A few first impressions of the Netherlands:
- I love how quiet everything is. My living room in Amsterdam is usually about 35 decibels. The metro about 70. Fewer cars and better design go a long way to achieving this. I’m convinced less background noise reduces stress and anxiety.
- Likewise the lack of visual clutter such as advertisements creates a calming feel.
- Your first few months in the country are a weird limbo period: there are a lot of things you can’t do without certain documents that take time to process. Thus getting a bank account, renting an apartment and the basics of moving are tricky and filled with hassles.
- Foreign credit cards aren’t widely accepted and cash isn’t universally accepted. I have plenty of money, but there were times where it was genuinely hard to spend it before I got a Dutch bank card.
- Grocery store food is cheap and high quality. We spend less on groceries than in Ukraine, because many of the things we eat (cheese, nice rye bread, hummus, sweat potatoes, tofu, coconut milk, etc.) are cheaper in absolute terms than they are in Kyiv. Because of that, I’ve lost weight and eat almost exclusively at home.
- Anything requiring labor is super expensive. This includes restaurant food, home repairs and the like. It’s almost the exact opposite of life in Ukraine.
- The tourist center of Amsterdam is another planet from daily life. I still haven’t had any weed!
- I’m growing to like the local beers, even if they were initially a bit sweet for my taste. Gulpener is best of the standard pilsners. Of the Belgian beers: Duvel, Westmalle and Kasteel are all nice — who doesn’t like the punch of a beer with 10% alcohol?
- Even when it’s rainy and cold, kids are outside playing.
- People generally seem very relaxed and friendly. English is universally spoken. I’ve made zero attempt to speak any Dutch (not something I’m proud of), yet have never once had an issue communicating.
- I still have a long way to go: I’m only starting to learn the language, plan to buy a bike this weekend and realize there’s so much ahead.
- Dutch websites alternate from wonderful, modern user experiences (for example: waternet) to the archaic and unusable (essentially every bank save Bunq). Some things modernized very early like the OV-chipkaart, but are annoying now — why do I need the physical card instead of using my watch or phone?
Of course, there’s a lot more to come!