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You will find the Netherlands in northwestern Europe, hemmed in by Germany and Belgium. Unlike its neighbours though, it boasts a large stretch of coast which is splashed by the North Sea and unbeknown to many, it is home to some beautiful beaches.
The country, however, is most famous for its 165 canals that flow through its cities and villages, enchanting tulip fields that burst into bloom in late April and iconic windmills that are scattered across the country.
The Dutch welcome all religions and traditions from around the world, with the country itself holding rich culture and history. It has become a popular location for expats due to the hassle free moving process for EU/EEA nationals and the unique employment opportunities that it offers.
The Netherlands has relatively cool summers and moderate winters with a temperate climate which is very much influenced by the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
As you’ll see below due to the Netherlands being a small country, the climate doesn’t vary much from region to region. Coastal areas will be slightly windier and inland areas, such as Eindhoven, can often experience more continentality, but generally, cool and cloudy days are commonplace. Rain is usual throughout the year and although you can expect frequent showers, the country is lucky to never experience extensive amounts.
During the summer – June to August – temperatures can reach highs of 23°C and this period brings the most tourists. The temperature is warm but it never gets excessively hot, making it ideal for exploring the charming cities, canals and parks.
Winter in the Netherlands is cold and during the height of this season you can sometimes experience snow and freezing temperatures, but this type of extreme winter weather is very rarely seen.
Spring and fall are quite possibly the best seasons in the Netherlands. Spring brings warm temperatures and, of course, the gorgeous daffodils and tulips that brighten up the country.
The culture in the Netherlands is varied and lively. Many think that clogs, windmills and lace caps sum up the daily life and culture of the Dutch, but this is just the start.
The Dutch are very proud of their cultural heritage. This includes world-renowned art and freedom of expression which plays a huge part in tradition and is reflected in their social customs.
Art, especially painting and sculpture, is at the heart of Dutch culture. Some of the most famous artists in the history of Western art came from the Netherlands, such as Vincent van Gogh and Rembrant van Rijn. These influences have had a strong influence on modern art and they still remain a predominant part of Dutch culture to this day – the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was declared the most visited museum in the Netherlands in 2017.
Literature, performing arts and music has never had a prevailing effect on Dutch culture, but they still have their place. Performing arts are encouraged throughout the country – The National Ballet and the Netherlands Dance Theatre being amongst the most well-known.
The country is definitely not recognised for its contributions to music, but The Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra is world-famous and the country has various other orchestras and musical events taking place throughout the year.
The biggest festival in the country – The International Film Festival in Rotterdam – takes place annually at the end of January. Even though the Dutch film industry is small, this festival is the place to be to discover independent and emerging talents.
The Netherlands native language is Dutch, a West Germanic language that is spoken as a first language by approximately 24 million people. It is the sole official language of the Netherlands and one of three native languages spoken in Belgium. It can also be known as Netherlandic or Dutch Nederlands and in Belgium it’s known as Flemish.
It’s considered to be one of the easiest languages to learn for a native English speaker because it is thought to be the closest to the English language. Many Dutch words also snuck into the English language somewhen in the 17th century, words such as brandy, coleslaw, waffle and iceberg.
Much of the Dutch language is actually borrowed from other languages with many words originating from the French language. It is estimated that 75% of the Dutch language has been acquired from other foreign languages.
The Netherlands public transport is excellent, which is a great benefit because even though the country is small it’s densely populated and an efficient public transport system is welcomed.
The country’s extensive transport network means whatever your destination, you can get there easily by either train, bus, tram or ferry.
If you’re travelling within main cities, such as Amsterdam, trams, metro and ferries are the most popular ways to get from A to B. However, if you’re venturing further afield then you will be required to take the train.
There are about 400 train stations around the country running fast trains. These are referred to as Intercity trains that transport you between the large cities and slower trains, labelled Sprinter trains that run between the smaller stations.
Travelling by bike is another trendy way to tour the busy cities of the Netherlands – you can rent bikes in Amsterdam for around 10 euros a day. If you plan on staying for a prolonged amount of time, you may want to consider purchasing a bike to easily cycle about the city.
The Netherlands doesn’t only have an amazing transport network, but it’s also known for its high-quality healthcare. The healthcare system as a whole has repeatedly been rated as one of the best in the world.
The healthcare is universal, but all adults (18 years of age and above) living or working in the country are expected to be covered by basic insurance. To put it simply, the healthcare system is managed by the government but subsidised by private insurers.
The basic insurance covers things like visits to the GP and hospital, but any further treatments such as overnight stays in hospital, a visit to the emergency room or the need for a doctor outside of normal office hours, come with an extra cost. Therefore, many citizens opt for higher levels of insurance to cover themselves for these additional treatments.
When moving to the Netherlands it is relatively easy to sign up for the healthcare system. You must firstly register with your local council, as you will need a citizen service number, then you need to choose and register for health insurance. Finally, you will need to register with a local doctor.
If you require emergency assistance while in the Netherlands, dialling 112 will connect you to the emergency services. You can also go directly to the accident and emergency department at your nearest hospital.
The official currency of the Netherlands is the euro. The Dutch guilder was the currency of the country up until 2002 when the euro was introduced.
