New Year, new country

Culture is an intriguing thing and getting to know the nuances of a new one is always an exciting, and sometimes frustrating, element of being an expat.Here is an overview of some of the biggest differences when it comes to the expat lifestyle in the Netherlands.


When it comes to birthday celebrations in the Netherlands, there are three elements to be aware of – who brings the treat, the party, and the congratulations.

The Treat:In the Netherlands, the tradition is, if it is your birthday you bring the treat. Baking a cake, the night before your birthday might not be how you planned to spend the evening. But from school children to adults, it is the person whose birthday it is that is responsible for bringing in a treat for everyone else to share.

The Party:As a new expat to the Netherlands, one of the first cultural traditions you are likely to hear about is the “circle party”. Named for the incredible phenomenon that seems to happen at Dutch birthday parties where no matter what shape or where chairs are placed, they will automatically be rearranged into a circle by arriving guests. Chunks of cheese, slices of sausage, and eventually pieces of cake will all be served during the evening.

The Congratulations:In the Netherlands it is customary to not only congratulate you on your birthday, but also all your family and friends. If you combine that with the circle party mentioned above, it is a lot of congratulations to a lot of people!



Be prepared to step outside of your introvert shell when living in the Netherlands and brush up on your common Dutch greetings. You’ll be needing them when you enter a public waiting room (e.g. doctor’s office) or shop, where it is quite common to call out a general “Good Morning” to everyone waiting.



It is no secret that the Dutch love their bikes. No matter what the weather, you will find businessmen in suits, mothers with multiple children, and even a sofa or two out on two wheels. The Netherlands does its best to encourage this healthy and eco-friendlier lifestyle, and one of the ways it does that is with the extensive cycle path network across the country.

Tip:To learn more about how the Dutch got their cycle paths, have a look at this video. 



While the British are known for their orderly line making, the Dutch are…a little less so. Anyone who has ever tried to get on or off a bus, train, or tram in the Netherlands will have had the experience of needing to stand firm, elbows out to make it past the crowds. Moral of the story? You can queue in the Netherlands, but it isn’t necessarily going to get you anywhere.


New Year’s Eve

One of the holidays that takes the most getting used to in the Netherlands, is New Year’s Eve. For the majority of the year, buying and setting off fireworks is illegal in the Netherlands. However, an exception is made when it comes to the end of the year. On New Year’s Eve, Dutch residents are allowed to set off fireworks from 6 p.m. on the 31st of December until 2 a.m. on the 1st of January. To call it noisy is putting it mild. For a more in depth look of the firework situation in the Netherlands on New Year’s, have a look at this video.(warning: not for the faint hearted)

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