Home Moving to the Netherlands Integration A Dutch checklist: 11 signs you’re still acting like a tourist
Last update on November 18, 2019

If you’re still offended by bad customer service and don’t complain about the weather, your warning bells should start ringing.

How can you tell a full-fledged expat apart from a tourist in the Netherlands? This checklist includes the top 11 ways to tell if you’re still a tourist in Amsterdam or have become an integrated Dutch local.

1. You don’t own a bike

In fact, you hate biking, and when you see a parent cycling with a child — or several — connected to a bike like appendages of a sea monster, you think, “How irresponsible. Those parents should be cited for endangering their kids! And they don’t even have helmets!”

The rest of us? We call them the Dutch Super-Parents.

There are more bikes in this city than its 800,000 inhabitants, along with a network of paths complete with their own traffic signals. Cycling isn’t just a way to get around, it’s a way of life, and you’ll only understand that once you join in.

2. You don’t know what gezelligheid means

The closest English translation of this uniquely Dutch term is ‘coziness’. It’s the epitome of Dutch culture. Anything that creates a warm, fuzzy feeling — candlelit dinners, homemade biscuits, a cafe full of couches and rugs — could be described as gezellig.

3. You think Heineken is the best local beer

The only people who order this beer are victims of propaganda. There’s nothing wrong with ordering Heineken because it’s the only beer you’ve heard of on the menu, but locals know it’s not the best. Not to mention the Heineken Experience is a tourist trap, absent of any beer brewing, yet complete with lots of advertising and gift shops.

Save your money, find a brown cafe, and try some beers from other breweries you’ve never heard of. If you want a brewery experience, check out Brouwerij ‘t IJ. It’s located in an old windmill in east Amsterdam and has several craft beers on tap and a laid-back atmosphere. Get the sampler.

4. The only museums you’ve been to are the Anne Frank, Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum

By all means, go see these museums but remember Amsterdam has more than 50. If you get tired of the crowds, don’t be afraid to visit the less popular ones. See a full list here.

5. You’re offended by bad customer service

The Dutch are regarded highly for many things — art, cheese, water management — but customer service is not one of them. If you’re a local, you’re used to it. You know how to be direct and persistent about what you want. While waiting in cafes for someone to take your order, you don’t get upset or impatient but instead use the extra time to enjoy your friend’s company and the gezellig atmosphere of Amsterdam. What’s the rush anyway?

6. The only park you’ve been to is Vondelpark

Vondelpark is a wonderful park, but there are several others just as lovely. Oosterpark is generally quieter, with big grassy spaces, ponds and plenty of cafe options in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Less than 10 minutes east via bike from there, you’ll find Flevopark. On warm days, go swimming right off the banks of the Ij River. Then, enjoy the idyllic outdoor seating of the jenever distillery, Distilleerderij ‘t Nieuwe Diep, in the middle of Flevopark. Most likely, there will be no tourists here.

7. You don’t complain about the weather

If you don’t know what to talk about with a local, bring up the weather and watch them come alive with energy. They will have a lot to say. If you’re one of those people who claims to ‘not mind the weather’, you’re probably still a tourist. Just wait until your first winter. Daily rain and wet pants get old fast, and you’ll appreciate the sun like never before.

8. You comment on how steep the stairs are

In the 16th century, Amsterdam houses were taxed based on their width, which caused residents to build tall. Because spaces were so narrow, staircases were steep. These apparent deathtraps don’t even phase the non-tourist. Grab the railing, watch your step and don’t try to descend in the dark unless you have an affinity for body sledding.

9. Your favourite area to party is Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein

If we must sum them up in two words: tourist trash.

There’s nothing wrong with these squares, as long as you have patience for loud drunks, overpriced food and pushy restaurant staff. If you’ve been in Amsterdam long enough, you probably steer clear of these areas. They’re a bit tacky and tiresome for locals but fun if you’re still a tourist.

10. You forget to check in and out on public transportation

Everyone knows that when using public transportation you have to check in and out with your ticket or OV-chip card. If you don’t, your ticket won’t work a second time or EUR 20 will be deducted from your card.

11. You don’t eat herring

Herring is all over the place in Amsterdam and a Dutch specialty. It’s laid in salt for a few days and traditionally eaten by holding it up by the tail and then sliding it into your mouth bite by bite. Lekker? Some people say so.

Okay, so maybe I’m still a tourist too because I haven’t tried it.

Brianna Bemel / Reprinted with permission of Matador Network.

Brianna Bemel is a student of life. She lives with spontaneity but intention, playfulness but compassion, and ambition but flexibility. She is also a writer, photographer, outdoor junkie, traveler and dreamer. Thumbnail credit:  Franklin Heijnen