Marta op den Akker


Whether you have visited the Netherlands before or not, living and studying in this country will for sure in some ways be different than what you are used to at home. But no reason toworry, we will  inform you and give you some tips so you’re ready to be a student in the low lands.

1. Everything is planned waaay ahead
Some international students find this great, others find it frustrating: the Dutch like to have everything planned way ahead. Spontaneous planning is not something Dutch students are good at or used to. A hang out, dinner or even coffee is planned a couple of days or even weeks ahead. When Dutchies look in their agenda for the next week they know exactly what they are doing on each free evening. There is even a special website that is used to find the best date available where everyone most people are free. So don’t forget to invite that Dutch friend early to your birthday party if you are planning on throwing one, and don’t be surprised to find an invitation to a borrel (drinks) a week in advance.

2. Cycling everywhere, always
You might have heard that the Dutch cycle a lot. This is not an understatement. As you will quickly find out, it is basically the only way Dutch people move around a city. Whether it is sunny or rainy, you will see Dutchies biking to their classes, to the gym, doing groceries and to the bars for a night out. You should, therefore, get a bike too and learn how to navigate the streets. Soon enough you won’t know how to live without one! Tip: when you get a flat tire, save yourself €15 at the bicycle repair shop and ask your friendly neighbour to show you how to fix it. 

3. The weather
Yes, it rains quite a lot and it’s very windy most of the time in the Netherlands. But that doesn’t stop Dutchies from leaving the house and going about their day. Rain is most definitely not an excuse to cancel on your friends. Most of the time the amount of rain is doable and you will still bike to your destination. Be Dutch and prepared and download the Buienradar app on your phone to check whether and how much it is going to rain in the next couple of hours. And while you’re at it, buy yourself a pair of waterproof trousers in case you have to bike through pouring rain to your faculty. They might not look so fashionable, but it’s much better than sitting in wet jeans the rest of the day.

4. Tikkie
The Dutch are infamous for their thrift. Tikkie is an app and the perfect example of this characteristic. With Tikkie you can easily and quickly send someone or your whole friend group a payment request through your phone for a dinner you, for example, payed ahead (no, this post is not sponsored). Since students generally don’t have a lot to spend, this app is used religiously by Dutch students. It is even used a verb, “tikkie me”, which translate to: “send me a payment request and I’ll pay you back what I owe you”. 

5. Eating habits
So, you just finished your classes and now have some time to lunch before your next class starts. You might be used to going to the university mensa, or bringing a Tupperware with some rice or pasta. But in The Netherlands the most common thing to eat for lunch are sandwiches, cheese or hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) sandwiches being the most popular. Usually you would make yourself a couple and bring along an apple. We even eat it for breakfast. And no, it doesn’t get boring. It’s easy to prepare and you can eat it on the go. However, most university buildings have a cafeteria where you can find soup, snacks and (more) sandwiches. A warm meal is exclusively reserved for 6 o’ clock, dinner time. 

6. Student associations
The Netherlands is home to many student associations, (studentenverenigingen), each one with their own character, activities and traditions. There are religious, cultural and sports associations, and the biggest associations are somewhat similar to the American fraternities/sororities. As you move to a Dutch student city you will find that a big part of the student life occurs inside these associations. They often have their own buildings or bars where they meet weekly. As an international student you might feel these associations are very exclusive, so if your local ESN section is organizing an activity together with an association, it is the perfect opportunity to see what it’s like! There are also “studieverenigingen”, these are associations related to your study field that organize more academic activities, such as readings and trips to exhibitions and museums. Joining such an association is a great way to expand your social circle and to meet local students.

All in all, it is pretty great to be an international student in The Netherlands. We hope you enjoy your time here!