Dutch Healthcare: how to survive on paracetamol and prayer.

I once published the following MEME about the Dutch healthcare system.

While a lot of expats agreed with it, some people vehemently denied that it bore any relevance to their experiences of the medical system in the Netherlands. Today, we have a guest blog post by an expat lady about her own experience with the Dutch healthcare system.


The Dutch healthcare system an expat ladies experience

‘Help!’ I screamed as blood was dripping down my wrist. ‘I think I need to go to ER’ I said, slightly pale as I am seriously afraid of blood, even, or perhaps especially my own.

Being a silly expat, I decided to wear heels to work (I know, I know. I have bought a pair of white sneakers since) and as I was taking a turn while carrying my lunch, I slipped and landed hand first in shattered glass. So I called 112. A very angry lady picked up.

Me: ‘Hello, do you speak English?’

Operator: (exhales, annoyed): ‘ Yesh, this ish emergency number’

Me: ‘Yes, I just fell into the glass and there is blood everywhere…’

Operator: ‘If it’s just a cut, you need to go to your huisarts’(Doctor)

Me: ‘Ok, but…’

Operator: ‘Thish ish an emergency line, call your huisarts, goodbye’


She hung up.

Dutch ER worker shouting on phone

Kut expats!

At this point I am not looking at my hand anymore, I don’t want to faint. I call my huisarts.


Receptionist: ‘‘There are no more spots for today’

Me: ‘But this is an emergency, I am losing blood and I think the cut is quite deep’

Receptionist (now pissed off): ‘FINE. You can come in an hour’

Dutch healthcare doctors assistant arguing on phone with client

How do I know you’re not just pretending to be ill?

I was so confused and so embarrassed after being talked down to, I wrapped my hand in a kitchen towel and… took a tram to see the doctor. At this point, it’s been over 45 minutes.

I felt like I’ve just been in a street fight, casually jumping on a tram while feeling warm blood still running down my wrist. Rather than worried, I felt embarrassed: I hope the people around me don’t mind my hand is basically falling off. I hope I am not ruining anyone’s day.


I chilled in the waiting room, thinking: what if my hand got literally chopped off? Would I still need to call my huisarts? What sort of magic powers does the operator have to know how serious the injury is?

Finally, it was my time.

The doctor was 25 (At best), wearing white Nikes and a scrunchie. She was 100% an Amsterdammer.

She cleaned the wound and said:

‘Well, the cut is very deep, you’ve reached the bone. But I can’t stitch it anymore, it’s been too long. Why didn’t you come in earlier?’



And so, I was prescribed paracetamol for the pain and prayer to make sure there is no infection.


Next time I hurt myself, I will make sure to check my huisarts’ schedule first to avoid being told off and avoid having an ugly scar.


No patients were hurt during the writing of this guest blogpost by Maja Podlesna, @meanwhilein.places   majapodlesna.com.