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Planning a Vacation? 7 Totally Awesome Things About the Netherlands

>> Saturday, September 4, 2010

I love traveling! There are so many amazing places to see and fun new things to try! I have not been able to make it over to Europe for a few years but a fellow blogger is an expatriate living in the Netherlands and I thought it would be fun to read about her experiences! This guest post will let you travel in your mind to the Netherlands and/or plan a trip for the future.

The Netherlands tends to get a bad rap and its totally not fair. Yes, things like soft drugs and prostitution are legal but, to be honest, those things are more for the tourists than anything else. If you really want to know what this little European country is all about, check out these 7 totally awesome things about the Netherlands.

1. Cycling – The Dutch ride their bikes everywhere. In fact, there are more bikes in the Netherlands than there are people. Biking is a healthy, environmentally-friendly way to get around. Given the excrutiating traffic and frequent stops via public transportation, biking is usually the fastest way to get from place to place. Using saddle bags, baskets, luggage racks, carriages, carts, and child seats, it is possible to carry just about everything imaginable via bicycle. And the Dutch actually do carry just about everything imaginable with their bikes. Even the kitchen sink. (Ok, so I haven’t seen a kitchen sink on a bike, but I have seen shower doors and microwaves to name but a few of the more odd items one can carry by bike).

2. Excellent healthcare – It is illegal for anyone living and/or working in the Netherlands not to have healthcare. With employers, the government, and individuals all pitching in, insurance costs are extremely affordable. The best part is that, by law, no insurance company can deny you basic insurance for any reason whatsoever. Basic insurance packages include general practitioners, specialists, hospital care, medication, maternity care, and IVF. For any services above and beyond these, additional or more inclusive policies can be taken out.

3. Rich culture – There are well over 400 museums and castles in the Netherlands. That’s no small feat for such a tiny country. Parks, zoos, nature reserves, and themeparks are also in abundance. The Netherlands also boasts some really cool celebrities: Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn, Anne Frank, Mata Hari, Van Halen, Johannes Vermeer, Johan Cruijff (soccer player), Femke Janssen (actress, X-Men), M. C. Escher (artist), Piet Mondrian (artist), Desiderius Erasmus (philosopher), Gerard Adriaan Heineken, and Anton Philips (Philips electronics). Even Santa Claus has Dutch roots! And let’s not forget the windmills and tulips. There everywhere and, no matter how many you see, you can never get enough.
Netherlands street scene
4. Delicious snack food – A number of the most delicious Dutch snack foods are fried.
Fried dough balls smothered in powdered sugar are served every year as part of New Year
celebrations. Although I wouldn’t advise you to ask what’s in them, you simply have to try bitterballen and kroketten. From their Flemish neighbors, the Dutch have adopted the thick, juicy fries known as frites or patat and served with your choice of an overwhelming variety of sauces. Their stroopwafels are so yummy, even Trader Joe’s has started carrying them!

5. (Almost) everyone speaks English – In the Netherlands, films and television shows
are not dubbed. They remain in their original language and use Dutch subtitles on the
bottom of the screen. Put simply, they watch shows like “Friends” in English with Dutch
subtitles. Because of this early and frequent English invluence, almost everyone speaks
English. This is great for tourists and non-Dutch speakers coming to live in the Netherlands.

6. Central location – From the Netherlands, you can go almost anywhere in Europe – it’s
that centrally located. Two hours and you’re in Belgium or Germany. Four to eight hours will put you just about anywhere in France. Less than two hours by plane or ferry will put you in Ireland or the UK or Scotland. Roughly the same amount of time in the other direction will get you to Austria, Hungary, Poland, or Switzerland. And it’s all easily accessible via public transportation!

7. Animal friendly – As a pet owner (I brought my dog with me to the Netherlands), this
was a big one for me. A number of parks and toilet areas can be found in every city. Some of these even permit your dog to run without a leash. Not only are dogs allowed in most restaurants, cafes and pubs, they’re also usually the first ones served – with a nice big bowl of water. Many shops also permit dogs and there are special times during the year when dogs are allowed on the public beaches. And its not just dogs. Go into almost any restaurant or store and you’re more than likely to spy their resident feline.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll see these as well as other totally awesome things on your next visit to the Netherlands. It is a wonderful country both to visit and to live in.

Tiffany is an American who moved to the Netherlands for love in December 2008. She lives in Utrecht with her husband and their dog. In addition to chronicling her adventures on her blog Clogs and Tulips: An American in Holland, she also works as a freelance writer and runs her own company, Little Broadway.


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