5 Things I Could Not Get Used To In Holland As A Pole

In Poland, we often say “Co kraj, to obyczaj”, meaning every country has its own customs (similar English saying: “One man`s meat is another man`s poison”). I always learn a lot about the countries I travel to: their history, traditions and local cuisine. Some things surprise me, some shock me, some make me laugh and/or disgust, some are normal to me. No matter how huge the differences are between the country I am from and the place I visit, I always respect and honor the ethnic, religious beliefs, and cultural practices of each community. The best example is China where I often clenched my teeth to understand Chinese and their way of thinking.

The stunning scenery of Woudrichem

Let’s get back to Holland now. The land of tulips, windmills and wooden clogs took me by surprise (in a very positive way) during my last visit. I spent a few days at my Dutch friend’s house in Woudrichem, located in the south of the Netherlands. Although I love to be in Holland and I enjoyed my stay in Woudrichem there were few things I could not get used to as a Pole.

1. Eating chocolate sprinkles on bread for breakfast

Every morning Dutch people consume some untoasted brown bread covered with butter or margarine and sprinkled with hagelslag (famous Dutch chocolate sprinkle). Although it tastes pretty nice, that is the weirdest combination of ingredients I have ever heard of. Nutella on toast is ok, but we use chocolate sprinkle as cupcake/muffin/ice cream toppings. The hagelslag sandwiches are way too sweet and dry for me to have them for my breakfast on a regular basis. In Poland breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It must be warm, nutritious and healthy. We consume scrambled eggs, cottage cheese with chive, tomatoes and onion, sandwiches with ham and cheese, hot milk with granola or sausages.

A bread with Dutch chocolate sprinkle
My Dutch breakfast

I had a go and tried this Dutch breakfast a couple of times. It was pretty nice with a glass of hot milk, I can’t deny, but it is definitely too unhealthy and sweet. It is good to have it as a snack from time to time, but it’s not a good breakfast option (sorry guys!).

2. Drinking tap water

It might sound funny, but I felt very offended by being offered a glass of tap water for the first time in Holland (of course at that time I didn’t know that tap water was absolutely safe to drink). I was like “It’s ok, I’m not thirsty anymore”. This is the weirdest (and the most awesome) thing in Holland. You can drink water when you take a shower (freaking cool!), you don’t need to carry bottled water from the shop and you can save a lot of money this way! Although I knew I could drink it any time I wanted to, I still couldn’t get used to it. As a little girl I was taught to drink only bottled or boiled water and tap water reminds me of dirt and germs. No matter how many times I tried to drink it from the tap, I always felt like I was doing something wrong, like having a dinner with my dirty fingers.

3. Seeing locals riding their bikes in suits and ties

Whether you are wearing a fancy dress, suit and tie or just casual outfit nobody cares – everyone rides a bike to work in Holland! My first thought when I saw a man in a nice suit biking quickly through the streets of Amsterdam was “Oh my God, when he gets to work he is going to be all sweaty and smelly” but no one seems to care about it and you know what? I like this attitude! In Poland people would point you out with their fingers and give you dirty looks.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Busy street of Amsterdam

4. Understanding how the Dutch do not put on weight eating greasy food

I have noticed that the majority of Dutch teenagers, young people and sometimes even the whole families eat in a very unhealthy way. Locals often choose to grab a quick Subway sandwich, Mc Donald’s meal, kebab wraps or famous frozen pizza instead of having a healthy salad or fruit shake.

Pizza I made with my Dutch friend. We put as much leftover veggies and meat as possible. It was a real yum!

Most of the food Dutch people consume is greasy and lacks basic nutrients our body needs to function properly. Moreover, what worries me the most, the Dutch love to snack on sugary chocolate bars, cookies (common stroopwafles –  a waffle made from two thin layers of baked batter with a caramel-like syrup filling), waffles, crisps and candies.

A bag of Dutch mini stroopwafles I brought back to China with me

I was indulging myself in these yummy caramel waffles every day! They tasted awesome with a cup of hot milk (I have noticed that most of Dutch people drink only cold milk).

