What can you learn from the Dutch

Блог Listen to your broccoli Чему учиться у голландцев

This is my top list of Dutch traits that can be useful. I have learned this after living 10 years in the Netherlands.


Блог Listen to your broccoli Планирование

The Dutch are gurus of planning. At work, this is clear and expected, but in day-to-day life this is something unbelievable. If I start to think about the summer holiday only after I see the sun shining and reminding me of the coming summer, the Dutch start to plan their next summer vacation right after they came back from the current one. That felt like robots to me. Everyone has planners and agendas, notebooks, google calendars with filled-in children vacations, hobbies, family events, personal projects, courses.

Not so long ago a Dutch lady at my dance class said: yesterday I sat down to plan the year and I wanted to know if our dance class will continue on Wednesdays.


10 years ago I looked at people who took out their fat planners and notebooks and start to look for a free date when you ask them for a coffee with amusement. And yes that date could be a Thursday in two months.

Later I realized that there is rationale in this and it all makes sense. I always thought: why plan? Everything will be different tomorrow. And yet I came to an understanding that in most cases tomorrow you will have what you have planned. And if you want to be having coffee with someone in two months, you have to plan it today.

One more reason for all that planning is that the Dutch are very active people outside of working hours. They have a lot of hobbies and activities: salse, local volunteering, courses, workshops, so they are forced to plan. And yes, all these extra activities are one more point to learn from them.


Shake Hands 

Oh, all these uncomfortable moments in the beginning. I was feeling so awkward and confused. I think it took me several months to understand: It is absolutely common for women to shake hands the same way men do. Women do shake hands when introduced, both women and women and men and women. In the culture where I come from women do not ever shake hands, they just smile:).

Do not wear heels 

On the third day of my Dutch life, I needed to go to a wedding party. I glamorously entered this party on a motorbike in a short skirt on high heels. On a bike because we did not have a car, on the heels because it was a wedding and in a short skirt because I had no clue about motor-bikes. I never wore these high heals again. And after five years I threw them away.



Spend and value your time outside 

The Dutch are fond of outside terraces of cafes, their small gardens, any outside activities. Right after something looking like sun appears after the winter, they start to brag about the fact that they already managed to ‘sit outside in their garden’.

Drink wine alone, burn candles and buy flowers, not for romance 

Блог Listen to your broccoli Чему стоит поучиться у голландцев

Maybe my life in Belarus was different or time was different, but we never drank wine just at home with appetizers or just a glass of wine. The wine was always at feasts and parties and it was inappropriate to leave the bottle unfinished.

Burning candles and generally having them at home was not common. Buying flowers in the supermarket just among your normal groceries was double uncommon for me.

Burning candles not for romance but for your own pleasure? Uncommon.

Talk positively about yourself publicly

This needs a separate post! 


Listen to yourself and be aware of your wishes


I never could take this for a reason: ‘I like it, it is fun, I am going to see if it will be fun’. I all the time thought: are we allowed to consider this as a reason? a point? Are all these ‘I like it’ a reason to do something or not to do? It’s work! These are your responsibilities! I was so envious to these people and how many hours of self-reflection I still need to be able to hear what I want.

So how do you like the Dutch?:)


What to buy in Holland

Блог Listen to your broccoli | сувениры из Голландии

What to buy in Holland? A lot of travelers who feel like taking a piece of the country they are visiting home ask this question to themselves.

I am sharing my shortlist for the Dutch stuff. I am not a ‘souvenirs’ person, so things I recommend are normal things that Dutch people also buy in standard Dutch shops like bookstores, Albert Hein (Dutch supermarkets chain), De Bijenkorf (‘Dutch Harrods’).

Stuff from Bookstores

  • “The Netherlands”, book by Charlotte Dematons. This book is amazing and can be stared at endlessly. It’s a book with drawings and in each picture, you can see hundreds of details and stories about the Netherlands. A truck is not just a truck, it is either full of Dutch traditional waffles or it has an image of a famous person of the Dutch literature whose name became a symbol of fair trade for former Dutch colonies. You can also find a visual representation of many Dutch traditions: for example a tradition of swimming in the sea on 1st January.


  • Books for children: these are always nice presents to bring back as they are full of images (called ‘prentenboeken’ in Dutch), so no one has to actually know Dutch to read them. The difficulty is that you have to search good enough not to get a translated book (just because then it loses the point).


  • Diaries: The Dutch are gurus of planning and their bookstores are full of diaries of any possible format. You can always find a notebook with paintings of Dutch artists, interesting quotes, cartoons and you will always remember where and how you started that year.

Souvenirs from supermarkets

My universal advice is if you do not know what, give chocolate or food as a present:

  • Waffles with caramel syrop (stroopwafels) can be bought anywhere and better in a nice colorful can. It is also possible to buy the can separately from waffles. I doubt that whoever gets this colorful can will dare to throw it away after waffles are consumed. And do not forget to educate: the waffle is to be put on the cup of the hot tea so that the waffle will become softer and tastier.


  • ‘Delicate’ chocolate from Albert Hein: with fried corn, with jalapeno pepper, with cocos, with red curry, with rice pieces, with wasabi and strawberry.


  • Douwe Egberts coffee: well, coffee is coffee what is there to say more.

Souveniers from De Bijenkorf

It is very convenient that in the main luxe shop of the Netherlands, you can buy a lot of nice Dutch stuff. So let’s visit the Dutch Harrods, called ‘De Bijenkorf’:

  • A mug from Blond Amsterdam or Pipstudio: Mugs are my weakness and looking for an ideal mug is my favorite challenge. It is even better than looking for a perfect diary.
  • A water bottle  — a very healthy lifestyle, very Dutch, very eco, very bio. Your individual bottle for water that you always have with you and will always remind you of your nice trip.
  • Rituals — body cosmetics with most aromatic smells. These retail chain is growing like mad and is everywhere and come and visit them and see what are they so successful.
  • And the blooming almond by Van Gogh is beautiful no matter where they are printed on, even it is on a shopper bag.