Life in the Netherlands My Favourite Things
The Shallow Man recently received the following comment from an aggrieved reader.
Is it just me? To notice an edge of cynicism (check spelling.) within your recent posts? Could you find another slant? This pisstake has become tedious/odious. Yes, you make a point but why not but why not concentrate upon the benefits of a Dutch society in which you live ? F**kwit !
As he asked so nicely, I’ve decided to do my very best to write a sarcasm-free post about my five favourite things about living in the Netherlands. I’ll also add that the five points are not an order of preference. The things I do for my rude reader!
1. Public transport
Yes, I’m aware that many of you have a strong dislike for public transport in the Netherlands but I can tell you that I love it. In my opinion (as a Brit) the rail system is by and large pretty efficient, clean, and reasonably priced. Living in Amsterdam I’d also add that the tram and bus network is superb. If you’re not cycling, then it’s possible to easily get around town via tram, bus or metro. Yes, it’s pricey, but then it’s worth investing in a monthly pass if you use public transport regularly.
I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but generally, I love cycling here. Living in Amsterdam, it’s certainly true that bike lanes are often congested with asociaal idiots focusing more on their smartphones than looking where they’re going. Scooters and mopeds are also a problem but at least in Amsterdam, they’ll soon have to use the roads instead of bike lanes. On warm days there’s nothing more fulfilling than a nice cycle ride around the beautiful city of Amsterdam. I love it.
3. Lack of nosiness
One of the aspects of life in the Netherlands that I really appreciate is the utter lack of interest and absence of nosiness from neighbours. I’ve lived in several places in Amsterdam where I’ve had Dutch neighbours. In the UK, when you have neighbours they often will ask a huge amount of questions. They’ll “pop round” for a cup of tea or something stronger and will want to know every little thing about you. I’ve never experienced this with Dutch neighbours. They don’t give a stroopwafel and neither do I. We leave things at a gezellig “goede morgen” or I might say “jouw vrouw heeft leuke uggs” but beyond that, it’s just wonderful small talk. No nosiness whatsoever. No circle party invites, or BBQ nonsense. Gezellig!
4. Work-life balance
One of the first differences I noticed from living and working in Amsterdam as opposed to London was that I didn’t have to spend hours each day commuting. A short walk followed by a 25-minute tram ride each way was all I had to do. Wonderful! As much as I joke about it, the work-life balance here is excellent. The fact that permanent employees have the legal right to work part-time if they choose to do so is actually a good thing in my opinion. Add that to things such as statutory holiday pay and a legal framework that discourages the hire and fire practices often seen in places such as the UK and the USA and you have one of the best countries in which to live and work.
It does appear that many general practitioners (huisarts) appear to have a disproportionate amount of faith in the healing power of paracetamol. I get the general impression based on my own experiences and that of expats I’ve come across that Doctors here often regard foreigners as complaining hypochondriacs that are there to waste their time. However, I would say that once you’ve convinced the doctor that you’re not faking being sick and that you’ve tried paracetamol for several weeks without any change in your condition, that getting to see an actual consultant or specialist usually doesn’t involve an incredibly long waiting period. While there are a number of issues with the Dutch medical system, including the ever-increasing eigen risico costs plus the number of treatments that the Dutch Government is allowing the insurers to exclude from the basic coverage. I still think that compared to the NHS (my reference point) that the Dutch system is pretty good.
So there you have it, an almost entirely sarcasm free post. I need a lie down!
No Shallow Men were hurt during the writing of this post. What are your favourite things about living in the Netherlands. (Don’t say Tinder as it’s not Dutch). Join the discussion on my Facebook page.