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Coming to the Netherlands and the Eindhoven region

If you're coming to Eindhoven, it's a good idea to prepare well. On the one hand you'll first have to complete a number of formalities. And on the other hand, it's worth finding out more about the character of the Dutch and some of their customs that may appear a bit unusual to outsiders.

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Expat Guide Holland
 

The Dutch, their way of life and their culture

The Netherlands differs in a number of ways from the neighboring countries. Some of those characteristics are amusing, while others may appear a bit strange. Here's a brief summary:

Country of water management
You won't be in danger of getting wet feet in Eindhoven; the city is eighteen meters above sea level. But make no mistake: almost half of the Netherlands would be flooded by the North Sea if it wasn't for the country's coastal defenses of dunes and dikes. The Dutch are noted for their water management skills. And that's not surprising, because the country was struck in 1953 by a flood disaster that cost 1,836 lives. Since then a lot of measures have been taken to prevent a repetition. The most attractive water management project is the Oosterschelde dam, which closes only when there is a combination of a severe gale and a spring tide. This means the normal tidal movements in the Oosterschelde remain intact, so the river's valuable flora and fauna can continue to live as normal.

Climate
The Netherlands has a sea climate. That means the winters are relatively mild, while the summers are usually not too hot. Summer temperatures normally reach between 18 and 25?C, with exceptional levels sometimes reaching over 30?C. In the winter months the temperature is usually around freezing point during the day, with light to moderate frosts during the night. The Netherlands is also a relatively wet country. But it doesn't matter if it's raining or the sun is shining, there's always something to complain about as far as the weather is concerned. Because that's one of the national hobbies in the Netherlands.

Liberal and independent
Liberalism, independence and freedom are regarded as national assets in the Netherlands. That's one of the reasons why the Dutch legal system differs from those of many other European countries. For example the rules on abortion in the Netherlands are less strict than in many other countries. Netherlands was the first country to allow gay marriages. And euthanasia is allowed, provided that a series of criteria of care are observed.

Use of soft drugs not illegal
And: the use of soft drugs is not illegal in the Netherlands. But - and this may sound somewhat paradoxical: it IS illegal to trade in soft drugs (and hard drugs) or to grow or produce them in the Netherlands. There are plenty of countries that don't approve of the Dutch drugs policy. However the average number of drugs users in the Netherlands is lower than that in France, for example, which has much stricter laws in this area.
You can get a cup of coffee in all kinds of bars and cafes in the Netherlands. But if that's what you're looking for, a coffee shop isn't the most logical place. That's because coffee shops are where soft drugs are sold (even though you can also get a cup of coffee there).

Restaurants and bars
Most cafes in the Netherlands are open until one or two o'clock in the morning (except in the beginning of the week), and often even later at the weekends. Alcohol is only allowed to be sold to people over sixteen.
The Dutch are noted for their frugality, or even greed. It's not without good reason that a ‘Dutch treat' means you have to pay for your own share.

Transport: on your bike
Traveling by bike is the way of getting around in the Netherlands, certainly for young people and students. The Netherlands has more bikes (and incidentally also more pigs and poultry) than people. If you're going out, take an old bike or leave it in a guarded bike shelter. Because new bikes in particular are often stolen. And there's not much chance that a bike theft will be solved and the bike returned to its rightful owner.

Food and drink
Dutch cooking isn't regarded as particularly refined, although in recent decades increasing interest has been shown in exquisite cuisine. There are now three Michelin three-star restaurants in the Netherlands. Although the Netherlands is a coastal country, the Dutch don't eat such a lot of fish. One exception is the ‘Hollandse nieuwe', or fresh herring. You pick it up by the tail, throw your head back and eat it whole, together with some chopped onion if you prefer. A lot of mussels and oysters of the highest quality are grown in the Netherlands, although most of them are exported to countries like Belgium.

Visiting
In some countries you're a welcome guest 24 hours a day, and your host or hostess will be offended if you don't stay to dinner. It's not quite like that in the Netherlands. In general, visits are usually made by appointment. And when the day comes, it's customary to take a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine.