Netherlands, I Hate You / I Love You

illustration of woman biking along Hoge der A bridge Groningen
Illustration by Jessica Araus

Some people are stayers. They live their whole life in the same place they were born/grew up. But that’s not me. I’ve always been attracted to foreign languages and culture, and one of the things I have always wanted to do was to live in another country. It’s not that I don’t love Mexico (my homeland), but for me, living in the Netherlands was equal to living my dream life.

In the first year, everything was magical. I dedicated my time to exploring my new city (Groningen), and I stuffed my mouth with suiker brood (sugar bread). So many things were new to me. To begin with, I had never seen snow. I will always remember the first moment I got out of the train at Central Station. I grabbed the snow from the ground, threw it in the air, and jumped with joy like a child. I also had never seen a dishwasher before, and I never had a vacuum cleaner in Mexico.

The second year, the novelty started to wear off. I had tried all the cheese you can imagine, and by then, I knew how to ride a bike without hands. So, I focused on my career and enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Groningen. Six months later, I quit. I just wasn’t committed and in love with the studies. So, I took a break from university, and I went down the path of entrepreneurship.

During my third year, I was depressed for three months. In fact, it was more like a year. I was in such a dark place. I looked fine on the outside, but inside, I was dying slowly. There was not much left of the young woman who had once moved to a first-world country with a bunch of hope and dreams. I fantasized about going back to Mexico.

flying to mexico illustration

Someone once told me that she was able to adapt in three years. It wasn’t like that for me. After three years of living here, I still had feelings of resentment towards this country. It took me a long time to be able to call this country home.

The fourth year was an interesting one. I was as bipolar as the Dutch weather. One day I loved it here, and the next I was ready to pack my bags. For me, it was the hardest year because I stood somewhere in the middle. I didn’t really want to go back to Mexico but staying felt daunting. One thing I knew for sure was that being here was the result of a series of choices and actions I had made in the past. I personally contributed to getting my Dutch residency. I even went through a long examination period, before and after moving here. (Inburgering, anyone?)

One day, it just hit me. I was behaving like a victim when there was no one to blame. So instead of drowning in my own pity, I decided to make the most out of this beautiful country. But even though I’m finally settling in, there are still some things I hate about the Netherlands:

1. The weather. Do I even have to explain? I hate the Dutch gloomy weather. I also hate to look like a raccoon because my mascara has run all under my eyes due to windy/rainy weather.

2. Cycling. This one might surprise you, but I’m not one of those folks who every time they’re riding their bike, they’re the happiest. Don’t get me wrong. I do love biking when the weather is nice. But that isn’t the case 90% of the time. That being said, I hate biking when it’s windy, snowy, or rainy.

3. The boring, flat landscape.

4. “Mexican-Dutch” food. I hate that the Dutch have a poor concept of Mexican cuisine. Can someone please tell them that hard shell tacos aren’t real tacos? And that you put cilantro, onion, and un chingo de salsa (a whole lot of sauce) in your taco instead of lettuce, grated cheese, and/or sour cream? I also hate when people throw some corn or beans in a dish and claim it Mexican. And don’t get me started with Mexican restaurants: the food is pricey and rarely authentic.

5. How far it is from the American continent. I hate that the Netherlands is so far from Puebla (Mexico) and California (the U.S), two of my favorite places in the world and where my family and best friends live. Not to mention how expensive it is to fly there.

6. Crazy fireworks before, during, and after New Year.

That being said, there are more things I LOVE about the Netherlands than I hate.

1. My partner. I love the Netherlands because here, I met the love of my life, who is the sweetest Dutchman on earth.

2. Growth. I love the Netherlands because it made me leave my comfort zone, and I believe that’s the path to self-growth. I have also become more resilient.

3. Languages. I love that I was able to improve my English, and I added a new language to my arsenal (Dutch). I feel like a badass when I switch languages. Being able to speak (and write) fluently in three languages is a gift and a superpower.

speaking multiple languages

4. I love the Netherlands because it makes it right. I have known little to no corruption while living here.

5. Health insurance. In contrast to many other countries, health insurance in the Netherlands is mandatory, and the government is responsible for the accessibility of it. This means everyone has access to good quality health care, which makes life so much more enjoyable.

