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STUDY IN NETHERLANDs - Living in nethErlands


Social Scene     |    Customs and Culture    |    Transportation

Accommodation    |    Health Care    |    Emergency Contacts

Social Scene

Social Conventions: It is customary to shake hands. English is spoken as a second language by many and is willingly used; many Dutch people will also speak German and French. Hospitality is very much the same as for the rest of Europe and America. It is customary to take a small gift if invited for a meal. Casual wear is widely acceptable. Men are expected to wear a suit for business and social functions. Formal wear may be required for smart restaurants, bars and clubs. Evening dress (black tie for men) is generally specified on invitation.

Special Events: For a complete list of events and festivals held in The Netherlands, contact the Press and Public Relations Officer at the Royal Netherlands Embassy or The Netherlands Board of Tourism (see Contact Addresses section). The following list gives a selection of the major festivals and special events:

  • Jan-Feb - Film Festival Rotterdam
  • Feb - Nederlandse Vogelkampioenschappen (ornithological show), Zutphen
  • Feb - Carnaval, Landelijk (and parades throughout the country)
  • Apr - Flower Parade, Bollenstreek
  • May - Dordt in Stoom (steam event), Dordrecht. May 20-23 Breda Jazz Festival.
  • Jun - Holland Festival, Amsterdam.
  • Jun - Cycle Vision (reclining bike event), Lelystad
  • Jun - Pasar Malam Besar (largest Eurasian festival in the world), Den Haag
  • Jun - Poetry International, Rotterdam
  • Jun - Folkloristisch Dansfestival, Bolsward
  • Jun - Fiesta del Sol (international music festival), Eindhoven
  • Jul - Bospop, Weert
  • Jul - North Sea Jazz Festival, Den Haag
  • Jul-Aug - Kwakoe Zomer Festival (multicultural festival), Amsterdam
  • Jul-Aug - Internationaal Folkloristisch Dansfestival, Odoorn
  • Aug - Amsterdam Gay Pride (and Canal Parade)
  • Aug - Grachtenfestival, (concerts given by international musicians), Amsterdam
  • Aug - Preuvenemint (culinary festival), Maastricht
  • Oct - Zuidlaardermarkt (biggest horse and cattle market in Western Europe), Zuidlaren
  • Oct - Amsterdam Marathon
  • Dec - Disney on Ice, Den Haag
Local Customs & Culture

Food & Drink: There are few dishes that can be described as quintessentially Dutch, and those that do fall into this category are a far cry from the elaborate creations of French or Italian cuisine. Almost every large town, however, has a wide range of restaurants specialising in their own brands of international dishes including Chinese, Italian, French, Balkan, Spanish, German, American and British. Indonesian cuisine, a result of the Dutch colonisation of the East Indies, with its use of spices and exotic ingredients, is particularly delicious.

A typical Dutch breakfast usually consists of several varieties of bread, thin slices of Dutch cheese, prepared meats and sausage, butter and jam or honey and often a boiled egg. A working lunch would be koffietafel, once again with breads, various cold cuts, cheese and conserves. There will often be a side dish of omelette, cottage pie or salad.

The most common daytime snack are broodjes (sandwiches) and are served in the ubiquitous sandwich bars – broodjeswinkels. Filled pancakes are also popular. Lightly salted ‘green’ herring can be bought from street stalls (they are held by the tail and slipped down into the throat). More substantial dishes are generally reserved by the Dutch themselves for the evening meal: erwtensoep (thick pea soup served with smoked sausage, cubes of bacon, pig’s knuckle and brown or white bread), groentensoep (clear consommé with vegetables, vermicelli and meatballs), hutspot (potatoes, carrots and onions), klapstuk (an accompaniment of stewed lean beef) and boerenkool met rookworst (frost-crisped kale and potatoes served with smoked sausage).

