists. In fact, the Netherlands has more bicycles than residents. Guests to the Netherlands may be taken aback by the prevalence of bicycles and the willingness of many locals to ride them in all kinds of weather.
- Directness: The Dutch are notoriously direct, a trait that may come across as rude to foreigners. They are not shy about voicing their opinions and often say what’s on their minds.
- Tolerance: The Dutch are widely regarded as being tolerant of drug use, sexual orientation, and other controversial topics. The casual approach to these issues and the acceptance of alternative lifestyles may surprise visitors.
- Cheese: The Dutch are well-known throughout the world for their cheese, particularly Gouda and Edam. It’s possible that tourists to the Netherlands will be as astonished as anyone else by the selection of cheeses and the variety of ways in which they’re presented (e.g. as a snack with bread).
- Tulips: Tulips are a major draw for visitors to the Netherlands, where they are grown in expansive fields. The Netherlands is home to many tulip-themed celebrations and festivals, and its vibrant tulip fields may surprise first-time visitors.
- Canals: The canal system in the Netherlands is iconic, and it plays a significant role in the country’s history and culture. The canal system in the Netherlands is extensive, and visitors may be surprised to see so many boats and houseboats floating around.
- Windmills: The historic windmills of the Netherlands are internationally recognized symbols of the country. Guests to the Netherlands may be taken aback by the sheer abundance of windmills in the country, as well as the plethora of windmill-themed attractions.
- Coffeehouses: a staple of Dutch culture, coffeehouses in the Netherlands are distinct from their American counterparts. In reality, they function more like a marijuana dispensary.
- Language: Dutch, the country’s official language, is notoriously challenging for foreigners to pick up. Although many Dutch people are fluent in English, some tourists may be surprised by the large number of locals who don’t.
- Food: Visitors to the Netherlands may find that the food is a departure from their norm. Stroopwafels (thin waffles with syrup), bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs), and haring are all examples of traditional Dutch cuisine (raw herring).
I think we can all agree that the Netherlands is a fascinating and one-of-a-kind nation with a wealth of history and culture. Travelers may be surprised by aspects of Dutch culture, but they should use this as an opportunity to grow in understanding and appreciation of the country’s rich variety of people and customs.