I moved from the US to the Netherlands. Here are 10 things that surprised me the most.

I’ve lived in the Netherlands for five years.Sara Wegman

  • I moved to the Netherlands five years ago after living in the US my whole life.

  • I already spoke Dutch, but I was surprised by the monthly air-raid sirens and “American” foods.

  • Medicine is incredibly inexpensive here, and I don’t ever really need to drive.

When I moved to the Netherlands five years ago, I thought I knew what to expect.

After all, my parents are Dutch, I spoke the language, and I’d traveled to Holland more times than I could count.

But after living in the US my entire life, there were still a few things I had to get used to once I moved abroad.

The country tests the air-raid siren monthly

When I came to the Netherlands to live with my boyfriend, he took the first week off work to help me get settled.

Imagine my surprise when, on my first day home alone the next week, I heard an air-raid siren go off during lunch. It sounded like something from a disaster movie, and I texted my boyfriend in a panic to ask what was going on.

It turns out that the Dutch test the luchtalarm (air-raid siren) on the first Monday of every month.

These kinds of alarms were used during World War II to warn of bombings or air raids, but they can also be used to warn of other dangers, like inclement weather.

The Dutch have 2 seasons: summer and rain

a child skating on a frozen canal in the netherlands

a child skating on a frozen canal in the netherlands

The canals don’t often freeze over.Sara Wegman

It seems like many Americans believe the country completely freezes each winter — complete with images of the Dutch skating to work on frozen canals. But that’s definitely not true.

Winters here are typically very mild, only snowing an inch or two every year, and the canals rarely freeze over.

In fact, it’s much more common for it to stay gray and rainy from October through March. But summers absolutely make up for it, with long sunny days and sunsets as late as 10 p.m.

Small talk isn’t really a thing here

The Dutch pride themselves on being straightforward, so small talk is much less common here than in the US.

As an American, I’m used to asking cashiers, “How are you?”

If I do that in the Netherlands, I typically get a strange look, or they’ll ask, “Do I know you?”

Even though I speak in unaccented Dutch, I once even had the cashier ask me, “Are you foreign?”

Everything is walkable, bikeable, or accessible by public transport

I have a driver’s license, but I don’t drive in the Netherlands — almost all cars here are stick shift and you really don’t need one to get around.

Everything, from the grocery store to my office to the country’s biggest theme park, is easily accessible by public transportation.

Thanks to bike lanes and accessible infrastructure, it’s even possible to bike from city to city. Some of my colleagues bike 45 minutes to work in the summer for exercise.

Most stores close in the early evening around 5 p.m.

an aerial shot of a crowded street in a town in the netherlands

an aerial shot of a crowded street in a town in the netherlands

You have to get your grocery shopping done early.Sara Wegman

One of the hardest adjustments I had to make when I moved was getting used to different standard store hours.

Coming from the US, I’m used to things being available at almost any time of day. Here in the Netherlands, most stores close at 5 p.m., meaning you have to go on the weekends or during work.

The exception is koopavond (shop evening): One night per week, stores will stay open as late as 8 or 9 p.m.

I don’t have to refrigerate my eggs anymore

One of the weirdest little things for me to get used to was not refrigerating my eggs.

In the US, eggs are washed before they’re sold, meaning they lose the natural protective layer and require refrigeration.

Where I live in the Netherlands, eggs are unwashed, and most people keep them on the counter or in a drawer.

Being 15 minutes away from the beach doesn’t make a city a ‘beach town’

Coming from New Jersey, any town within 20 minutes of the ocean is a beach town, complete with rentable houses and nautical gift shops.

But the Netherlands is so small that many cities are close to the shore and still feel completely metropolitan.

My home city, Leiden, is only a 15-minute drive from the beach, but it’s known as a small, historic city and an academic hub. The seagulls are the only thing that even hint at how close we are to the water.

There are some strange ‘American’ foods here

Boxed pancake mix

Boxed pancake mix

There are a lot of products in the “American” section of the store.Sara Wegman

Another surprise was some of the foods that Dutch people think of as American.

For example, there’s something called Amerikaanse fritessaus (American fry sauce) — complete with American flags on the bottle — which is like a combination of mayonnaise, mustard, and relish.

You’d be pressed to find it in any US grocery store, but because it was created by the Dutch branch of McDonald’s, most people assume it’s American.

In the American section of the store, you can buy hot dogs in jars or cans and even bottled Skittles drinks I’ve never seen in the US.

It’s unusual to ask for your leftovers at a restaurant

In the US, it’s fairly common to ask to take the rest of your dish home if you didn’t finish it at a restaurant.

But in the Netherlands, portion sizes seem to be smaller, so people don’t need to do that as often.

Although it’s becoming more common now, many restaurants don’t even have takeaway containers to box your food if you ask.

Medicine is incredibly cheap, but it’s not free

The biggest cultural difference moving to the Netherlands was probably the medical system.

Dutch healthcare isn’t totally free, but it’s very affordable, with individual insurance costing about $100 a month and covering most expenses.

On the very rare occasion that your medication isn’t covered by insurance, the cost is very low.

I once had a pharmacist apologize profusely to me because my inhaler wasn’t covered. I braced myself for a sky-high price, but she told me my total would be €4 — about $4 USD.

Read the original article on Insider

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