Snack time – Dutch style

The most surprising thing though is the fact that despite their unhealthy diet they still stay slim and look fit! Can anyone explain why? I never saw an overweight Dutch person in the street. Guys are well-built, they are muscled and tall and girls have very girly shapes. I guess the secret lies in Dutch bikes :).

Trying a frikandel – Dutch snack, a sort of minced-meat hot dog

Both, the frikadel and kroket, are deep-fried (my friend fried it in a machine similar to a fryer). In the Netherlands, it is most often served with mayonnaise, curry or tomato ketchup, mustard or even applesauce. I had mine with a dash of ketchup and salad sauce and it was good.

dutch frikadel and kroket on a table
On the right: a half of Dutch kroket

After days of having a tone of sugary snacks, bread with chocolate sprinkles, kebab meat and Doritos crisps, I cooked a healthy meal for my hosts. The table reflects all the food I eat on a regular basis at home and during my travels – a lot of green veggies (mainly broccoli, lettuce, green beans), my favourite fish which is salmon in a garlic sauce, feta cheese and boiled potatoes with mushrooms. That was a real detox dinner!

The dinner I prepared for my hosts in Woudrichem

5. Understanding why people DO NOT do drugs despite it’s legal

It seems like the Dutch are not interested in drugs at all. Although it’s legal to take them, they don’t.

Joint in one of local coffee shops in Amsterdam

Based on recent statistics, lifetime prevalence of marijuana use is 25.7% (ages 15-64) in the Netherlands whereas in the States it is 41.5% (ages 12 and up). As a non-smoker and abstainer, my first impression of Amsterdam was not as good as during my second visit this summer. This time, thanks to visiting Woudrichem, I realized that only Amsterdam is all about drugs, alcohol and prostitute and it’s main goal  is to attract attention of tourists who want to try something they could never legally do in their own country. The rest of Holland is all about flowers, beautiful windmills, kindly smiling people and idyllic landscapes.

One of the most famous coffee shops in Amsterdam

To sum up, Holland was my home for some time and it felt wonderful to be surrounded by such kind-hearted and warm people. It certainly was not my first neither the last visit in the Land of Tulips, so I look forward to seeing what this country has to offer to me next time.

 Have you spotted any differences between your home country and Holland? If so, share your thoughts in the comments as I am curious about your experiences.


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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77 thoughts on “5 Things I Could Not Get Used To In Holland As A Pole”

  1. I haven’t been to either Poland or Holland yet, but I found this super interesting. There must be another secret to how the Dutch stay skinny with all those yummy treats and greasy foods! (Even though I don’t think I’d enjoy the sprinkles for breakfast either!)

    Also, what you mentioned about the tap water- that’s pretty funny! It’s true though, and so nice to appreciate the cleanliness of the water, especially after being in SE Asia for so long!

    1. I know. I never tried tap water in SE Asia and I will never do it :):)… :) Chocolate sprinkle is actually good, you gotta give it a go when visiting Holland and you must try pierogi in Poland!! xx

  2. Stefania - the Italian Backpacker

    Hello Agness, interesting post.
    1)Whenever I travel, I try to find out what the locals eat for breakfast. Sometimes it’s difficult, as hostels sometimes don’t have breakfast or they have an “international” kind of breakfast. When I was in Slovenia, I tried to ask what people eat for breakfast, and a lady tried to convince me that you eat kebab, as she was selling them among other things.
    2) It’s safe to drink tap water in Italy, too!
    4) I don’t know if I could survive in Holland eating only junk food!

    1. Hi Stefania. Many thanks! Nope, I don’t think Poles have kebabs for breakfast, maybe for a dinner or brunch, but lunch? Never heard of it. Holland is not only about junk food. Although I have not seen any fruit and veggie markets around Amsterdam, there were some salad options to choose from in local shops and of course fruit shakes in coffee shops. I guess if you really want to eat clean and healthy, you can do it in Holland and in any other country.

