8 Things NOT to do when in the Netherlands

There are a lot of things that are really cool to do in the Netherlands. In this blog I talked about my top things to do. But sometimes it’s good to know what you should NOT do when you are in the Netherlands.

If you are here for a vacation, permanently or for learning Dutch, here are my 8 things you should NOT do when you are in the Netherlands.

  1. Don’t think that Amsterdam = the Netherlands

You will be surprised to see that there are people who really think this country is called Amsterdam. Not least are musicians or artists who, no matter where they are in the Netherlands say, ‘It’s so nice to be in Amsterdam’.

So once you’ve visited Amsterdam, take the train to see Utrecht, Den Haag, or Groningen – just to give a few examples.

  1. Don’t assume everybody speaks perfect English

Yes, most people speak English.

And when you are in Amsterdam, in public places people might even start by speaking English with you. But once you leave Amsterdam, it’s different. Certainly, out of the tourist areas there are a lot of people who aren’t comfortable with speaking any language other than Dutch.

  1. Don’t stay in the city centre of Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, especially, there is way more to see than the usual attractions. Of course, the Rijksmuseum, the canals and the coffee shops are interesting and worth visiting.

But don’t think it ends there.

Each neighborhood in the city has its own interesting things to see and do.

  1. Don’t think Amsterdam is a city where you can do anything

Amsterdam is the city of sin. There are drugs, women, parties, anytime day or night.

Well, this is not quite the case.

In fact, Dutch people, are just normal people who need to go to work. This image is predominantly for tourists. In the red light district or in coffeeshops you  only get to see people who are NOT from the Netherlands.

  1. Don’t call the Netherlands, Holland

A little reminder: Holland is the name that is used because it’s easier and more marketing friendly, but the Dutch don’t say they are from Holland. The name Holland comes from the time when two provinces, North and South Holland, used to be the most important part.

The only occasion the Dutch call themselves Holland is during a football match!

  1. Learn about Dutch traffic rules and don’t ride a bike if you can’t

You might think you can ride a bike. But before riding it in a big city in the Netherlands, you should be aware this is something different. Dutch people are used to cycling in crowded places, cycle really fast and think you think the same.

Also, don’t block the pathways. If you are new to the country it’s perfectly normal that you might get distracted and end up on the cycle path. But remember that the normal quite polite and liberal Dutch people turn into rude Dutchies on their bikes.

  1. Learn about Dutch culture, don’t just drink Heineken

Yes, together with Amstel, it’s the most popular beer. But there are way more.

In fact, where neighbouring countries like Germany and Belgium used to be known as good beer countries, in the last few years in the Netherlands lots of new beers and breweries have popped up.

  1. Don’t expect to pay with your credit card

Something that is really good to know beforehand, and that even European visitors find strange.

Credit cards aren’t very useful in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is the country where you pay with your pin. Cash is most of the time possible, but there are places where you can only pay with a ‘maestro’. Keep some cash, to get the tasty fried stuff out of the wall or at the market.

Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School