6. I love that it feels safe.

7. I enjoy the seasons of the year much more. I used to only have flats in my wardrobe, but living here has taught me to spice things up. I can now enjoy the snow once a year, and I appreciate sunny days. Also, back in Mexico, I wasn’t really “a flower person.” I’ve come to love flowers, and I treat myself to some now and then.

pink tulips illustration

8. Traveling. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is only two hours away, and it connects us to many other wonderful European countries. I’ve been able to travel to Spain, the U.K, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and more.

9. Coffee. The Dutch are coffee drinkers. So, it’s likely that you’ll be offered coffee or you’ll find a coffee machine wherever you go. If you’re a coffee lover like me, hearing the words Koffie? or Koekje erbij? is probably music to your ears.

10. People. I have met people–Dutch and from other nationalities– who have been kind to me and have made my world a better place.

11. Dutch traditions and food. I love Sinterklaas, pepernoten, and oliebollen, and I can’t imagine my life without them.

oliebollen illustration
Oliebollen (fried dough balls)

12. Organization. Contrary to Mexico, here in the Netherlands, you can’t just drop by a friend’s house just because you happen to be in the neighborhood. I mean, you can, but that’s not how the Dutch work. So, if you ask a friend or relative to meet for coffee, they’ll probably check their agenda first. Then, they’ll reply with “Volgende week/maand?” (“What about next week/month?”) At first, this lack of spontaneity bothered me. But with time, I’ve come to appreciate it. Keeping an agenda helps me organize my week better, and I encounter fewer interruptions when I’m working from home.

13. Dutch canals.  No matter how many times I’ve walked/biked along Groningen canals, I NEVER get tired of them.

When I think of settling down, the Netherlands ranks first. I want to grow old and raise my children here. If I could go back in time, I would still move to the Netherlands without a doubt, because in the end, it all has been worth it.

If I could go back in time, I would still move to the Netherlands without a doubt, because in the end, it all has been worth it. Click To Tweet

At the time I’m writing this blog post, I’m feeling satisfied with my life. I’ve developed attachment to this place and things are falling into place. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while, and soon, I’ll be getting my Dutch citizenship!

UPDATE: I became a Dutch citizen and got my Dutch passport in April 2021, yay!

It all comes down to changing your perspective. Like Paulo Coelho says:

“You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.”

Or in Wayne Dyer’s words:

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Click To Tweet


What are some of the things that you love and hate about the place where you live? Tell me in the comments!

Author: Jessica Araus

Jessica Araus is a mixed media artist and illustrator living in the Netherlands.

20 Replies to “Netherlands, I Hate You / I Love You

  1. Hola Jessica!
    Tambine soy Mexicana, y vivi en NL muchas años. Pero luego me mude a Belgica, y fue ahi donde you tuve una experiencia similar a la tuya! Los retos de vivir en el extrangero…especialmente en lugares de tanto frio, y no me refiero al clima!! Gracias por compartir tu hisotira!

  2. Marvelous article Jessy. I am in shock about what I have just read because I thought everything there in the Netherlands was as sweet as honey. I must declare I admire you for your courage and commitment, for being brave and leave everything behind in order to follow your dreams.
    I wish I were as courageous as you are… I hope to visit England one day… Greetings

    1. Thank you for your kind words Antonio. But what a coincidence, I also admire you for your commitment. You are a role model for your students. I hope you get to visit England soon my friend! And if you ever come to the Netherlands, come visit me in Groningen! Greetings back. 🙂

  3. LOVED this post, Jessica, especially the illustrations! Also appreciated what you wrote about the Dutch making plans ahead of time for coffee/connection instead of “just dropping by.” Formal, maybe, but also more respectful.

    I split my time between two nearby cities in New England (Boston and Providence), and while I do daydream about moving somewhere warmer, I also love the pre-Christmas snow 🙂

    1. Thank you Camille! I loved the illustrations too. I’m planning to make them into postcards! You’re right, it is more respectful to make plans ahead of time. Except for the delivery man. He can drop by whenever he wants.
      I have the idea that Boston is beautiful in the wintertime. I’ve seen it in movies, and it always gives me a fairy taley feeling. And I just googled Providence for images, and it looks like a nice place too! 🙂

      1. Wow, this was an inspiring post! I just recently moved to another country as well and am just getting settled. There were times I also felt depressed and cried when I was alone, but I shifted my perspective and am feeling more hopeful and happy now! The drawings are so cute, btw!