    2. I was born in Holland. And yes for breakfast , as a little kid a would eat sprinkles on my bread . You put butter on your bread and cover your bread with chocolate sprinkles it’s what you get use to and the whole country has that in the morning . Now ofcourse you can get 2 egs with toost or what ever you want . In all of the food markets like Safeway . Every thing is available just like in America 1p years a go I was in Holland.. and it’s like being in America regarding food .and the prices are very similar , for instance 2 pork chops 495 euros that’s about what it cost in America .
      There are a few item’s that Holland is known for . Lots of fish fresh herring is very popular . It’s like a tipe of a hotdog stand . On every corner . The guy cleans it put some salt

  3. I see a lot of similarities in food between Indonesian and Dutch! I love my chocolate sprinkles on my bread every morning (sorry Agness :P) they are yummy! And I am so addicted to those stroopwaffles.
    I guess why the Dutch don’t gain weight – all those biking! :D I love love Holland, could easily live there :)

    1. Seriously? I would never think of Indonesian cuisine being similar to the Dutch one. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!? C’mon Aggy – you against me? How often do you have your chocolate sprinkles on bread (don’t tell me it’s every day I’m gonna kill ya!!!!) :):). Yep, bikes bikes bikes!! I gotta buy a new one as my old one was stolen :(((((

      1. Holland colonized Indinesia. They are actually referred to as Dutch Indonesian. Pretty common knowledge and for travelers and for someone writing a comparison that actually comes across very ungrateful to the host country, you should at least have known this.

  4. In Italy, we can drink water from the tap too, although most people still prefer buying it from the shops. When I was in Amsterdam I remember being amazed too about how everyone was so fit and thin, it’s gotta be because of the bicycles. I need to go back there soon, stay longer and see more of Holland to know more about the local habits and culture.

    1. Italy as well? Ok guys, now I feel like a weirdo. Poland seems to be such a dirty country hahahha!! Can’t believe it. Yeah, bikes are the calories burners!! :) You have to, that’s for sure. Maybe I can show you around next time when I’m there xxxx

  5. The bread with sprinkles is the one that caught my attention. I had never eaten it before but I have in Taiwan. You can find bread with chocolate spread covered with sprinkles at bakeries in Taiwan. I love it!! I thought it may be only here but I guess not!

    When I was young, we always drank water directly from the tap in Canada but now my parents don’t now for various reasons!

    Interesting post! Enjoyed learning a bit about the culture of Holland!!

    1. In Taiwan, seriously? We don’t have it in China. Actually Chinese don’t eat much bread. Their bread is so soft and sweet so they have it maybe as a snack or quick breakfast fix on the go. Thanks Connie! :) It’s a wonderful country. Hope you can make it there in the future x

      1. Yes!! I know what you are saying. Most bread in Taiwan is very sweet too but the bread at this particular bakery is similar to the bread found in western countries. I had a piece of chocolate bread with sprinkles the other day. I took a pic of it and I will share it with you soon. I usually pick the bread with the least amount of sprinkles though!! :)

      2. Chinese breads are super sweet, can’t have them for my breakfast, no way. Yep, definitely. I wanna see the picture :)

      3. Agness Walewinder

        I’ve just checked it out and I must admit this looks much better than the Dutch one, real yum! Seriously. The chocolate is very dark, is it dark unsweetened chocolate? I love how colorful sprinkles are :)

  6. The drug thing enforces what I’ve always thought- take the risk our of something and people lose interest. Love the sprinkles on the bread.

  7. Must for Wanderlust

    Can’t wait to visit Holland… Most of my family is Dutch so I definitely have already taken on a few of their traits. About the tap water, growing up in Canada I’ve known no different! I find it weird when you CAN’T drink the tap water of a country, I s’pose I’ve taken this for granted though. x

  8. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown

    I hope someone from Holland reads this and can tell us all why they seem so fit while eating so much junk! That’s incredible. I felt that way in Japan too – they eat tons of processed food full of salt and sugar, but I think their trick is they have very small portions. And we drink the tap water in Canada too, when I first moved to Roatan and had to BUY water it was very strange for me :)

    1. I was thinking about the same and I think it’s all about the portion size. They don’t do huge fast food binges, but eat small portions of food and then burn off the calories riding their bikes (that’s what I can think of). Same here in China, although Chinese consume incredible amount of greasy food (pure fat) and they eat a lot late at night they don’t put on weight!!!

  9. I’ve drunk water from the tap in 8 different Polish cities and didn’t get ill. Tap water in Singapore is also safe, but people still boil it. I guess it’s all in the mind.

