Foreigners talking shit about the Netherlands (the bad side of the Netherlands)

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There are a lot of good things about the Netherlands. But now it’s time to act like a real Dutch person.

It is time to complain!

 Because undoubtedly there are bad things to say about the Netherlands.

“The Netherlands is too small”

It’s not strange that this is one of the things that came to mind with most foreigners. At first, when arriving in the Netherlands, this feature could appeal to you.

‘Wow all those tiny houses, that’s so cute.’

But then you start living here and you experience some downsides to these tiny cute old houses and roads.

When moving to a new apartment, try carrying all your stuff to the third floor!

You’ll notice that the Dutch are tall for a reason. They need every inch of their body to move all the chairs / closets up those tiny steep staircases.

“The tourism takes away the charm of the Netherlands”

The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, are popular holiday destinations. You can see this walking in Amsterdam’s city centre – large groups of tourists everywhere.  

The number of tourists in Amsterdam has increased to 20 million. That’s in the city centre where less than 100,000 people live. A lot of them come to Amsterdam for the stereotypical things like the coffee shops and the Red Light District. Whereas people who’ve been here longer than a couple of days, know that these are not the best things to see in Amsterdam.

“The weather is awful in the Netherlands”

This is something you can join the Dutch in – talking and mainly complaining about the weather. You can keep this rule in your mind:

 “It’s never good”

When the sun shines, you can easily say it is too hot. When it rains, you can complain that it always rains. Snow… you hate it! No one will argue with you.

And also, it’s very, very unpredictable.

Living with the Dutch weather

For many foreigners, it’s the unpredictably of the Dutch weather that makes it sometimes difficult to get used to. It can rain at any time, any day in any season. Sometimes it can even start to snow on a nice spring day.

A mantra when it comes to living in the Netherlands and dealing with the weather is:

  • ‘Slecht weer bestaat niet, welke slechte kleding’

(There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.)

But all these statements about Dutch weather, are they all true?

What is the weather in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has, what is called, a typical maritime climate. The influence of the sea means that it’s not too cold during winter and not too hot during summer. It also means that you can expect showers – and sometimes snow – any time of the year.

Enough complaints about the weather. Now, about the behaviour of the Dutch!

A victim of the Dutch directness

Something that defines the Dutch is their way of communicating. In other words, they say what they think. And this could seem harsh and direct.

In relation to this, the Dutch are known for making ‘hard’ jokes. It is better not to have ‘lange tenen’ (long toes = easily offended) because otherwise you could have a hard time. 

Dutch directness in business

When foreign businessmen come to the Netherlands, things don’t always go well. The Dutch regularly forget to take into account the culture and courtesies of their business partners and may be too direct in meetings and negotiations.

Dutch directness and international students

A survey of three hundred international students by the University of Utrecht showed that 42 percent had heard negative jokes or comments about their nationality. It seems to prove the fact that the Dutch boast about their commercial spirit, but are not always thoughtful of other cultures.

The Dutch cuisine is known for not being the most exquisite in the world. In other words, some might say that typical Dutch food sucks.


Of course, that is debatable, but there are some things that have a specific taste (or are tasteless) I am talking about dropjes, stamppot and the endless supply of boterhammen met kaas (bread and butter with cheese). 

Good to know (and difficult to love for many foreigners) is that breakfast and lunch are pretty much the same in the Netherlands.

The Dutch normally don’t take too much time to eat these meals. And unlike a lot of countries both these meals are served and eaten cold. As cold as bread can get! Because that is what we eat a lot.

This gets a lot of complaints: drop (Dutch liquorice)

What a strange word, drop, right? Drop is probably not liquorice as you know it. Drop is salty, black and strange (according to most foreigners).

The Dutch eat it during the day, just as a snack. Working in an office, you will see cans of drop everywhere. And once you start eating it, there is no stopping. So be careful!

Love it or hate it: herring

The Netherlands is next to the North Sea, so sea food is widely available. Herring is available all year round, but if caught between May and July, it is referred to as Hollandse Nieuwe.

You can eat it two ways. Either as a broodje haring, a white bun with raw herring, or just the raw herring by itself. You eat it like this: you grab the fish by the tail, you tip your head back and bite the fish upwards. 

This is a polarizing Dutch food. You either love it or hate it.

Even the bad things aren’t so bad

In the end, most people coming here think that even the bad things aren’t so bad.

It’s part of being in a new country where things are slightly different than you are used to. Not a bad thing at all!

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