Moving to the Netherlands was one of the best things that happened to me. A tiny country like Singapore, the Netherlands is also a very rich country. She is also famous for drugs; which Singapore is infamous for. (Yes, we have capital punishment for drugs in Singapore.)
Read more about Moving to The Netherlands: 5 Local Tips in Netherlands
I have changed my habit and lifestyle since I moved to the Netherlands. Here are 11 things I started doing.
- Holland ≠ The Netherlands
- Hagelslag: The New Drugs
- 1 Hot Meal A Day
- Where Is The G-Spot In Dutch?
- Hema Is Life
- Even When It’s Sunny, It Will Rain
- Fries All Day Every Day
- Weed Is Home
- Dutch Food S*cks
- Recycle, Recycle And Recycle
- Cycle, Cycle And Cycle
Stop Calling It “Holland” And Call It “the Netherlands”
Is it Holland or the Netherlands?
Short answer: the Netherlands.
Long answer: The Netherlands is made up of 12 regions, of which Holland is one. Holland only refers to South and North Holland while the Netherlands refers to the entire country. That includes Limburg, where Maastricht is. (I lived there!) So, I started saying “the Netherlands” instead of “Holland”!
Hagelslag: The New Drugs
From “what are thoseeeeee?” to “GIVE ME MORE!”.
You know those rainbow chocolate sprinkles we ate on cold vanilla ice cream when we were kids? That’s what the Dutch add on their bread. Simply spread a thin layer of butter and sprinkle some hagelslag on them. A perfect way to start the day.
Honestly, I laughed so hard when I realized that it was a “typical” Dutch food. It feels like that is how you con little children into eating their bread. But after finishing a box of hagelslag from Robert…… I. Was. Addicted.
It went from “what are thoseeeee?” to “Drugs? Nah I’ve got my hagelslag”. It was that addictive. Imagine sinking your teeth into a slice of Dutch bread and breaking the tiny sprinkles with your teeth. Allow the richness of the chocolate to sink in as you chew your bread slice with the chocolate sprinkles. In cold winter afternoons, this is my favourite teatime snack. Paired with stroopwafels, of course.
1 Hot Meal A Day
“You eat 3 hot meals in a day in Asia! I’m so jealous”
That is what I remembered when I first arrived in Maastricht. I went on a walking tour and met a Dutch man. We went on to talk about Asia and how he missed the food. Out of the mountains, nature, beaches, food and culture, he missed food the most.
A tasty ceramic bowl of macaroni swimming in a pool of tender chicken breast for your traditional breakfast in Hong Kong, or one of the hot dim sum buns that melts in your mouth on a cold winter day. Asia is all about food.
Typical Dutch Meals
Growing up with eating hot food all the time, I asked him, “So you don’t eat hot food?”. He looked at me like I was a lost alien from planet WeirdoAlert. “We only eat 1 hot meal a day,” he replied.
Slowly, I realized that I was eating only 1 hot meal a day. In Asia, it is common to eat a bowl of rice for breakfast, noodle soup for lunch and hot food for dinner. In the Netherlands, I ate oats for breakfast. I packed my own sandwich or a cold pasta salad for lunch. It was only dinner time when I had more time to wipe out a hot meal. I had turned Dutch.
After returning home, it took me a while to eat hot food more often again. I skipped meals in the first month and replaced them with yogurt, oats and salads. It took me awhile to adjust to the constant hot food, but I prefer a good balance between both.
Having said that, it is extremely easy to get food in the Netherlands. You can always find food everywhere and really cheap prices. You have hot food like Turkish pizza, sausage bread and snacks bars like FEBO or The Doner Company. Cold food is also enjoyable like raw herring.
Finding The G-Spot
“Nijmegen” is one of my favourite words in Dutch. Not only is the word extremely Dutch, I also had some nice memories in that city. However, they do not pronounce “Nijmegen” in the English way. The “G” sounds different. In fact, there is no “G” in Dutch.
“G” in Dutch is said with a hard “khh” from your throat, but you lower your tongue and do not touch the insides of your mouth. That is probably why the Dutch always sound so angry. It is similar, but not the same, to German. You can always tell who is Dutch and who is German from the way they pronounce their words. And “Nijmegen” is probably the only Dutch word I can pronounce right.
Hema Is Life
When in doubt, visit Hema.
Hema is everything.
- Need cheap and nice bed sheets? 5€ at Hema.
- Lingerie and clothes for ladies? 10€ at Hema.
- Or baby clothes? Hema.
- School stationeries? Hema.
- Children books? Hema.
- Batteries? Electronics? Memory stick? Hema.
- Costumes for Carnival, Halloween, Easter? Hema.
- Food? Hema.
- Cooked food? Hema.
- Precooked food? Raw food? Wine? Chocolates? Bread? Fruits? Hema.
