100 Expat Tips For Being Happy In Holland

1) Hug a tall Dutch person.

2) Embrace the language mistakes.

3) Say the word gezellig as much as possible.

4) Go to gay pride parade even if you are not gay.

5) Visit the inside of a windmill.

6) Talk in a silly Dutch accent.

7) Put Hagelslag on chocolate spread.

8) Warm a Stroopwafel on top of your coffee or tea.

9) Drink a summer beer.

10) Walk on a frozen canal.

11) Go to a Dutch town you can’t pronounce the name of and explore it.

12) Don’t be afraid to mix Dutch and your own language when you don’t know a word.

13) Decorate your bike with something you like.

14) Cycle for half an hour without a destination and see where you end up.

15) Sing Dutch songs badly.

16) Dress completely in orange even when it is not King’s Day.

17) Visit a tulip field and take photos of each colour you find.

18) Start introducing yourself as [first name] van [last name].

19) Dance to terrible Dutch music.

20) Look for secret gardens in Amsterdam and pretend you’ve entered a magical land when you find one.

21) Leave a gift in a Febo hole-in-the-wall.

22) Ride an old tram.

23) Get a lift on the back of a friend’s bicycle.

24) Try reclaiming land from the sea for yourself.

25) Start a conversation even if you don’t know all the Dutch words you’ll need.

26) Don’t let the directness get to you.

27) Doe normaal maar ook doe gek.

28) Ignore the rules of Dutch sentence structure and just have fun with it.

29) Teach a Dutch person some English slang.

30) Share weird traditions from your own culture with the Dutch.

31) Call friends or family back home and tell them about weird Dutch traditions.

32) Go out and meet other expats.

33) Go out and meet some Dutch people.

34) Share stories about funny Dutch language mistakes you’ve made.

35) Don’t be afraid to talk in Dutch like google translate.

36) Introduce someone to bitterballen.

37) Enjoy a barbeque in the rain.

38) Invite your neighbours over for a borrel.

39) Watch Dutch children’s television to learn new words and be entertained at the same time.

40) Embrace any compliments you receive about your Dutch no matter how small.

41) Ignore every complaint you receive about your Dutch no matter how big.

42) Learn a new Dutch word every day.

43) Learn a weird Dutch word and try to fit it into every conversation.

44) Follow a canal and see where it takes you.

45) Take part in a Dutch tradition you don’t fully understand.

46) Search for the strangest thing you can buy in the King’s Day free market.

47) Use mime to help you communicate in Dutch.

48) Learn fun and silly Dutch words.

49) Try to make a tourist think you are Dutch.

50) Try to accept that the Dutch are weird but so are you and everyone else.

51) Write a letter to Sinterklaas.

52) Support other expats. You might have figured out a few things they have not.

53) Visit other European countries (they are closer than you think).

54) Support Holland in the world cup, European cup and (more importantly) the Eurovision Song Contest.

55) Eat pancakes with ice cream.

56) Visit the Wadden islands.

57) Cycle along a dyke.

58) Learn Dutch words that you would not normally use in every day conversation.

59) Confuse a Dutch person with obscure English words.

60) Make up some English words and confuse them that way too.

61) Enjoy a beer on a terras even if it’s cloudy and cold.

62) Be blissfully unaware of what is inside a Frikandel.

63) Enjoy patat met.

64) Shop a little every day instead of once a week.

65) Go for a walk on the beach in autumn.

66) Visit all twelve provinces.

67) Enjoy Belgium beers in a Dutch cafe.

68) Make your own stampot.

69) Enjoy the water. It is everywhere in Holland.

70) Read a Dutch children’s book.

71) Buy yourself some tulips.

72) Wave to passing canal tour boats.

73) Do a jonge, belegen and oude kaas taste test.

74) Have a flexible definition of good weather.

75) Always check buienrader.nl before going out.

76) Sit on a terras with a coffee, an appelgebak and watch the world go by.

77) Don’t walk in bike lanes.

78) Explore and look for interesting street art.

79) Eat chocolate at breakfast.

80) Have a Dutch conversation with a five year old.

81) Bake oliebollen.

82) Take a cold swim in the sea on New Year’s Day.

83) Get addicted to Speculoos.

84) Try craft beers.

85) Learn a Dutch song.

86) Help a lost tourist.

87) High five a passing cyclist.