        1. I’m glad you found my post inspiring Kathleen! Moving to a new country is challenging and rewarding at the same time. I’m happy you were able to change your focus and you’re feeling more hopeful now. 🙂 Enjoy your new life/country!

  4. Hola Jessica, Gracias por compartirlo, tremendo artículo; te felicito; para mi esposo va ser muy informativo porque me doy cuenta qué viviste también mi experiencia, se parece bastante, Me llamo Fanny y vivo en Holanda 28 años y no importa en qué tiempo llegaste siempre vivimos la misma experiencia.
    Él artículo que ma me gustó fue el número 12 ! yo quería ser espontánea pero nunca pude?? muchas gracias y muchas suerte! esto va ayudar a muchos inmigrantes! Puedo copiarlo en mi grupo?
    Fanny Kramer

    1. Hola Fanny. Me da gusto leer que te hayas identificado con mi artículo. El punto número 12 es uno de mis favoritos también. Yo creo que iré agregando más puntos conforme me vaya acordando jaja. La lista ya es larga, pero no acaba ahí. Y por supuesto que puedes compartir el artículo en tu grupo.
      Muchas gracias por leer. Saludos!

  5. Gracias por compartir tu escrito. Me ha encantado y es maravilloso.
    Efectivamente asi sea de turismo corto estos paises por su clima su calidad de vida su infraestructura generan impacto en todos. Igualmente mi estadia en todo el invierno fue brutal horrible sinembargi tu nos compartws lo de cohelo: cambiemos de chip y mentes abiertas yo volveré y me encanto

    1. Hola JEHC. Así es, todo depende de como veamos las cosas. El ivierno puede ser muy duro, pero también muy bonito. Yo amo los mercados navideños y la navidad en Holanda. Y estoy de acuerdo que la calidad de vida y la infraestructura aquí es buena. Además de que este país le abre sus puertas a todos. Gracias por dejar tu comentario. Saludos y que estés muy bien!

    1. I agree with you Amanda! This is such a peaceful and healthy country to live in. And regarding the weather, well, the Netherlands is full of surprises. This winter, for example, we didn’t have snow in Groningen. And it hasn’t been that cold. Thank you for your comment!

  6. Hoi Jessica! Soy colombiana y siento lo mismo que tu, pero lastimosamente tuve que irme de Holanda y extraño tooooodo menos el clima. Aprendí mucho y sigo poniendo en práctica y cultivando en mis 3 hijos esas cosas que nos hacen tan diferentes como la organización y la honestidad,nuestros países serían otra historia si la gente fuera consciente de esas virtudes. Llorando mis ojos recuerdo ese segundo hogar e iré de visita cada vez que pueda, un pedazo de mi corazón se quedó allí. un abrazo

    1. Hola Edna, gracias por tu mensaje. Te entiendo totalmente. Yo creo que el clima es lo último que se extraña jaja. Me da gusto que sigues cultivando los valores de acá. Espero muy pronto puedan visitar Holanda tú y tus hijos. Te mando un abrazo fuerte hasta Colombia. <3

  7. Wonderful post! I admire your courage in moving across the globe to a strange country – I’ve sometimes fantasized about doing that, but it seems so intimidating. I love your honesty about how it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, either, but that you found a way to shift your thinking to see so many more positives than negatives. I need to try that with my current residence in Texas – after living here 16 years, I’m still stuck where you were in year 3…

    1. Thank you Susan! Moving to a foreign country is definitely intimidating. But eventually, you get used to it. I have to confess that I still fantasize about moving somewhere warm, like California in the U.S. for a year or two. Who knows, maybe five years from now I’ll give my American dream a try. For now, I’m super happy to call the Netherlands home. I love it here!

      When you change your perspective or focus, it feels like suddenly waking up from a dream. You feel like you belong no matter what the weather or the environment is. I also believe that something that has helped me adapt to this country is my sense of purpose. Having multiple creative endeavors makes me feel alive. I hope you are able to see the light in Texas very soon my friend. Try seeing it with different eyes. Sending lots of love to you.

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