My first realisations of Dutch life

Life in the Netherlands: Week One

My first realizations of Dutch life

Recently, my family decided to take a leap of faith and move from the states to Haarlem, Netherlands.  We had a very comfortable life in America; good jobs, a nice home, friends, family and our weekly trips to Costco to buy our groceries in bulk.  Yet, something was lacking.  A sense of adventure, the newness that can only come with a change in scenery.

Our adventure began one week ago.  Recognizing that we are only seven days into this new journey, some of my judgments may be misconceptions, with that said, the following are a few things that I have observed so far:


  • Windows let the light (and the people) in: At my old home in the states, I had the freedom of walking around the house in my pajamas and binging on Netflix from within the safety of my home’s walls.  While the Dutch windows provide a spacious and natural landscape, they do not allow me to conceal the home’s activities.  Knowing my neighbours can see inside my home is forcing me to get out of my pyjamas at a reasonable time and to close the bedroom and bathroom doors!
  • Mindfulness in our waste: I am a recycler (or at least I thought so in the states).  Here, recycling is taken to a different level.  I find myself analyzing each meal to determine which is actual waste versus what can be separated into our various garbage bags for plastic, paper, compost, and glass.  I still haven’t figured out how to recycle glass though!
  • Don’t take the Dutch bluntness personally: In general, I have found Dutch people to be very nice and helpful but the Dutch language combined with their direct manner can come across as mean spirited to a Midwestern girl like me. While enjoying a nice walk with my kids in the park, an older Dutch lady started yelling at my four-year-old.  I can only assume she was yelling at her for kicking some gravel, although, with limited (okay, no) Dutch language skills, I’ll never know but need to let it go.
  • Rain is part of life: I look outside and see whole families riding their bikes, soaking wet in a downpour.  I, on the other hand, want to trap myself inside until my weather app tells me there is only a 10% chance of rain.  I recognize that I will probably leave the house once per month if I wait for the perfect weather so I’m striving to adapt to the Dutch acceptance of the weather.
  • Dress for every season: It is 60 degrees and I see Dutch people outside in shorts and a t-shirt. For me, 60 degrees is late fall weather.  Seasonal wardrobes don’t seem to be so clear-cut as I haven’t figured out how to dress properly or even organize my closet for the Dutch weather.
  • Learning takes times: I had my time management mastered in the states.  Being efficient was a life goal.  I knew exactly the fastest way to work and timed myself when I was in a store picking up my necessities.  Here, everything is taking double the normal time.  I have yet to figure out how to use our Italian oven to make muffins for the kids nor do I know my way to a store to pick up the supplies.
  • Finding our community: I have been friends with the same people for over 20 years.  There is a thrill in meeting new people that you immediately connect with but also a challenge in finding those people. For us, Facebook is actually serving its true purpose of helping us connect and navigate our new world.


[By Jennifer Cakir]


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4 replies
  1. Rob C
    Rob C says:

    Yes, it’s a struggle at times, we were warned about the Dutch fixation with timekeeping before arriving, I mean, c’mon the Dutch for ‘what’s the time’ is ‘How late is it’ 🙂 I took us most of a year to find this doen’t apply to them, just everyone else!

    Now we know not to stress and simply apologise, blaming the train/bus/weather and get on with the appointment, however it’s usually the Dutch person who is late!

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