    The junk food was a lifesaver when I was in Holland though. My stay was too short to make buying groceries worthwhile, and eating out is generally expensive. At least there were the milk bars in Poland…

    1. Wow, I’m impressed by your immune system Nicholas, seriously! Have you seen any Polish people drinking it with you? That’s so weird, but yes I agree – it’s all in the mid. Yeah, there are plenty of milk bars and student restaurants where you can dine out on a budget. The prices start from $1-$2 per dinner :)

    2. By the way, I hope you tried our famous pierogi, bigos and kotlet schabowy! I get hungry thinking of these dishes, miss them a lot!

      1. The people I met had a mixture of habits when it comes to tap water – a couple I know drink it straight too, others put it through a filter, yet another prefers to buy sparkling mineral water.

        Check, check and check – I’ve had all three! My pierogi cravings can’t be satisfied outside Poland. (They give you strange looks when you want breadcrumbs or lard with pelmeni) I had nalesniki, oscypek and kaszanka as well. I’ll write about the places I visited soon!

      2. Oh I see. Wow, you have fully experience Poland then. I am so happy. Oscypek – miss it a lot these days!!! Incredibly delicious xx!!

  10. Jessica Korteman @ Notes of Nomads

    You can’t drink the tap water in Poland, Agness? That’s good to know seeing as though we’ll be there on Tuesday! In Australia, we always drink water from the tap. In fact, the government adds fluoride to the water so we have healthy teeth!

    1. What I meant by saying “you can’t” is that the water is very dirty and polluted and nobody drinks it. You can still drink it if you want to but you take the risk of catching some illnesses and feeling sick afterwards. The government has never officially allowed us to drink it. Just the opposite, we are told to boil the water before drinking it or buy the bottled water from the supermarket. You guys are so lucky to live in Australia!

  11. You’re right, so many people are so slim in the Holland even though they eat so much heavy food! I used to go out with a guy from Holland and, seriously, the amount of fatty, carby food him and his mates would eat astonished me. Yet they were all so slim. It must be in the genes. Wish I were so lucky! ;)

    1. Thanks Charlie for sharing. Maybe they are their genes or they just control the portion size of the food :) and bike a lot. Yep, I wish I was so lucky too :)

  12. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    All great observations, Agness. I was very surprised to see all those bikes in Holland and how they were dressed or carried kids in them. It was amazing. Those caramel waffles were delicious and we brought back quite a few too. I’m not too sure about those chocolate sprinkles though. It looks interesting enough to try. You’re right all that exercise must keep them slim.

    1. Thank you Mary. I love the way Dutch people ride their bikes!! Two kids in the front, one at the back, all dressed smartly rushing to work and school – crazy!

  13. Natalia | Always Trekking

    Mmmm, tap water that is safe to drink! I’m surprised you cannot drink it in Poland. I miss drinking tap water in Toronto and safely using it to cook and brush my teeth. It is such a luxury in comparison tap water in China, which sometime just smells so frigging awful.

    1. I know. Don’t tell me about tap water in China. In some places I would not even rise my dirty dishes with this stinky and dirty water. It’s unbelievable! As for Poland, we don’t drink tap water at all. Maybe some people do, but they probably end up having a stomachache and diarrhea (I never risk) :)

  14. So fun to read about my own country!
    Explaining why there aren’t many fat people around: there are. There is a growing number of people that are overweight. But it’s not that bad (yet). Especially in the big cities, most people ride their bike. It’s more common to have a bike than to have a car. Also, most people don’t eat greasy foods every day. But most people do eat cookies like stroopwafels every day. Typical Dutch food is potatoes with veggies and meat with gravy. (I never eat that, I really hate boiled potatoes). And the government is also doing a lot to make people aware of what they are eating and what they should be eating. I don’t consider Dutch people very healthy eaters, but they’re not extremely unhealthy either.
    I never eat hagelslag by the way. The most typical thing to eat in the morning is either bread with hagelslag and butter or bread with cheese and butter. Dutch breakfast is really boring. I wish we had more of a Polish breakfast tradition here.

