Living in the Netherlands

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Living in a completely different country can be quiet challenging. Thus through this article we will give you an insight into how is it living in the Netherlands. So without any further delays let’s begin.

As the name indicates, the Netherlands –  this small northwestern European nation has around 25% of its surface below sea level and 50% less than one meter above. Bordering Belgium, Germany, and the North Sea, it is one of the most thickly populated countries of Europe. The Netherlands, also called Holland, is one of the most urbanized and wealthy nations in the world. Well-known for its tolerant and liberal ethos, and lively cities which are more than a bicycle ride-away from some scenic countryside. Some of the world’s biggest multinationals, including Philips, Heineken, Shell, ING, KLM, and Unilever, are all Dutch. The Netherlands is more than just the popular notion of windmills and tulips – it is a world leader in areas such as sustainable energy, water management, agriculture, art & design, and logistics.

           Capital: Amsterdam Currency: Euro (€) Population: 17,000,000 Number of Universities: 55

Living in the Netherlands
Bicycles in Amsterdam

Study Cities in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of continental Europe’s most popular places for international study. Home to one of the world’s oldest and most highly respected higher education systems. The QS World University Rankings 2019 includes an inspiring 7 Netherlands universities among the global top 150. The Delft University of Technology stands at 52nd in the world. The University of Amsterdam and Eindhoven University of Technology following closely at 57th and 99th respectively.

If you are planning to go to the Netherlands for your higher studies, then you will most probably be heading to one of the following study cities – 

  • Amsterdam – One of the world’s top 100 cities in the QS Best Student Cities index
  • Leiden – South-west of Amsterdam, a lively student-centric city
  • Utrecht – Utrecht University ranked 109th in the world
  • Groningen – The University of Groningen ranked 120th in the world
  • Rotterdam – Europe’s biggest port &  Erasmus University Rotterdam ranked 179th in the world
  • Maastricht – Cosmopolitan city & a gastronomic hub

By the end of this article you will have an insight into the a) Culture, b) Linguistic Landscape, c) Food & Drink d) Security & Safety; aspects that will give you less of a culture shock when you arrive in the new country for your higher studies!

Cultural Scenario in the Netherlands

The Dutch cities are high on quality of life and tolerant of diverse cultures. In fact, immigrants and ethnic minorities constitute about 19% of the country’s population. Turkish, Moroccan, Indonesian, German, Surinamese, and Polish are a significant part of these minorities. Most of them settle in bigger cities like Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and The Hague. The Netherlands is much famed for its culture of open-mindedness, innovation and international exchange of ideas.

Religious Make-Up

Roman Catholic – 23.6%, Protestant – 14.9%, Muslim 5.1%, other 5.6% (include Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish) and 50.7% do not follow any religion.

Leisure activities in the Netherlands 

Living in the Netherlands
Tulip Garden

As a student, you will have plenty to do and see. Moreover, the country’s compact space makes it reasonably easy to get around and to explore various urban and rural locations. Besides, plenty of leisure activities are present for international students –

  • Firstly, the Dutch festivals – Famous Scheveningen New Year’s Dive, Amsterdam Light Festival, Tulip Festival, and King’s Day
  • Secondly, Clubs & Societies – A Great way to make friends and have a vibrant non-academic life.
  • Moreover, Sports – Cycling can be seen wherever you go. The nation has 15,000 km of bicycle tracks. Football is famous too, and the world’s best players & teams come from the country
  • Also, Clubbing – Nightlife is one of the fantastic parts of student life. Many student communities host regular parties with discounted drinks and transport.
  • Finally, Museums –  Anne Frank’s house, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum are a must-see for all the students. But make sure to book your tickets online in advance.


The Netherlands has a temperate and marine type of weather with cool summers and mild winters.

Campus Culture

People enjoying ice-skating
People enjoying ice-skating

Student life varies from each Dutch university, campus, and student city. In a city like Amsterdam, it is much different from a smaller study city. Here are a few elements of being in a Dutch campus –

  • Student societies or groups are a significant part of campus culture here. It gives you a better look into Dutch culture, community, and language.
  • Volunteering & cooperation is a way of life for Dutch students. They are amongst the most active in Europe. Moreover, volunteering has its benefits – looks good on your CV, you make friends, and you positively contribute to society.
  • Student activities such as parties, events, etc. are carried out during the week while weekends are kept for studying and visiting family.
  • Don’t be surprised if you hear about the board meeting of student associations! Such associations (even if its one related to a leisure activity) are strictly professional and help you prepare for your professional career.
  • You will find most of the big student cities have rather sophisticated student clubs.

Linguistic Landscape

Dutch is the official language. But the good news is that 95% of the Dutch speak English, so it’s easy to communicate in daily life. 

Dutch universities provide the highest number of English-taught programs in continental Europe. Over 2,100 programs are taught entirely in English.

Although English is used almost everywhere in the Netherlands, learning Dutch helps you to get to know the country, its culture, and society at large.

Communication Culture

When in Dutch – land, introducing yourself in a group is a must, as it is considered polite, else you can come across as being rude.

Food & Drink

The Netherlands is a massive exporter of agri-food products. Seasonal foods form the essence of Dutch cuisine.

 Bitterballen, a famous Dutch snack
Bitterballen, a famous Dutch snack
  • Some of the traditional foods are Haring or ‘Hollandse Nieuwe,’ Kroket, Poffertjes, Hagelslag, Oliebollen, Erwtensoep, Stamppot.
  • Vla is a unique Dutch drink made up of yogurt, milk, and cream.
  • Producers of the internationally-distributed Heineken, Grolsch and Amstel beers.
  • Go for a “cheese-shop-crawl”, where you can try a variety of cheeses without paying for it.
  • Amsterdam has a popular Albert Cuypmarket where you will find a broad selection of international food stalls for their famous Stroop waffles (caramel syrup cookies)
  • Surinamese restaurants or bistros are famous for Surinamese sandwiches
  • Do try some Dutch snacks, like bitterballen (crunchy meatballs) or kibbeling (battered codfish), which you can get at every street corner.
  • Students who are living alone spend around 170 EUR/month for food bills from the supermarkets. And if you plan to have lunch or dinner at a budget restaurant, you can get a good meal in around 10 – 20 EUR.


According to the 2018 Global Peace Index, the Netherlands is one of the safest countries in the world, and the law is strictly enforced. It belongs to the top 10 happiest places in the world.

Security, Law and order in the Netherlands
Security, Law and order in the Netherlands

Crime rates are meager, but the main cities have their fair amount of pickpockets, occasional violence, and theft. Best to avoid some parts of Amsterdam as drunk or high tourists are often easy targets for thieves. Let’s take a look at how it fares in different kinds of crimes – 

PICKPOCKETS RISK: There is some pickpocket-related risk in the Netherlands.

MUGGING RISK: The chances of being mugged or kidnapped are low.

SCAMS RISK: Be aware of the “gold ring” tricks, fake petitions, groups of teenagers trying to distract you; and people offering help with your luggage in tourist cities.

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: Transports and taxis usually are very safe 

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: The Netherlands is free from natural hazards.

TERRORISM RISK: Terrorists have not yet targeted the Netherlands, but it is advised to stay alert since other European countries have been targeted.

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: Women can travel very safely.

In Conclusion

Life in the Netherlands is fascinating and buzzing with a big international community of students. High-quality education with relatively lower tuition rates, excellent career opportunities, and plenty of English language courses are among the top reasons why students choose the Netherlands as their study destination.

I hope you will make an excellent choice of heading to this highly cosmopolitan destination!


  1. Sawan

    Awesome writeup

  2. Sanjeev

    Good one.

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