Living in The Netherlands

By StudyLink

Living in The Netherlands

As an international student in the Netherlands, life is exciting with academic challenges, beautiful landscapes, excellent food and the chance to be amongst other students from around the world. In 2011, the Netherlands had an estimated international student population of 76,750. The University of Amsterdam alone has a population 2,000 international students from 80 different countries.

Most institutions offer a wide range of extracurricular activities for international students such as excursions, day trips, sports events, and parties.

The culture is diverse and tolerant. The people are friendly (be prepared to shake hands) and accepting of your origin, ethnicity, or lifestyle. The Dutch are straightforward and direct when speaking but it is not intended to be undiplomatic. They are logical and prefer to get to the point immediately.

The Food in the Netherlands

Dutch cuisine is known for its delicious sausages, cheese, bread, potatoes, sauerkraut, gravy, mustard and red herring. You can also expect to find other international cuisines on offer such as Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Mediterranean, Italian, British and American.

We recommend giving the following Dutch foods a try:

  • poffertjes – small pancakes with butter and icing sugar toppings or a choice of syrup, strawberries or whipped cream
  • Stamppot – a meal on its own with smoked sausage and mashed potatoes and a side of carrots or kale
  • Hollandse nieuwe haring – a traditional meal of raw herring fish served with chopped onions
  • Stroopwafel – a chewy syrup waffle cookie originally from Gouda town perfect with tea or coffee
  • Koffie verkeerd – a special Dutch version of café latte or milk coffee
  • Chocoladeletter – Dutch chocolate candy in the shape of a letter
  • Patat – Crispy and thick French fries served with mayonnaise
  • Limburgse vlaai – a light fruit pie that is flatter than usual almost like a waffle
  • Ollibollen – deep fried dough balls with currants or raisins with icing sugar on top usually served during special holidays
  • Bitterballen – deep fried balls made of chopped beef, flour, herbs, butter, broth, spices and covered with breadcrumbs served with mustard dip

The first 2 meals of the day are light with bread, fruit, and a variety of dairy products while dinner is the heavy meal. Most restaurants close at 10 in the evening while bars stay open until late or early morning.

Places to Visit While in the Netherlands

A student on a budget has no reason not to travel around during his or her free time. There are many places to see and appreciate that will cost you no more than 1 Euro. As long as you have a bike or are willing to walk, we recommend visiting the following places:

  • The Canal Ring – a UNESCO World Heritage site that is over 400 years old
  • Albert Cuyp Market – Amsterdam’s largest street market
  • Begijnhof – a secret courtyard in Amsterdam hidden by a wooden door where upon passing through this inconspicuous door, you will find 14th century houses, old churches, and lovely gardens.

If you are willing to spend a bit more, there are more attractions to visit like the Afsluitdijk which is a 19 mile causeway that connects North Holland to the village of Zurich in the province of Friesland. It has a halfway lookout point where one can enjoy the vista on both sides of the barrier.

Of course, visiting Amsterdam, the capital city, is imperative because of the many museums, shopping areas, markets, and cultural experiences to be enjoyed. A trip to the eastern side of the country will take you to the city of Arnhem where the famous Battle of Arnhem took place during WWII.

Other attractions include the Aalsmeer Flower Auction, the Royal Palace, day and night boat tours, food markets, and the Corpus Experience museum called by many as the “most awful museum in the Netherlands” because it takes you on an intimate journey of the human body.

You might also want to tour factories and plants like the Delft for its porcelain, Gassan for diamond trading, and the town of Gouda for cheese. If you would rather enjoy outdoor activities, there are places to visit like the city of Haarlem, Hoge Veluwe National Park, the town of Maastricht, Madurodam with its display of miniature Netherlands, Rotterdam – the second largest city in the Netherlands, Leiden  – the birthplace of Rembrandt, Kennemerland National Park, Keukenhof Gardens, the Delta Works project, Wadden islands, and The Hague where the International Court of Justice can be found.

Getting Around Netherlands

The average daily Dutch commute covers 30 kilometers – or one hour of travel. More than 60% of road use is by cars while 27% use bicycles, 5% public transportation, while the rest like to walk.

Cycling is very popular in the Netherlands and there is a tremendous amount of support for cyclists such as bike-friendly roads, signposts, lights for ride riding, parking, and traffic lights for cyclist. The Netherlands is the world’s most bike-friendly country in Europe alongside Denmark. Surprisingly, bike helmets are not mandatory.

Public transportation is available via trains, buses, subways, ferries, and taxis. The rail network has 4 main stations located in Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and Amsterdam. All stations have or are currently undergoing renovations but are operational.

There is an extensive subway system in all major cities including metro lines or light rail systems known as fast tram that extend to urban areas. Since most local people understand and speak English, there are rarely any problems asking for directions or assistance.

The Netherlands has several airports to facilitate travel by air, including the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol which is one of the largest airports in Europe. The Port of Rotterdam was, until the early 2000’s, the world’s busiest port and regular ferries travel in and out of Holland.

Find out more about international education in the Netherlands.

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