Whether you moved to Europe recently or have been living here for quite some time, traveling around and soaking up the local culture is not only fun but also important. By understanding the local culture you’ll be able to get by better as you navigate your life in your new home.
When and where should you shop? How can you manage your finances in Europe and in India? Can you visit the local museum for free? Where do most Indian expats in Europe live? Are only part of the questions you’ll get answers to once you get to know the local culture a bit better.
Venture into the city and around
Definitely start by strolling around the best spots in Amsterdam and familiarizing yourself with the three concentric canals encircling central and northern Amsterdam. You’ll be able to spot some of the city’s gems like the Floating Flower Market, the EYE Museum (get there via a FREE Ferry), NEMO Science Museum, Anne Frank Museum, Magere Brug, Westerkerk, etc.
Unique spots and cultural centers exist in almost every Dutch city alongside lovely parks and gardens, which can be found in the vicinity of all the central locations. For example, some of my favorite spots in Amsterdam include Vondelpark, Sarphatipark, and the beautiful NoorderPark.
Also, annually around the months of April and May, Spring emerges, making the Keukenhof Gardens and the Tulip fields on the Flower Route (a popular road trail) the most naturally colorful display across Europe. You are guaranteed to be mesmerized by all the colors and varieties of Tulips, Hyacinths, and Daffodils, which are always a sight to behold.
Pro tip: Be sure to charge your smartphone and vacate space on your phone as you are probably about to take breathtaking and colorful photos.
Put your swimsuit on!
Turns out there are many beaches around the Netherlands. These are usually filled with people, especially during Summer. The most popular beaches are probably Bloemendaal aan zee, Zandvoort aan Zee, and De Scheveningen, which are almost an hour’s drive from Amsterdam.
Pro tip: Bring your own food and alcohol. The cost of the most elementary items is usually extremely high in these places, not to mention the cost of ordering in a cafe or restaurant.
The Netherlands is also very popular for its beautiful islands. The Texel Island is probably the most popular and is a fun spot for sky-diving, its beaches, lighthouse, and more.
If you’re not that into the beach, the Netherlands also offers beautiful locations such as Giethoorn, also called the Venice of the Netherlands, and the Waterland district in the North. In Waterland, you’ll find picturesque small towns that are mostly famous for their cheese varieties and ports. If you’re into pottery, visit the Delft region, popular for its blue-white Delft pottery.
Party people – this one’s for you
In Amsterdam, you’ll find every possible party option starting from pub crawling to extravagant nightclubs. In Amsterdam, go to the buzzing nightlife hubs in Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein to find the best party in town. Some of the most popular pubs and nightclubs include Melkweg, Sugar Factory, and Escape.
To catch a glance at the mesmerizing Amsterdam skyline, be sure to have a drink at one of the city’s rooftop bars such as the Sky Lounge, or simply go to A’dam Lookout, both are right in the center of Amsterdam.
Additional thrilling attractions, albeit different in character, include Europe’s highest swing at the A’dam Lookout, and the famous Holland Casino.
Visit the local museums
If you truly want to understand a country’s source of pride, visit the local museums. As of 2018, there are over 1,000 museums in the Netherlands alone, most of which are located in Zuid-Holland.
But let’s start with the basics. The top three museums you should visit are undoubtedly the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the National Maritime Museum. In my experience, each museum will take up all of the day.
I recommend buying a Museumcard for free/discounted entries to museums around the Netherlands. The Museumcard, priced at €64.90 for adults and €32.45 for youth (up to the age of 18), enables free entry to more than 400 museums around the Netherlands and is valid for a year from the date of purchase.
There’s always an excuse for shopping
In most European cities, you’ll find stores for everything necessary (and everything that is definitely unnecessary) in the city center.
When I think about shopping, I always imagine myself walking down one of the nine main shopping streets of Amsterdam, “De Negen Straatjes,” as the Dutch like to call it. In these picturesque streets, you can find anything that’s fashionable and luxurious including well-known brands such as ONLY, ZARA, BERSHKA, DESIGUAL, UNIQLO, H&M, MANGO, NIKE, and PRIMARK.
Pro tip: The best time to shop in Europe is during the Summer and Winter SALE seasons: June-August and January-March.
If you prefer shopping online – whether due to COVID restrictions or just because you want to, there are many local stores you can shop at such as Wehkamp.nl, bol.com, aboutyou.nl, and zalando.nl to name a few.
To make your adjustment period a bit more relaxed, I recommend reaching out to your local community. I know, this is very challenging during COVID-19 times, but, there are solutions. The wonderful Facebook community Indians in Europe discussing money matters, inhabits Indian expats who now live in Europe. This community (and others that share the same nature) are extremely helpful as they capture the power of community and manage to help individuals on their journey.
Indeed, the Netherlands is a popular destination for tourists of all kinds as it offers a wonderful combination of city life and breathtaking landscapes. If you’re a local, however, you should definitely know these places, tips, and tricks to enjoying everything this wonderful European country has to offer.