I know what you’re thinking— everybody loves sunny days! Well, but not like the Dutch. When the sun is out, so are the Dutch. I don’t think they understand that they still have the option of staying at home even when it’s not raining.
Most days in the Netherlands are rainy and cold, so I get why the Dutchies want to make the most out of every ounce of warmth and sun that they can get.
As an American, I think I’ve taken my sunny days for granted. Us Americans don’t have the same sense of urgency as the Dutch. I’ve noticed that in my four years of spending time here in the Netherlands, and now I’m properly experiencing it as an expat living in Utrecht.
But even though it rains in the Netherlands for most of the year, it seems like the Dutch have built their tiny country around the few days of warmth and sunshine that they get during the year.
Are the Dutch optimistic or what?
In the past four years that I’ve visited the Netherlands, the one thing that I’ve noticed is how much the Dutch like being outside. When the sun is out, so are the Dutch. And I’m not talking about just walking the streets or on the beach, like most of us humble folk from other parts of the world.
The Dutch have figured out way more creative ways. You will find Dutch people out in…
Cafes. Or, more accurately, outdoor cafes, known as terrasjes in Dutch. If you’re in Amsterdam, forget trying to get a seat outside on a nice day. You’ll have to get in line and probably elbow somebody to make that happen.
Dutch people WILL take breaks during their work day to sit at a cafe and drink some koffie verkeerd “coffee wrong” (essentially a flat white). Along with a side of Dutch apple pie of course. Which, in the Netherlands, they just call apple pie. Isn’t that crazy?
The other thing that Dutch people seem to love to do a lot is to go to a park. I noticed this when I lived in Amsterdam, and this is the same in Utrecht. Again, Americans like to go to parks too, but it’s really not a regular thing for us. First of all, parks in the city for us are few and far in between. Second, if you live in the North East of the US in cities like New York, D.C., or Philadelphia, you’ll find that the weather is always too hot or too cold.
So going to the park in the US, it happens on occasion, but the Dutch have really made it into a THING. Dutch people will grab a few beers, some cheese, and a picnic blanket and they’re all set. I have never fully enjoyed my outdoor time in the city as much as I have since I started visiting and living in the Netherlands.
Also, Dutch parks are gorgeous!
And of course, when the sun is out, the Dutch LOVE to bike and be outside while biking. Now, it’s one thing to find the Dutch biking to work everyday, but it’s a whole other thing when you’re sharing a bike path with 50 Dutch people on race bikes speeding past you with the swift eagle-like movement that only comes with years of living and breathing bikes.
Do you get the picture?
But seriously, many Dutch people own more than one bike exactly for this reason. They have their regular omafiets (literally grandma bike) for commuting short distances, and then they have their race bikes (racefiets in Dutch). That’s how there are more bikes than people in this tiny country of 17 million people.
Dutch towns and cities are also pretty ideal for biking between them. Last week, for instance, my girlfriend and I biked to a park around a castle in between Utrecht and Amsterdam. Because it was sunny! And we met up with a friend of hers from Amsterdam who biked to meet us halfway.
From Utrecht, where we live, you can bike to a couple of little towns or cities like Soest (village), Baarn (town), and Amersfoort (city). All of these are within an hour and half biking distance. If you’re Dutch, you could probably get on your race bike and be there in an hour.
I think biking for pleasure like this is more of a niche thing in the US. As a fairly inexperienced biker, this was something I had to get used to here. I may have biked to a park once when living in Philadelphia, and I remember people thinking I was “extreme” for doing that. And it must have only been a 45 minute bike ride to this park. My friends would normally take an Uber there.
Not the Dutch. They consider 45 minutes a normal biking distance that they could easily do on a daily basis. And biking for pleasure and exercise, it’s really something everyone does, because again, everyone deserves to enjoy their outdoor time in the sun.
And if this didn’t give you enough of an insight into how much the Dutch love their sunshine, their reaction to the coronavirus lockdown should. When the Dutch were on lockdown for COVID-19, they were DEVASTATED to be wasting their beautiful sunny days indoors.
But because the lockdown in the Netherlands didn’t force stores to shut and people were still allowed to go shopping here, the clever Dutch did something really interesting. They started bringing the outdoors to their homes! While many businesses were unfortunately suffering while people were staying indoors, the plant shops were busier than ever!
My girlfriend Sara and I are also part of this trend. At some point, visiting the plant stores got to be a little unsafe because they were so busy, so we decided to order some plants online. When our plants arrived yesterday, the same company also brought plants for the rest of the building. Literally everyone had the same idea.
Now we just spend more outdoor time on our roof terrace. Which brings me to another way in which I realized how much the outdoor space was valuable to the Dutchies— balconies, roof terraces, and gardens. Even in big cities, I’ve noticed that many apartments come with at least a small outdoor space, like with a balcony that can fit two people.
In the US, many apartments don’t have an outdoor space, period. People should be happy to even afford to have some space INDOORS in crazy expensive cities like New York, Boston, or Washington D.C. Not here. Access to the outdoors is right, and informally, about 70% of the people Sara and I know here in the Netherlands have some kind of balcony or garden in their city apartments.
Do the Dutch know how to live life or what?