- Bicycle lights for 3€? Hema.
You get my point?
Hema has everything. Not only are the products of good quality, they are also cheap! The first thing I visit after a week away from the Netherlands is Hema.
Even When It Is Sunny, It Will Rain
You know they are Dutch when they have an umbrella in their bags, no matter what.
Once, I was cycling home from school. It started with a sunny bright day, and you could see happiness radiate from my face. However, within 4min of cycling, the skies changed into a grey blanket. And once I crossed the bridge, it started to rain. On the way home, it hailed.
I also forgot my gloves. My hands hurt so much from the hail!
It rains way too often in the Netherlands. (Except summer. Summer is too warm.) And no matter how good the weather outside is, always be prepared for rain. I used to have my umbrella on my bike… … until it got stolen by someone. I either have an umbrella in my bag or a fan for when it is too warm.
Fries All Day Every Day
Something I miss most is the fact that I could get thick cut fries anywhere. Piping hot, crispy, chunky-cut fries, fresh out of the fryer. Drizzle some thick white mayonnaise and ketchup over the conical shaped packaging. Dip one of those potato slices into the sauce and put them in your mouth during a cold winter day.
I ate fries way too often. It does not help that I love fries a lot. After coming back to Singapore, I went on a hunt for good fries. I have not found any yet. But when I do, I will be sure to update you!
Ps, my favourite meal with fries is my biggest guilty pleasure.
Marijuana Tells Me I Am Home
You know how you can smell a specific scent that brings you back to a time or moment? My scent is marijuana.
(Yes, it is illegal for Singaporeans to even consume marijuana outside of Singapore)
I always know that I am back in the Netherlands when I am at the train station. Once the train doors open, a wave of burnt herbs enters the cabin. That is the scent of marijuana.
Going back from the train station to my house, the air is filled with fresh floral scent, with a splash of marijuana. It is true that not many Dutch people smoke marijuana in the Netherlands, but the train stations are filled with pot-heads. I can’t help but smile every time I smell marijuana.
Dutch Food S*cks. Make Your Own Food
Greek pasta salad, Asian noodles, baked salmon, breakfast oats, Chinese soup, Korean kimbap, pasta. You name it, I probably cooked it.
They always say that you learn to cook when you leave home. That is not very true, because when I was living in Hong Kong, I did not learn much. Eating out was cheap, and Hong Kong offers a limitless variety of food. The Netherlands was nothing like a food haven.
Imagine brown, squishy mixture of mashed potatoes being dropped onto your plate. Followed by some green boiled broccoli. And perhaps you might fancy a cooked sausage. That is your typical Dutch food. As you can imagine, it is not a very fancy meal.
I started to make my own food because I love colourful food. After mixing and experimenting, I fell in love with cooking. Cooking is easy, and home-cooked food tastes so much better than food outside. After coming back to Singapore, I continued to make my own food, although it is more expensive than buying from outside.
Recycle, Recycle and Recycle
I remember Alex (my housemate) scolding me because I threw some plastic away. As a huge fan of recycling, I even got my family to recycle. We have a paper recycling bin at home. But in the Netherlands this recycling game is on a whole new level!
You recycle paper, plastic, aluminum and glass. (We don’t even recycle glass in Singapore)
There are areas at home where these would pile up, and are then sent for recycling. To add, you are given a cash rebate when you recycle plastic and glass. (I wish we had this system in Singapore.)
Now in my home in Singapore, we have a paper and plastic corner for recycling. Recycling is not a big culture, but if everyone does a little, it is a good change for the world.
Cycle, Cycle and Cycle
I could list out 101 benefits of cycling. Gives you a nice ass, strong legs, reduces pollution, takes you to places, la la la. You know the benefits. What they do not tell you is that cycling is addictive!
After being away from the Netherlands, I’m always excited for 2 things when I am back:
- Cycling (instead of walking)
I was super spoilt in the Netherlands. Cyclists are considered the bosses of the roads – even pedestrians have to give away to them. There are designated cycling paths, cycling routes and even traffic lights for bicycles. I love cycling in the Netherlands.
Back in Singapore, it is just too difficult to cycle. There are no designated paths for cyclists, people do not care about cyclists, and let’s not get started on the hilly roads. I miss cycling, but perhaps not in Singapore. Also, bicycles are insanely expensive!
However, when I travel, my first mode of transportation would be a bicycle. Unless I am in Vietnam.
These are the 11 things that I started doing after moving abroad. What did you start doing differently? Share and comment below!
Trevellers is my way to change the world. Through my stories, tips and lessons learnt, I truly hope to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, see the world and see who you truly are. Travel is more than just taking a selfie. Travel is an adventure, where you can truly become who you are, give you the time to reflect and grow to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.