Seafood dishes are often excellent, particularly in Amsterdam or Rotterdam, and include gebakken zeetong (fried sole), lekkerbekjes (fried whiting), royal imperial oysters, shrimps, mussels, lobster and eel (smoked, filleted and served on toast or stewed or fried). Restaurants usually have table service. Bars and cafes generally have the same, though some are self-service.

Coffee, tea, chocolate and fruit juice are drunk at breakfast. The local spirit is jenever (Dutch gin), normally taken straight and chilled as a chaser with a glass of beer, but it is sometimes drunk with cola or vermouth; it comes in many varieties depending on the spices used. Favoured brands are Bols, Bokma, De Kuyper and Claeryn.The most popular brand in Amsterdam is Amstel. Imported beers are also available, as are many other alcoholic beverages. Dutch liqueurs are excellent and include Curaçao, Triple Sec (similar to Cointreau), Parfait d’Amour and Dutch-made versions of crème de menthe, apricot brandy and anisette. There are no licensing laws and drink can be bought all day. Bars open later and stay open until the early hours of the morning at weekends.

Nightlife: Large cities have sophisticated nightclubs and discos, but late opening bars and cafes are just as popular in provincial towns. There are theatres and cinemas in all major towns. Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan city, with some of the liveliest nightlife in Europe. There are legal casinos in Amsterdam, Breda, Eindhoven, Den Haag, Groningen, Nymegen, Rotterdam, Zandvoort, Valkenburg and Scheveningen (which claims to have the largest in Europe); all have an age limit of ‘over 18’ (passports must be shown).

Shopping: Special purchases include Delft (between The Hague and Rotterdam) blue pottery and pottery from Makkum and Workum, costume dolls, silverware from Schoonhoven, glass and crystal from Leerdam and diamonds from Amsterdam. Shopping hours: Mon 1100-1730, Tues-Sat 0900-1700. In Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other big cities, supermarkets are open from 0800-2000/2100. In large city centres, shops are open Sun 1200-1700. Shopping malls are also open on Sunday.

Note: Bulbs and plants may not be exported except by commercial growers, or by individuals with a health certificate from the Plant Disease Service.





RAIL: The highly developed rail network, of which about 70 per cent is electrified, is efficient and cheap, and connects all towns. Both Intercity and local trains run at least half-hourly on all principal routes. Rail and bus timetables are integrated, and there is a common fare structure throughout the country. NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen (website: http://www.ns.nl) is the state-owned rail company and operates all lines within the country.

Cheap fares: Holland Rail Pass allows unlimited travel in the Netherlands for either 3 or 5 days within a month. Reduced rates exist for senior citizens (over 60), travellers under 26 and children. Every second person travels half-price.Tickets must be purchased from International Rail before travel.
Summer Trip Passes are available between 1 July to 9 September and give two people 3 days of unlimited travel within a period of 10 days for only a single fare. Summer Trip Plus Passes cover unlimited travel on all public transport buses and trams in town and country, and on the underground system in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Tickets cost between €45-72.50.

Euro Passes are available for travel in The Netherlands, or The Netherlands and Belgium. 3-day to 8-day passes are available. The Benelux Tourrail Card allows unlimited travel for any 5 days within a 1 month period, covering The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Inter-Rail passes are also valid in The Netherlands.

Children under 4 years of age travel free on all journeys within The Netherlands. Child’s Railrunner tickets, which cost €1, are available for children aged between 4 and 11 years travelling with a fare-paying adult (19 years or older), and include up to three children travelling with any one adult. Contact the Railway Authority of any of the participating countries for prices and further information.

ROAD: There is an excellent road system. Visitors to The Netherlands may use credit cards when obtaining petrol. The motoring association in The Netherlands is the ANWB (Royal Dutch Touring Club), PO Box 93200, 2509 BA The Hague (tel: (263) 860 249). Bus: Extensive regional bus networks exist. Long-distance coaches also operate between the cities, but costs are generally on a par with trains. Taxi: Taxis have an illuminated ‘taxi’ sign on the roof and there are taxi ranks at railway stations and at various other points in the cities. Rather than hailing taxis in the street, it is more usual in The Netherlands to order a taxi by phone. Taxis should have meters inside to indicate the fare, including the tip.