    1. Hahaha, get ready as I have just started publishing my blog posts on Holland. There is still so much to come :):).
      I agree, that’s not that bad yet as I have not seen anyone who would be obese or fat. I’ve heard of the meat with gravy, but didn’t try it. After having my first bite of Stroopwafel I immediately understood why Dutch people crave it daily :) (it’s so sweet, creamy and sticky, love it!). Thanks for sharing that. Having a bike helps a lot. Yeah, having bread with chocolate sprinkles every morning is kinda boring. In Poland, there is a great variety of breakfast food you can choose from – from breakfast rolls, buns, scrambled eggs, sandwiches to fresh bread with cottage cheese and sausages :). Real yum! However, Poles are also getting bigger and bigger and they are not the healthiest eaters either (I say “they” because I try to eat fresh and clean) :)

  15. Holland is on my wishlist, and I recently visited Poland. Knowing the few Dutch people that I do… I can quite imagine the culture shock you seem to have experienced :)
    I loved, LOVED Poland. Of the 9 countries I visited in my 5 traveling weeks, Poland was easily my favourite!!

    1. Hi Surya. I’m so glad you enjoyed Poland!! Foreigners often complain about Poles never smiling and being miserable. I bet you had a huge plate of pierogi and some vodka and that made you a happy girl :-D! I was surprised, not shocked by what I have experienced in the Netherlands :), something new to share with others :)

      1. I found the Poles incredibly warm and hospitable :) Loved it to bits, and hope to go back again soon, for longer!

  16. Chocolate sprinkles on bread does sound weird, although I can imagine it taste good. I love greasy food too and snacking. But it’s a mystery how they’re in good shape. Come to think of it, everyone from Netherlands I know are in good shape. Biking must be the secret :)

  17. I would eat hagelslag every day if it wasn’t so expensive to find Dutch food here in the States. It’s at Dutch Specialty stores, which can be a little pricey.

    I think the reason why drugs are legal, but not used in Netherlands is because they took away the sin. Once that’s gone, it’s no fun anymore.

    1. Is it that expensive? Didn’t know. Oh I see. I haven’t found it here in China so I don’t know how expensive it is. True, the more you can’t do something, the more you want to do it. Sin theory :)

  18. Some great observations there which I can certainly relate to. There always seems to be a lot of bread present when I go to buffet breakfasts in Holland and locals rarely use the toaster.

    Drinking tap water is second nature to us Brits and can save a lot of money! I’m like a role reversal to you. When I travel I have to tell myself NOT to drink tap water.

    And yes, I think the bikes play a massive part in how slim the Dutch people are.

    1. Thank you. I really like the toasted bread as it’s crunchy and definitely more delicious. The one I had was very soft, but also extremely dry so I had to have some hot milk to go with it.
      That’s true, drinking tap water can really save you a lot of money. In China, we spent about $2 per week for our water. We order huge gallons of water and drink it like crazy as it’s extremely hot in here :).

  19. I’m surprised you don’t drink the tap water in Poland! I’ve enjoyed tap water in Hungary and Czech Republic and figured I’d do the same in Poland (visiting next year).

    As much as I loved Amsterdam, I was also quite taken with the countryside. I spent some time on the coast and enjoyed lots of tasty fish!

    1. No, we don’t, but I hope it will change soon. Nooooooooo, don’t drink it in Poland – it’s very polluted in some regions. If you want to drink it, ask someone before you do it. Otherwise you can have a stomachache! I love fiiiiiiiish!! I’m actually cooking some salmon today :).

  20. I amsterdam is always the one of the top destinations in Europe , Two weeks back i was there, I really like the Bicyling concept of the city, Cycling lanes are two times bigger than the normal cycle lanes in Europe.(what i thought ),Big Bull dog is the famous one, but not the good one, best coffee shop are in the excursion of the city, who really dependent on local people for business, they really have good stuff for survival because no tourist goes there (What i heard from local people & Staff working in coffe shop ),if you travel again don’t miss the street show in front Koninklijk Paleis (The Town hall with Bells) , One of it kind, you can see something like that in whole Europe,

    1. Hi Moses, thanks a lot for sharing. I’ve been to Koninklijk already, it’s a nice place. I’m so glad you enjoyed Amsterdam. Had pretty the same experience and I also love the concept of cycling as I cycle on a regular basis here in China :)

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