You know how there are some things that feel so right that you get used to them immediately? Like, if you had roommates and then you live alone, maybe it’s harder to go back to sharing your space with someone else after a while. I absolutely feel that way about some things the Dutch do, and I can’t imagine going back to how I would do things when I lived in the US.
I have been in the Netherlands for about seven months now. And because I had already visited the Netherlands several times before, I was familiar with some things the Dutch did differently. So I can say that I had already started seeing the world in a new light within three months of moving here.
For me, it of course starts with getting used to a certain standard of beauty around me. I swear, I’m not a superficial person more generally, but I am totally blind to basically anything else when it comes to pretty buildings, cobblestone streets, and cute little bridges over canals. How could I not be? This is one of my top favorite things about the Netherlands, and yes, within a few weeks, I had forgotten all about the less “put together”, more real and raw cities like New York. Where I’m actually from!
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike EVERYTHING the US does, and I think there are things Americans do well. But today, I want to share how this tiny little country and made life SO MUCH easier for me— by doing these three practical things better!
Practical Thing #1: Minimum Holiday Days
One of the viewers on my youtube channel commented, “in Europe, we work to live. In America, they live to work.” I think that really hit the nail on the head.
It is commonly said and assumed that on average, an American working full-time gets 10 holiday days. That’s 2 weeks of vacation time when you count the weekends.
If you’re an American reading this, do you want to know how many days off is required BY LAW here in the Netherlands? A whopping 20 days. That’s TWICE as much time than what’s average in the US.
And of course, many people in the Netherlands actually get more time off. I have 24 days, which I get the sense is the Dutch “informal” average. My partner has 30 days!
I bet Americans wouldn’t even know what to do with that much time off.
But what many people and much research suggests, is that vacation time helps employees be more productive. I certainly get the sense that when I take time off, I am ready to come back to work and get going!
If you’re curious about reading more, check out this Psychology Today article on how vacation time might boost productivity.
Even though there is good reason to think that taking vacation time is beneficial to employers, I am simply a big fan of the Dutch mindset of work-life balance that doesn’t even care too much about whether vacation time is good for your work.
Because holidays are good FOR YOU.
That is SUCH a different way of thinking than what I was used to back in the US, where even those 2 weeks of paid vacation time can go unused.
What the Dutch have taught me is that work is a part of life. And you need time to the other parts of your life.
Practical Thing #2: Great Public Transport
When I lived in Queens in New York City and had to meet up with friends in Brooklyn, it could sometimes take well over an hour and half to get there, depending on whether you had good luck with public transport.
THIS IS WITHIN THE SAME CITY! Sure, New York is huge, but Queens and Brooklyn are not that far away from each other.
In the Netherlands, I could get to the other side of the country in that time. Partly because the country is small, but this is largely because public transport here is PHENOMENAL.
When I take the train to work, I know exactly what time I’m going to need to leave my apartment, and exactly what time the train I take is going to bring me to work.
I could NEVER imagine that happening in some of the cities I’ve lived in in the US, which includes New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. I would need to leave so much buffer time to make sure that I wasn’t late anywhere.
In New York, for instance, there STILL isn’t an indicator of the time when you can expect the subway to arrive at majority of the subway stops. It’s insane. How did I live like that? Just waiting for the subway to show up. That is, if it even would.
I think Dutch people would throw a fit if that was the world they were living in.
And of course, if you want to go to another city here in the Netherlands, you DO NOT need to plan ahead of time. You can simply show up to the train station, and get on the very nice and comfortable train that will take you there.
In the US, you will need to reserve a seat on the Amtrak, which is expensive, disorganized, and above all, fairly unreliable.
Let’s just say moving to the Netherlands was a MAJOR upgrade in this respect.
Practical Thing #3: Easy Bank Transfers and Online Payment
I am literally laughing out loud as I type this. What the hell, America. Why can’t I just easily transfer money from my bank account to another person’s account?
WHY? This is 2020.
If you’re Dutch and reading this, you probably have no idea of what I’m taking about.
Do you guys know what checks are? I’m asking because I literally have not seen a check since I moved to the Netherlands. In the US, I used to use checks to pay my rent.
Checks. Pieces of paper that I first needed to buy from my bank to then give to my landlord who then also needed to go to their bank to cash that check. That is SOOOOO unnecessarily complicated.
Now in the Netherlands, I simply use my mobile banking app, type in the name of my landlord, and POOF! The money is in his account! Like magic! Or rather, like modern day technology!
Not to mention that the US’s money transfer app, Venmo, is less good than the Dutch Tikkie app.
You can link your bank account to Venmo, but when someone pays you through Venmo, that money doesn’t go directly into your bank account, oh, no. It goes into your Venmo account. You then need to transfer that money from Venmo into your account, which Venmo charges a fee for if you want that transfer to happen instantly.
Many Americans just pay with what we call “Venmo dollars”.
I’m much happier not having to deal with these additional unnecessary details now that I’ve moved into the future. Yes, Americans, there is a solution to the nonsense you have to endure.