88) Be friendly to someone working in Dutch customer service.

89) Pretend the monthly siren test is the party alarm.

90) Dance to the music in the metro stations.

91) Leave a nice note in someone’s bicycle basket.

92) Say hello to the ticket inspector in the train and on the tram.

93) Read Dutch subtitles.

94) Write down your funny stories and start a blog.

95) Learn the correct pronunciation of Scheveningen.

96) Go with the three cheek kisses if you are unsure.

97) On King’s Day wish every Dutch person you meet, “gefeliciteerd met jouw koning.”

98) Walk around in clogs for an afternoon.

99) Accept that Dutch takes time to learn.

100) Be kind to yourself, be understanding of others and have fun.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any extra tips for being happy in Holland you would like to add? Leave them in the comments below. Thank you to everyone from the facebook group who contributed to the list.

16 responses to “100 Expat Tips For Being Happy In Holland”

  1. Kimberly Knight says:

    Love this list! I am at the beginning stages of learning the language (and I say learning with a lot of trepidation), so the emphasis on being both invested and gentle with one’s self in the process is very encouraging. Bedankt!

    • Stuart says:

      Thanks :) Yeah, it’s best approach. It’s going to be difficult so don’t stress about it and just throw yourself in. It took me a while to figure that out but once I did things started getting a lot easier :)

  2. Amsterdamian says:

    This list is a great reminder of why I chose to live here! Made me happy :)

  3. PapaVanTwee says:

    Part of me wishes me (the “American”) and my Dutch wife could move to the NL, but alas, things are cheaper here, so here we stay. I’ve only visited, but I’ve crossed a lot off this list.

    1) Hug a tall Dutch person.

    My sister-in-law is with a very tall man (almost 7 foot), so done.

    5) Visit the inside of a windmill.

    Done. I also asked to see a castle, thinking ancient English castles with spires and moats, but was slightly disappointed and intrigued by what I did see.

    11) Go to a Dutch town you can’t pronounce the name of and explore it.

    Uithuizen. Seriously, I can’t say the ui dipthong regularly to save my life, and this one has it twice. Nice town, and it’s a short walk to the sea, which is why we were there in the first place.

    15) Sing Dutch songs badly.
    19) Dance to terrible Dutch music.
    54) Support Holland in the world cup, European cup and (more importantly) the Eurovision Song Contest.

    Done. Of course 15 and 19 were completed by doing the third part of 54… but still. And you should hear me sing, “Sexy als ik dans.”

    I don’t follow the European Cup here, but I do follow and root for the Netherlands in the World Cup.

    93) Read Dutch subtitles.

    This is how I learned, “geen idee”.We went to see a Harry Potter movie, and they kept saying they had no idea. Seeing any subtitles on a movie in English at the movie theater was weird to say the least.

    • Stuart says:

      We’ll if you ever get tempted we have lots of speculoos and cheese.

      I never thought of combining 15,19 and 54. That’s brilliant.

      Also on hugging a tall Dutch person, my wife is Dutch and taller than me so I have it covered too. Although I’m British and short so it is easy.

  4. Meta de Best says:

    Probably not the place to correct some Dutch spelling 😉.
    Anyway, I am missing drop and haring, but I am guessing you left those out for a reason. Although it is much fun to give them to an unexpecting visitor!

    • Stuart says:

      Haha. No, it’s ok. What did I get wrong?

      I did think about putting haring on the list. I guess I should get over my own feelings about it and put it on there :p

  5. iooryz says:

    Its, Jonge, belegen and oude kaas. And try buienalarm.nl instead of buienradar.nl, they even have an app that tells you if it’s going to rain on your location in the next 2 hours (and when)

    • Stuart says:

      That will teach me to use google as a spell checker *shakes fist at google*

      In Holland wouldn’t that alarm be going off all the time :p

  6. vallypee says:

    Love it, Stu. I’ve done a lot of these more than once! Especially the ‘hug a tall Dutch person’ one :) Love to you and Simone!

  7. Stully says:

    Make Dutch friends? I just wanna be friends…

  8. Love this and I am proud to say that I have been able to do some already:) I Justine would add to enjoy sunny days as they are the last.

  9. Ada Mazzeo says:

    Don’t forget that the bikes have the right of way.
    Ignore a ambulance, police or fire truck alarm.

  10. Some of these are absolutely spot on!

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