Car hire: Available from airports and main hotels. All European car-hire companies are represented. Bicycle hire: Bicycles can be hired from all main railway stations, but must be returned to the station from which they are hired. A refundable deposit is required. Driving regulations: Driving is on the right. Drivers should be particularly aware of cyclists; often there are special cycle lanes. There is a chronic shortage of parking space in central Amsterdam, and the rush hours (0700-0900 and 1700-1900) should be avoided throughout the whole country. Parking fines are severe. Headlights should be dipped in built-up areas, but it is prohibited to use sidelights only. Children under 12 years of age should not travel in the front seat. Seat belts are compulsory. Speed limits are 80kph (50mph) on major roads, 120kph (75mph) on motorways and 50kph (30mph) in towns.

Amsterdam: Amsterdam has an extensive network of buses, trams and underground (GVB), with frequent services from early morning to about midnight. There are less frequent services throughout the night at a higher fare. Full information on services (including a map), day tickets and strippenkaart (strip-tickets) can be obtained from the GVB office in front of the Central Station (0700-2230 daily) or the GVB Central Office at Prins Hendrikkade 108-114. Tram: Amsterdam’s 17 tram lines provide a fast, frequent and reliable service, making the tram the best way to travel around the capital. Trams operate from Mon-Fri 0600-2400 (from 0630 Saturday and 0730 Sunday). The tram system (as well as the buses and the underground) enables reasonably quick travel even during the busiest periods of the day. Trams leave from Central Station: 1 and 2 traverse the main canals, 19 takes a route to Museumplein and Concertgebouw and 9 and 14 to the Muziektheater and Waterlooplein market. The Circle Tram operates through central Amsterdam, taking in major attractions and hotels. Underground: Amsterdam’s underground lines all originate at the Central Station and serve the southeastern business district and the suburbs. Trains run from Mon-Fri 0600-0015, from Sat 0630 and from Sun 0730. The GVB is easy to use. Taxi: These are fairly expensive.

Taxis can be ordered by phone or picked up at taxi ranks (Central Station, Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein). Fares are indicated by the meter; a small tip will be appreciated. Car hire: The major European firms, including Hertz and Avis, are represented. Cars can also be hired through most hotels. Parking regulations are quite strict and failure to park in prescribed areas or to pay the parking fee can result in a fine and the prospect of the car being clamped or towed away. Water travel: Canal Buses (every 25-45 minutes between Central Station and Rijksmuseum; children under the age of 5 travel free); Watertaxis (Mon-Sun 0900-0100, carrying 8 to 25 passengers); Museum Boats (departing from Prins Hendrikkade every 30 minutes in summer and every 45 minutes in winter) and Waterbikes (for 2 to 4 people, with a route map provided) are all available. Boat hire: Visitors can hire pedalos (also known as canal bikes) and boats to explore the canals. Bicycle hire: This is an excellent way to travel around Amsterdam, and it seems nearly everyone is doing it. Cycle lanes are clearly marked by white lines – but visitors are advised to watch out for trams, cars and pedestrians. There are numerous companies hiring out bikes.

Rotterdam: The city has excellent bus and tram services and a two-line underground network, which all work on a zonal system. Information is available from the Central Station. Car hire: The major European firms, including Avis, Hertz and other international agencies are represented.

The Hague: The Hague has bus and tram services. Information is available from the Central Station, Koningin Julianaplein. Car hire: Avis and Hertz, and other international agencies, are represented.