Cash and debit cards are the most common forms of payment in the Netherlands. Cash is still widely used by the Dutch, even for large purchases. Credit cards are not used so much and will usually only be used for expensive online payments, as many supermarkets don’t accept them.
Many Dutch banks charge a yearly fee for having an account with them, so before opening an account it’s important to look carefully at which one best suits you.
You can open a bank account by personally going into the bank or through the readily available services online. Bear in mind that ABN AMRO and bunq are the only two banks that have detailed information in English.
To open an account, you will need:
Education in the Netherlands is compulsory and children are required to attend school from the age of five to 16. The structure of the Dutch education system can be quite complicated to understand, especially when it comes to secondary education, due to there being many different paths that a student can take. Here is a brief breakdown of how the Dutch schooling system works:
First of all, Dutch primary and secondary schools are divided into two different categories:
Before starting school at five years old, parents have the option to send their infants to daycare. These daycare options include creche, kindergarten or childminding.
It’s not essential for children to start primary school until they turn five years old, however, some begin school when they turn four. Primary education is broken down into groups, with Group 1 being the first stage of education where children start when they are four years old and Group 9 being the final stage, which will be their last year at primary school at age 12.
During their years at primary school, children will learn basic reading, writing, arithmetic skills and will start learning the English language when they reach Group 7 if they haven’t already done so.
There are three different streams of secondary school in the Netherlands and which stream a student enters will depend on their interests and academic level.
The three streams are as follows:
Once passing one of these streams students can continue on to either a research university or a University of Applied Sciences.
Dutch cuisine consists of many individual dishes. Several of these dishes are well known and adored by visitors and others are only embraced by the Dutch.
Substantial hearty food is loved by the Dutch and many of their classic dishes bypass presentation and elegance. That said, there’s also a wide range of international restaurants in the Netherlands, with over 100 of them being Michelin-starred.
You may have heard of some of these Dutch specialties:
The Netherlands is also famous for a fabulous variety of cheeses, such as Edam and Gouda which originate from the respective Dutch towns. The Dutch are huge fans of gin and their favourite spirit is their own Dutch version – jenever. This tipple comes in a range of flavours and is typically served chilled, either straight or occasionally with a mixer.
Naturally, Amstel and Heineken are the most popular beer brands in the Netherlands as they are both brewed and produced in the capital. The Dutch are also lovers of liqueurs, such as Curacao and Triple Sec.
There’s no need to worry when it comes to safety in the Netherlands, it has very low crime rates compared to other European countries and was ranked 14th on the World’s Safest Country Index.
The only thing to be slightly concerned about in the Netherlands is pickpockets that operate mainly in cities and crowded areas. Just be careful with your bag, purse or wallet especially and never leave your possessions unattended at the beach or in other public areas.
There is a low risk of all other warnings and dangers such as; muggings, scams, natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Public transport and taxis are also generally very safe.
It is advised to be careful when travelling beside the canals, unfortunately, deaths due to drowning in the canals do happen, usually as a result of intoxication.
It may be a small country, but the Netherlands has a plethora of intriguing destinations to discover with a huge amount of attractions that are not to be missed. Here are just five places that should be added to your list when exploring this fascinating country:
No trip to the Netherlands is complete without a visit to the acclaimed capital, Amsterdam, home to the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank’s House. The colourful narrow houses lining the historic canals combined with the artistic heritage, quirky vibe and cycling culture captivates anyone that visits.
There’s no shortage of things to do in this city with an abundance of world-class museums, wacky festivals, amazing food stalls and restaurants, plus many laid-back bars.
Don’t forget to explore the highlights of Dam Square, go to the Heineken Experience and take a ferry over to A’Dam Lookout to admire a panoramic view of Amsterdam from 20 stories up or brave the over-the-edge swing.
You’ll find this city on the North Sea coast of the western Netherlands. It’s home to Binnenhof, a gothic-style complex of buildings where the Dutch parliament meet. It’s often referred to as ‘the Royal City by the Sea’ because many members of the Royal House reside here.
There’s more to this city than meets the eye and if you dive in you’ll discover a wonderful city bursting with museums, fabulous shopping streets, beautiful beaches and Madurodam, an interactive park with scale models of a Dutch city.
Rotterdam is the Netherlands’ second-largest city and a major port city in the South Holland province. The city is home to some of the most exciting architecture in Europe as well as trendy restaurants, funky hotels and excellent cafes.
The city has recently started to attract more visitors due to its innovation and cutting-edge design, offering quite a contrast to the country’s capital.
Utrecht is a medieval town, which is one of the country’s oldest urban cities with religion at its heart. If you like quaint and quirky then you’ll want to add this city to your to-visit list. It’s now a vibrant university city but has always retained its medieval core.
There’s plenty of charming places to eat and drink, monuments to visit and museums to delve into. If you’re feeling energetic you can climb the 465 steps of Dom Tower of Utrecht to gaze out at the fascinating city views.
This city has become the technology and design hub of the country and is home to the Philips Stadium, where Champions League football team PSV Eindhoven train.
It is, in fact, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands but this is disguised by the high-tech industry and innovative design that it’s now known for.
There are several museums, including the Philips Museums that traces the history of multinational conglomerate Philips Electronics which was born and developed in Eindhoven. You’ll find lots to do here with zoos, neo-Gothic churches and parks amongst a few of the attractions this city offers.
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