Living in the Netherlands

Sandy beaches, fields of tulips, the polder countryside with its picturesque windmills and breathtaking skies. These are just a few of the reasons why you will fall in love with the Dutch landscape. Add to this our thriving cities with good museums, a diverse and dazzling culture, the multicultural cuisine or the close proximity to some of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

Traditions and customs

Like any other country and people, the Dutch have their own traditions and customs. Since there are many publications that deal with these issues extensively, we will only mention things that are likely to strike you during the first few days and weeks in the Netherlands.

The first time you take a train or bus, you may notice the reserve of Dutch people towards strangers. The seats will fill up in a fashion that postpones proximity as long as possible, and unless they are acquainted, people seldom speak to each other. You may think of this behavior as unfriendliness, but if they see it as respect for the other person's privacy, perhaps combined with shyness, they will no doubt find living among the Dutch more enjoyable. This latter interpretation is probably more accurate.

The Dutch respect for privacy is evident in many ways. For example, famous people can generally go about their business freely in public without being disturbed. Even Queen Beatrix occasionally shops in department stores and her sons were able to live quite normal lives as students.

Despite being reserved, the Dutch have a manner of speaking that may startle you by its directness. The Dutch tend to come to the point quickly. This directness is, in fact, seen by the Dutch as a positive personality trait.

Dutch people meeting each other for the first time do not usually wait to be introduced. They extend their hand for a handshake, make eye contact, say their name, and listen for the name of the other person. However, on social occasions, people who already know each other also shake hands if they have not seen one another for a while. If they are good friends or relatives, they will exchange three kisses on the cheeks.

The Dutch tend to be less competitive than many other Westerners. High value is placed on teamwork and consensus, and a person who tries too hard to excel will be criticised as a 'solo artist' and excluded from the 'group'.

Young people often go to discotheques, clubs, or bars (cafés) to be with friends and meet new people. This is generally done at the weekends, though in many student cities Thursday night is the night for going out.

Food does not play as large a role in hospitality in the Netherlands as in most other cultures. When visiting Dutch people, one will always be offered something to drink, but do not expect a meal unless the invitation specifically mentioned 'dinner'. What matters in the Netherlands is not so much the food, but the companionship.

You might have the impression that the Dutch are serious, mild-mannered people. In fact, the Dutch have a very special style of having a good time. It is expressed in the Dutch word 'gezelligheid', which describes an atmosphere of warm, relaxed congeniality.

Those who live in a Dutch student house, will see evidence of the independent, separate lives people lead. Resources are not generally pooled in such a household: everyone keeps track of his or her own expenditure and consumption. Cooking is done individually, but in many student houses, the students cook and have dinner together. Food placed in a communal refrigerator is considered personal property and if necessary it is sometimes marked as such, e.g., by writing one's name on a milk carton. This deeply rooted independence is something that newcomers must learn to live with.



Breda is with 175.000 inhabitants, one of the 10 largest cities in the Netherlands. With approximately 10.000 students and 150 bars it is a great city for your time abroad. Breda is a sparkling city with a lot of shops, historical monuments and you can feel the hospitality from the inhabitants. Every year there are a lot of events like Breda Jazz Festival, Breda Live, Dancetour, and Breda Barst, all music events, a runningcontest called ‘Singelloop’ and off course Carnival. Breda is also situated in a beautiful green surrounding. The city has a city park and a forest called ‘Mastbos’ in the south.

For more information about Breda, please visit the website of the municipality of Breda. For tourist information, please visit the website of VVV Breda.

Student housing

All student housing in Breda are spread over the city. As general for Dutch student housing, most students have a separate room, but share the general areas (kitchen, bathroom and living room) with other students, being national or international. Housing with only female or male students is rare in Breda. In addition, non-smoking houses are also rare and smoking inside is usually only done after making agreements with your housemates. Sharing your house with other (inter)national students makes your time studying abroad even more fun.

More information

For more facts and figures about the Netherlands, please have a look at the website of the Dutch Ministery of Foreign Affairs:
About the Netherlands

In addition, if you want to learn more about the county, religion, multiculturalism and language have a look at the following website of the Dutch Ministery of Foreign Affairs:
You and the Netherlands