HOTELS: The Netherlands has a wide range of accommodation, from luxury hotels in big towns to modern motels along motorways. The Netherlands Reservation Centre (NRC) (Netherlands Reserverings Centrum) can make reservations throughout the country: Neuwe Gouw 1, 1442 Le Purmerend (tel: (299) 689 144; fax: (299) 689 154; e-mail: info@hotelres.nl; website: http://www.hotelres.nl).

Grading: The Netherlands Board of Tourism issues a shield to all approved hotels by which they can be recognised. This must be affixed to the front of the hotel in a conspicuous position. Hotels which display this sign conform to the official standards set by Dutch law on hotels, which protects the tourist and guarantees certain standards of quality. Hotels are also graded according to the Benelux system, in which the standard is indicated by a row of three-pointed stars from the highest (5-star) to the minimum (1-star). However, membership of this scheme is voluntary, and there may be first-class hotels that are not classified in this way. Benelux star ratings adhere to the following criteria. For further information, contact the Netherlands Board of Tourism

  • 5-star (H5): This is a new category signifying a luxury hotel. Amenities include private bath and/or shower, toilet, radio and TV in every room. 24-hour room service. Fax facilities in reception.
  • 4-star (H4): First-class hotels. 80 per cent of rooms have a private bath. Other amenities include night reception and room service.
  • 3-star (H3): Half of the rooms have a private bath or shower. Other amenities include day reception and the sale of tobacco products.
  • 2-star (H2): A quarter of rooms have a private bath. Other amenities include a bar.
  • 1-star (H1): Simple hotel. No private baths, but hot and cold water in rooms.

GUEST-HOUSES: These are called pensions and rates vary. Book through local tourist offices.

BED & BREAKFAST: Not as common a form of accommodation as it is in the UK but reservations can be made online (website: http://www.bedandbreakfast.nl).

SELF-CATERING: Farmhouses for groups can be booked months in advance via the local tourist offices. Holiday chalets, especially in the relatively unknown parts of Zeeland, can be booked through the local tourist office. Bungalow parks throughout the country can be booked through the Netherlands Reserverings Centrum (NRC). Most bungalow resorts offer a full range of recreational facilities including swimming pools, golf and tennis. Prices depend on size, quality of amenities and the time of year. To order a self-catering brochure, call the Netherlands Board of Tourism.

CAMPING/CARAVANNING: There are some 2500 registered campsites in Holland. Only 500 offer advanced booking, the others operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Off-site camping is not permitted. Prices are fairly high and it is often far better value to stay more than one night. A list is available from the Netherlands Board of Tourism and reservations can be made through the Stichting Vrije Recreatie, Scr Broakseweg 75-77, 4231 VD Meerkerk (tel: (183) 352 741-3; fax: (183) 351 234); website: http://www.svr.nl).

YOUTH HOSTELS: There are 34 hostels in various surroundings, from castles to modern buildings. People with a Hostelling International card pay approximately €9.00-13.60 for an overnight stay including breakfast (non-members pay €2.27 more). Information is obtainable from Stayokay (the Dutch Youth Hostel Association/Stichting Nederlandse Jeugdherberg Centrale), (tel: (10) 264 6064; website: http://www.stayokay.com).

Health Care

The standard of health care (and other social services) is very high, with an unusually high proportion of the national income devoted to public health. There is a reciprocal health agreement with all other EU countries. On presentation of form E111 by UK residents (available from post offices or the Department of Health) medical treatment, including hospital treatment, is free; prescribed medicines and dental treatment must, however, be paid for. Further information can be obtained from The Netherlands General Sickness Insurance Fund (Algemeen Nederlands Onderling Ziekenfonds – ANOZ), at Kaap Hoorndreef 24-28, Utrecht, or the local sickness insurance office. Certain strong medicines can be taken to The Netherlands if they are accompanied by a doctor’s prescription. Outside of the EU, The Netherlands has reciprocal health agreements with Cape Verde, Morocco, Serbia and Montenegro, Tunisia and Turkey. All other travellers are advised to take out full medical insurance.

Emergency Contacts
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